Since its opening Nazarbayev University has taken a course towards the development of green technologies. The University cultivates respect for the environment and promotes an environmental agenda. It is not surprising that it was at NU where the Green Campus initiative was created for the first time in the country. This initiative gathers together a wide range of people who care about the environment: promising and active students, NU employees, partners from business and industry, as well as residents of the capital who are simply “environmentally minded”.
At the heart of this initiative are the staff of the Office of Green Campus and Environmental Development, the NU Green Society student community of over 60 students, and the Green Campus committee of University faculty and research staff. For more than three years, staff and students of the NU community have carried out activities to popularize sustainability and green living, and to raise awareness of environmental issues. Most importantly, the initiative focuses on the need for sustainable development at the University, and seeks to minimize, where possible, any negative environmental impacts related to training, research, or operational activities.
The NU Green Week is one striking example of the University’s green initiatives. This week-long event is held on campus annually every April before Earth Day – April 22. For 7 days, the entire University plunges into a special atmosphere of love for nature. During this time, campus residents and visitors can enjoy various events: master classes on sorting garbage and making useful crafts from unused clothes and things; vegetarian fairs; photo exhibitions on environmental disasters; debates and live theater performances; lectures and seminars on urban farming; florariums, etc. Traditionally, students commemorate the end of the week with two activities: plogging in city parks (i.e., picking up garbage while jogging), and a fieldtrip to clean up around Lake Borovoe, where volunteers spend the day collecting and sorting garbage, and then transport it back to Nur-Sultan for recycling.
While Green Week aims to promote concern for nature and resources, the Sustainable Living Lab (SLL), coordinated by Green Campus staff and sponsored by Chevron, aims to bring green technologies to life and create green startups that benefit society. Thanks to this program, in 2019 alone, 10 teams were selected on a competitive basis to receive a grant and the opportunity to implement and test their project prototypes on campus. Collaborators at all career stages – professors, students, staff, and scientists of the university – exchanged experience and knowledge, and cooperated to further innovation in the field of green technology.
The SLL program currently implements such projects as biodiesel synthesis, the university greenhouse, the composting of organic waste, snow disposal, plastic recycling, measuring air quality, as well as other projects.
This year, the SLL program awarded additional grants to NU professors for course development related to sustainability. Such courses should focus on understanding the importance of sustainable use of natural resources, as well as interdependence among the environment, society, and the economy. In addition to academic courses, open lectures and training sessions are also held for employees and students on the principles of conscious consumption and how individuals can adopt a more sustainable approach to their use of the Earth’s resources.
In addition to the SLL program, the Green Campus Office, together with the European acceleration program “EIT Climate-KIC”, for three years has held an open competition – the Climate Launchpad (CLP). All interested parties are invited to apply with their green business ideas. Last year alone, more than 80 applications from all over Kazakhstan were submitted, among which 12 projects were selected to hone their ideas, develop business plans and learn how to properly present their projects. The winning teams were invited to the university for training sessions given by the CLP, NU professors, and other experts. NU then hosted the national level of the CLP competition for Kazakhstan, where three finalist teams won the right to progress to the Grand Final of the competition in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For the first time in the history of this international competition, a team from Kazakhstan became the winner in one of six nominations, and was awarded 5,000 euros for their project. This honor is truly remarkable, as the Grand Final included teams from around 130 different countries. The awarded project was also singled out by representatives from the German government, and invited to take part in the KIKK Festival in Germany!
In addition to the listed initiatives, the University also regularly sorts and sends for recycling six types of waste: paper, plastic, glass, metal, batteries and LED lamps. Soon, the university plans to start processing organic waste on campus.
Much attention is paid to the greening of the campus. Over the past two years, about 800 trees have been planted. Some of these trees were purchased with funds donated by university sponsors, while others, by funds earned from collection and recycling of the campus’ wastepaper.
NU and members of its campus community realize that it is in our power to leave a smaller ecological footprint and we remain committed to sustainability and green initiatives.