February 3, 2021 (1:28 PM)

8 min read


TOWARDS SUSTAINABILITY. Ateneo de Davao University places 666th in the 2020 Universitas Indonesia (UI) GreenMetric World University Rankings, for involvement in environmental protection. Artwork by Moammar Talib Nawang.

With the 2020 Universitas Indonesia (UI) GreenMetric World University Rankings released last December, Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU)’s involvement in environmental protection goes beyond recognition as it continuously gears towards sustainable development  through the collaborative efforts of the university offices.

AdDU, placing 666th among 912 universities hailing from 84 countries listed in the GreenMetrics rankings while earning fourth in the Philippines, garnered 4,150 total points for the following criteria: setting and infrastructure, energy and climate change, waste, water, transportation, and education and research.

In an online interview, Ecoteneo Director Carmela Marie Santos emphasized that the important thing in the results of the world rankings was not the recognition but having a standard in order to determine the university’s progress towards sustainability.

“Every year is a challenge to do better. It’s a race against ourselves, it’s really more a competition na para sa sarili natin. If last year ganito yung points natin, ganito yung ranking natin, we will outdo ourselves this year,” Santos said.

Santos further noted that the achievement was the result of the collaborative effort of Ecoteneo, Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATE), Tropical Institute for Climate Studies (TROPICS), and other concerned offices.

Efforts towards sustainable dev’t

From the criteria provided by the GreenMetric, AdDU scored the highest on energy and climate change. This particular indicator looks at the efforts of universities in energy efficiency on buildings and climate change adaptation and mitigation programs.

Asked about specific actions AdDU has implemented in terms of energy and climate change, Santos mentioned solar panels as one of the sources of energy and the strict university policy in energy conservation.

“When we came with our single-use plastics (SUP)-free policy in 2018, it was a back to back na memo on WERPA (Waste Energy Reduction)… kasali diyan ‘yung mga reminders natin for the use of aircon and energy consciousness… we are also tracking our energy consumption [particularly] total electricity use,” the Ecoteneo head said.

In terms of setting and infrastructure, Santos said the development of sustainable energy includes the lighting system of the university, like having reminders and schedules for the use of energy especially during holidays, which had contributed to the scores.

Also included in the said indicator is the university as a “green campus” are areas on campus covered in forest and planted vegetation. AdDU’s grounds, however, are “more or less a built-up area.”

Santos said the university is requesting the organizers to clarify the “greenness” indicator if they will count the ecosystems adopted by AdDU, believing “the green space is not limited within the campus.”

She further noted that the university extended its green space outside its borders by planting and continuously nurturing five hectares of mangroves in Bucana and ten kilometers of trees in Matina Pangi.

“We are requesting [as these adopted ecosystems] will offset [carbon emissions] ‘di ba? We may not be able to add more trees on our campuses but we will be adopting more ecosystems or more areas which is what we have been doing naman as a university across different programs,” Santos said.

“It’s not just the points but the realization na we can still do something with the green space… let us not be limited with what is, which is of course yung campus natin kasi as is na ‘yan,” she added.

For waste, Santos said that the university’s materials recovery area  in MTS Arrupe has a systematic way of processing wastes as well as the strict implementation of SUP-free policy which helped reduce 100,000 bags of waste before 2016 to 8-10 bags of residuals a day in the later years.

In addition, Santos also shared about the Room of Requirements (ROR), which was expected to start in Jacinto campus but halted due to the pandemic that the Matina campus utilizes as a means of cleaning the waste stream to prevent bins from getting full. 

“Basically, the idea of that is it’s an open bookstore. If there are reusable materials basta kahit anong materials na malinis naman, inoorganize natin yan sa ROR… You’ll never know you have projects or you need something at home, [so] you can just go to the ROR, kuha ka lang doon or borrow.”

In transportation, Santos mentioned that the biggest contributor of the university in the ranking is the bus system of Bangkal as well as their advocacy in promoting biking.

