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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Education & Research | The University of Sonora
 

Success in standards applied in academia

The University of Sonora

University of Sonora
 
The University of Sonora’s sustainable vision is, “A higher education institution, as a whole or as a part, that addresses, involves and promotes, on a regional or a global level, the minimisation of environmental, economics, societal, and health negative effects in the use of their resources in order to fulfil its main functions of teaching, research, outreach and partnership, and stewardship among others as a way to helping society make the transition to sustainable lifestyles.”

As the first Latin-American public university to be ISO 14001 certified, the University of Sonora explains how this standard has increased their commitment to society by performing, and sharing, their best sustainability practices.
The University of Sonora is the largest higher education institution in the state of Sonora, as well as one of the most prestigious universities in México. It is a public university educating over 31,000 students in five campuses in the north west of México. Responding to climate change has been one of the university’s priorities since the early 1990s, and integral to the institutional sustainability policy since 2004.

An Effective Framework

During the nineties, the sustainability strategy revolved round individual or isolated projects. A decade later, it evolved to a systematic and integrative Sustainability Management System (SMS) based on ISO 14001. This proved to be an effective framework which integrated the principles of sustainability and encompassed the whole university. The university’s Engineering College was awarded the ISO 14001 in 2008, for its Sustainability Management System, making it the first public higher education institution in Latin America to hold this certification.

The overarching aims of the SMS are to protect natural resources, and prevent, reduce and eliminate environmental and occupational risks. This applies to how the university community teach, research, carry out outreach and partnerships, and are supported in these functions.

SMS programmes
  • Sustainable management of water;
  • Toxic use reduction;
  • Reduction, reuse, recycle of non-toxic material; and,
  • Sustainable management of energy.

As climate change is a key concern, the Sustainable Management of Electrical Energy department is responsible for preventing, reducing and eliminating energy wastage by implementing energy efficiency and energy conservation initiatives.

The adverse impacts caused by the negative behaviour around energy consumption on campus have been difficult to quantify as not all buildings contain meters; yet, the monitoring procedure allows for an estimation of costs and practice. Sustainability indicators from June 2008 to May 2010 show that 33,858KW were saved on campus – just by turning off lights and air conditioners when the classrooms are not being used, or closing doors and windows when the air conditioning is in use. Consequently, CO2 emissions were reduced by 30,811kg, leading to a saving of US$5,290. Changing to energy-saving lights and more-efficient air conditioning equipment helped.

Although these numbers are not world shaking in financial terms, they are in educational terms. More than 2,500 students have participated in increasing climate change awareness, at over 600 talks, more than 50 lectures, and issuing 5,000 fliers. Hopefully, these students are in a better position to understand the sustainability paradigm and counteract climate change.

University surveys show staff and students are becoming more aware of the climate change impacts linked to energy consumption. Developing energy efficiency technology and increasing climate change awareness in the university community is significantly contribution to eliminating energy wastage and reducing CO2 emissions. They are important messages for these future professionals with México’s destiny in their hands.

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The University of Sonora
www.uson.mx

 
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