This history is intended to give a rough outline of the progress of sustainability at UCT. In doing so it will hopefully provide perspective on what has, and what still needs to be, achieved. The focus is on sustainability on the actual campus, so does not mention the impressive research by many staff dealing with these issues in the last few decades. Much of it is adapted from the UCT Green Campus Action Plan
UCT has gradually established a commitment to a sustainable campus since Vice Chancellor Saunders made the university one of the inaugural signatories of the Talloires Declaration in 1990. Little progress (other than a recycling campaign in the mid-1990s) was made in terms of this commitment until 2001 when the Environmental Management Working Group (EMWG) was formed to coordinate the implementation of the Talloires commitments, and in the same year, Vice Chancellor Ndebele recommitted UCT to environmental sustainability in a statement published in the Monday Paper.
A draft Environmental Policy was developed by the EMWG and finalised in early 2003, but was not formally adopted by the university leadership until 2008. Taking a more active approach, the Properties and Services department and the EMWG embarked on a process towards implementing an Environmental Management System (EMS). This first identified the environmental aspects and impacts of UCT’s operations and activities, and made recommendations for the mitigation of these impacts. It has been used during the last five years to guide the activities of P&S towards more sustainable buildings, facilities and operations.
Some important advances include the development and adoption of a Green Campus Policy Framework in May 2008 by the University Building and Development Committee (UB&DC), Senate and Council in June 2008. The implementation of a campus wide recycling system in the beginning of 2009. In July 2011 the University appointed the first Pro-Vice Chancellor to facilitate and oversee the establishment of the African Climate and Development Initiative. In 2011 UCT signed up to be part of the International Sustainable Campus Network.
Student environmental activism at UCT first became wide spread at UCT after the establishment of the Green Campus Initiative in 2007. This started out as a recycling project in the Botany building. It is now a successful student driven initiative that encompasses many spheres of campus life and has received institutional and national recognition for the work it does. The GCI often works closely with staff and departments to help make UCT more sustainable.
Finally much of the progress has been as a result of the dedication and hard work of a few individuals over the years. Naming them all is not possible, but we thank them all for their important contributions.