“We pushed for this pandemic with our network, the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) na finally may bike lanes na. So kasama din diyan [in transportation] is how supportive your school is of non-motorized sustainable transport, both in and outside of the campus. Long way to go but we’ll get there,” the environmental advocate said.

Santos also discussed her plans in integrating biking in grade school’s Physical Education, asserting that biking as a skill is as important as swimming. As of this writing, they are encouraging the children, through grade school’s homeroom, to learn how to ride bicycles given the neighborhood is safe and with adult supervision.

Meanwhile, the researches of the university’s Department of Environmental Science, chemical engineering, and other offices had contributed to the involvement in environmental sustainability in terms of education and research.

According to Santos, this specific indicator concerns the resources devoted to research, specifically the ratio of money coming in terms of environmental research. Also accounted for in this category are the university’s efforts of integration in performance tasks of the Junior High School (JHS) department and National Service Training Program (NSTP) formation programs.

In terms of water, the conservation and recycling program implementation was examined. Santos said that the rainwater collection in Bangkal has significantly contributed to the said category.

Current environmental issues 

Aside from improving parameters within the campus, Ateneo de Davao has also engaged in national environmental issues by opposing the Tampakan Mining Project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), through a unity statement, with the help of University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC)’s Ateneo Public Interest and Legal Advocacy (APILA) and University President Fr. Joel Tabora’s lead, that had more than 500 individuals and 100 organizations signing.

Moreover, AdDU also expresses its strong opposition to the city’s proposed Waste to Energy (WTE) incineration as an alternative solution to landfilling, citing reasons that it will worsen the situation especially this pandemic wherein respiratory health is in hazard and the location is just two kilometers away from a school and a residential area.

“Ayaw nga nating maging vulnerable ‘yong respiratory health ng mga tao ‘di ba kasi respiratory nga ang tinatamaan ng COVID tapos maglalagay ka ng isang facility na who knows paano mo mamomonitor yung dioxins niya and we don’t even have a local monitoring for that.”

Promoting the proper management of materials recovery facilities (MRFs) as an integral response to problems on waste, Santos said MRFs can reduce residuals by 20-30% based on the university’s knowledge.

“What is important is the materials recovery… what happens after those bins? Dapat yung mga recyclables nabebenta, yung compostables ginagarden compost… Basta ang goal, huwag mag ending lahat sa landfill ng ating city na nagiging dumpsite na,” Santos said.

“Bakit ‘easy way out’ [ang WTE] pero when you burn [wastes], ang laki-laki ng problem na nacrecreate? The solution is right under our noses… hindi lang natin ginagawa. Hindi lang tayo nag-mamaterials recovery sa mga barangay. Hindi lang natin pinopromote ang composting sa household or ang proper segregation or ang waste reduction.”

In relation to waste production, as SDM will also push for an SUP-free Davao, Santos called for companies generating waste items to be more responsible and uphold Expected Producer Responsibility (EPR). 

“Don’t just produce products and then what? Expect the consumers and the city to shoulder your wastes? Pag-isipan nyong mabuti. What kind of product with packaging are you coming out with? Bakit hinahayaang environment ang magsuffer and then ang health?”

Campaign is still on amidst pandemic

Other than the actions of the university offices, Santos also highlighted the roles of Ateneans to continue the university’s advocacy by beginning in their respective households.

Regarding solid waste management, Santos urged the students to practice the culture of reuse instead of buying new things when alternatives are within reach and available.

“Hindi porket may kailangan ka eh kailangan mo ring bilhin. We want to inculcate the management of materials. Hindi natin sila tinatawag na trash. Hindi garbage, but resources.”

Acknowledging the youth as catalysts of change, Santos prodded the students to hold themselves and the government accountable as well as to vote wisely or even run for candidacy when they are able to. 

“When you vote during elections, go beyond the persons. Go for the programs, not their families or bloodlines. Pag pwede na kayong tumakbo, tumakbo na kayo. Kahit sa SK, sa barangay alone can make a significant difference. Kaya nga bumabagsak ang solid waste management kasi yung mga barangay ang di nakakagawa.”

End the silence of the gagged!

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