UPEACE and Sustainability

As it prepares to celebrate its fortieth anniversary, the University continues its systematic and critical study, understanding and analysis of the causes of the multiple problems affecting human and global well-being; the exploration and formulation of strategies and practices in various contexts to help to address such problems and contribute to the processes of peacebuilding, including through the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition to the academic focus on issues related to sustainable development, UPEACE is permanently looking for ways to improve its own environmental footprint and contribute to a more sustainable campus. Some of its current initiatives include:

1. UPEACE and the Costa Rican Network of Sustainable Institutions (REDIES for its name in Spanish)

UPEACE is a proud member of REDIES, the Costa Rican Network of Sustainable Institutions, whose goals are to achieve the commitment of the authorities of participating educational institutions, in order to achieve the sustainability of their Campuses; to establish strategic alliances around issues of sustainability that favor exchanges and technical cooperation; and to promote and execute sustainability actions among member institutions. In order to be able to set up an environmental management system, it is necessary to establish numerical and qualitative indicators that allow their monitoring and that contribute to the planning of a sustainable campus. Consequently, to solve these requirements, REDIES developed a matrix of environmental performance indicators, which allows compliance with the proposed environmental policies, highlighting the environmental efforts of the institutions that comprise it, and thus meet the common objective of become sustainable campuses. More about REDIES and the indicators here.

2. Energy Efficiency at UPEACE

This year, UPEACE set a goal of reducing its current electrical consumption by 70%. This will be achieved, in part, by changing all lighting to LED technology and by installing photovoltaic cells around campus. This solar-powered system, comprised of 216 solar panels, is designed for self-consumption and will be interconnected with the public electrical grid under the Simple Netting mode, where surpluses will be exchanged. By the end of January 2019, 100% of the illumination on campus will be replaced by energy-saving lighting. 

3. UPEACE's Water Footprint

With the aim of reducing its water footprint, UPEACE has implemented two concrete measures: replacing its traditional bathroom equipment with energy-saving bathrooms and urinals, and promoting the "back to tap" initiative, a call to action for the UPEACE community to do away with bottled water by using water dispensers avaialble around campus that carry clean spring water from the UPEACE campus.

4. ​​​​UPEACE and the Water for the Future Project

In 2015, the University for Peace signed an agreement to become a part of the Coca Cola Company System’s Water Replenishment programme in Costa Rica, Water for the Future. Through this initiative, conservation and reforestation activities are carried out on more than 500 hectares of the Macho River basin and the Poas River. The replacement of about 1.2 million cubic meters of water will be reached, equivalent to the volume of approximately 480 Olympic swimming pools. Considering that the UPEACE natural reserve provides the water supply for the town of El Rodeo and two additional surrounding communities, the University for Peace signed this agreement as a sign of its commitment to support and ensure the protection of the forest’s water resources. With this initiative, the organizations involved agreed to reforest and protect the UPEACE forest reserve, which houses several water springs and aquifers. In the case the activities related to forest protection, the University for Peace has reaffirmed its pledge to maintain the current forest cover in order to avoid erosion and superficial water runoff. These efforts will be manifested through a process of constant water infiltration due to an avoidance of deforestation, which is greater than that which occurred through the use of alternate ground use methods such as pasture lands or agriculture and, therefore, a greater amount of water can be ensured for productive purposes. Thanks to this project, UPEACE has protected 194.9 hectares of forest within the reserve and 5.4 hectares of reforestation of the latter 2 hectares located on the university campus area.

5. UPEACE and its Single-Use Plastic Ban

In June 2018, UPEACE publicly pledged to ban the use of single-use plastic on campus. This process has included the elimination of plastic bags, bottled water, plastic food containers and straws. Our cafeteria supplier has stopped selling water bottled and is using avocado straws and polylactic acid containers when selling food to go. For more information on our commitment to banning single-use plastic, click here.

6. Waste Management at UPEACE

UPEACE currently has a waste-management protocol in place, in accordance with Costa Rican Law 8839. This includes several recycling stations around campus, a recycling collection centre on campus and a commitment to prioritizing providers and suppliers committed to environmental sustainability and low-waste practices.

7. The UPEACE Green Office

A Green Office, part of the Green Office Movement, is a sustainability hub within the university setting, which began in Europe. This hub has a common aim of creating a platform for informing, connecting, and supporting students and staff to act on sustainability. The University for Peace (UPEACE) is an ideal environment to initiate and manage sustainability projects. It is for this reason that two enthusiastic students from the 2018-2019 cohort with strong knowledge on environmental sustainability, Aleksandra Jovanovic and Yumiko Takano, have initiated the founding of UPEACE Green Office. As a result, the UPEACE Green Office became the very first student-led Green Office outside the region of Europe. The current projects initiated by UPEACE Green Office focus on the topics of food waste, renewable energy and circular economy. All projects have a strong educational component and aim to include students, staff and the local community. Another initiative that UPEACE Green Office is working on is the establishment of a sustainability store with the objective to promote sustainable and healthy consumption. Furthermore, UPEACE Green Office organizes an organic fair on a monthly basis with the collaboration of local organic producers to increase awareness on the significance of sustainable food consumption. In addition, the UPEACE Green Office also contributes actively to the revision of the institutional environmental policy as well as taking the lead on creating a very first institutional sustainability report to visualize the current ecological footprint of the university and set future targets to improve sustainability performance. UPEACE Green Office’s tremendous contributions to the university were acknowledged, by becoming part of the Operations Department of the University in April 2019.

In July 2019, the UPEACE Green Office was been approved as an official Member Organization of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network-Youth Initiative. This platform will give members of the UPEACE Green Office opportunities to attend conferences, workshops and other events to share their concerns and ideas on achieving the SDGs.  

Check out their latest Environmental Impact Report 2018-2019 here.

For more information, collaboration or questions please contact the UPEACE Green Office: greenoffice@upeace.org.

8. UPEACE and the Community of El Rodeo

University for Peace students together with the Earth Charter Volunteers and Mora Limpia y Sostenible have made a commitment to implement workshops and activities related to sustainability for the children at the school of El Rodeo located just 400m from the University for Peace. The objectives of these activities are to foster a strong relationship with the local community and to sensitize the children (5-12 years old) on the importance of reducing their ecological footprint and to become the eco-role models to their peers and parents. In October 2018, two recycling stations and a compost tumbler were donated to the school by Mora Limpia y Sostenible, a student led sustainable initiative founded by University for Peace Alum, Mario Guel. Recent workshops and activities carried out have covered topics such as the Earth Charter, Sustainability, Leadership, Recylcing, How to Compost, and a holiday toy drive. For more information contact: Youthcoordinator@earthcharter.org.