On April 22, 2011, Central European University held its largest Earth Day celebration in its 20-year history. The event served as a commemoration of the continuing efforts of students, faculty and staff to transform CEU into an institution that epitomizes sustainability in higher education. By celebrating Earth Day on the CEU campus, organizers had the goals of encouraging the community to engage in environmentally friendly life choices while also publicizing the University’s commitment and recent efforts in pursuing sustainable practices on campus. Earth Day was organized by the Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI) student group with help from the Human Rights Initiative (HRSI), the CEU Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC) and the Campus Redevelopment Office (CREO).
The day began in the Japanese Garden area with a free, fully organic breakfast featuring a combination of traditional Hungarian items and morning favorites hand made by student volunteers. Pastries, fruits, breads, jams and spreads were just some of the finger foods available, and stacks of freshly made pancakes seemed to disappear into thin air. Attendees looking for a morning pick-me-up had an ample supply of fair trade coffee and tea at their finger tips. The Japanese Garden location was chosen to host the breakfast in order to bring attention to the underutilized space on campus which, thanks to the efforts of the SCI (www.sustainableceu.org / http://www.facebook.com/sustainable.ceu), CSAC, and to cooperation from CREO, will undergo a revitalization process in the near future. Breakfast attendees were encouraged to commit to participating in this forthcoming project, and dozens of volunteer signatures were recorded, representing the importance of this space to the CEU community.
The Eco-Fair reached a pinnacle of excitement when CEU’s first official recycling bins were unveiled in an energetic ceremony that featured commentary by Peter Johnson, Director, Student Services. Putting recycling bins into use on campus has been many years in the making and serves as one of the first visible implementations that CEU has made in transforming into a more environmentally conscious university. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a0U3atLnSuE
The following speeches introduced by Emily Ferrell from the Human Right Initiative left the Earth Day visitors stunned due to the breadth of commitment outlined: Liviu Matei, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CEU, confirmed that this Earth Day would be the kick-off for CEU’s future engagement for sustainable development; Stuart Durrant, Director, Campus Redevelopment Office (CREO) gave further input on how the infrastructure of the University will change toward sustainability during the coming years. Best-practices from frontrunner universities in this area were presented and left the audience with a glimpse of what CEU can become when administration, faculty, staff and students collaborate in their efforts. Tamara Steger, Head, CEU Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC), gave an energizing speech on the work of the newly introduced Senate Committee and emphasized the necessity for cooperation among the numerous stakeholders regarding sustainability at CEU. Finally Petr Kiryushin, Member, Sustainable Campus Initiative, showed in a richly illustrated presentation what the students had achieved within 8 months.
The final lesson that could be drawn from Earth Day 2011 at CEU was that the University and all its stakeholders were committing their time, energy and creativity to make CEU a place of learning for a better, more sustainable, future for all.