ACTS President Leanne Denby recently attended a sustainable campuses forum in Kyoto, Japan. Read about her eye-opening experience with how the Japanese are working towards sustainability...
_
I recently had the pleasure of attending a forum held at Kyoto University in Japan. The theme of the two day event was The Integration of Hard and Soft Approaches to Sustainable Campuses. I found the event, and Japan itself, completely enlightening. The Japanese are extremely respectful, caring and polite, most obviously in the way they interact with others and the environment. The Japanese higher education sector feels as though they are just at the beginning of their sustainability story, yet the practices shared at the forum, and seen by myself whilst touring, beg to differ. Everyday practices are taken for granted and therefore not considered part of their story. Take for example the extensive waste separation and collection systems in situ, or the fact that very few public spaces have bins, yet these same spaces are tremendously clean because it is considered inconsiderate and disrespectful to litter. Add to this the fact that when stopped at lights, vehicles will turn off their engines until it is their turn to move, or the fact that no tree is cut down, but supported by beams and poles to keep it going, and you can see how respect for community and environment is an overarching value. Institutions also see the value of embedding Education for Sustainability, with one of the world’s leading experts, Professor Abe from Rikkyo University, spending much of his time working amongst the sector to ensure EfS is given due consideration.
With a large population on a small land mass, the Japanese have embraced space efficiency, with every house having its own vegetable garden, accompanied by a myriad of community gardens. Locally available food is the norm in each region, with menus favouring seafood on the coast, or beef in the hinterlands where cattle roam. Even if you don’t know your Japanese geography, you can get an idea of your surroundings just by seeing what is available to eat.
_
For ACTS, the trip was another opportunity to build those ever important relationships across higher education. CAS-Net, the Japanese equivalent to ACTS was formally launched during the event, with positive conversations had with Directors from the Board. ACTS has offered to assist CAS-Net in any way possible during its set up phase, with the hope of sharing learnings between our sectors as the network grows. This new relationship with CAS-Net expands our Asian connections further, and important development for the region.
_
Without a doubt an eye-opening experience, the Japanese have plenty going on in the area of sustainability.