Did you know that an important pillar at KTH is Sustainability? 🌱 KTH is contributing to sustainable development by providing educational programmes, conducting research and much more. We also have a student organisation called “KTH Students for Sustainability” and I have talked to Vartan, who is currently the president of the organisation about their mission and how students can get involved. Vartan is a father of two, part-time research assistent at MIUN in Östersund and a full-time student at KTH. He is studying Sustainable Energy Engineering and will start into his second year during Fall this year.
Can you explain what KTH Students for Sustainability is and what you do as an organisation at KTH?
Vartan: Students for Sustainability (SforS) is an umbrella organisation to unite the different groups that want to tackle the sustainability question on campus. We focus on environmental sustainability. We are composed of different working groups and a central board. The working groups have specific questions that they address. The central board provides support for the working groups and are often associated with a working group as well.
The emissions group has been working with a sensor which can be placed in a bike to gather data about air pollution. This promotes cleaner commuting and engages citizens in the scientific process. The sharing group is working to reduce overconsumption of resources in KTH by optimising shared ownership. The current most active project is the SmartaKartan. It is a map of the resources that can be used by students. The food group proposes to implement a “plant based by default” policy in all university events. They work on promoting it and broaden the support. Their proposal allows people to freely choose other food options (meat, fish, etc…), but the default option would be the one with the lowest environmental impact: plant based. You can find out more about the proposal here.
The waste group is focusing on reducing waste and its impact. Therefore we support a reusable coffee cup system which is being rolled out on campus. It is called Loop-It. A student can buy a digital cup, check out a reusable cup and drop it off at the cafe location (the one you picked up or another). This means a bit cheaper coffee as you don’t have to buy the disposable cup and a lower impact on the planet as you don’t have to dispose of the disposable cup. The absent-minded student (such as I am) does not have to remember to bring their reusable cup, just show their phone at the cafe. The system already exists on campus, we are just trying to get the word out, with promotion and posters (and I guess interviews). Finally we produce guides for students to act more sustainably in their personal life. Simple changes and resources which are win-wins (like where to get second hand aka cheaper furniture).
When was KTH students for sustainability founded and what was the reason?
Vartan: The association KTH Students for Sustainability was founded in 2019 as a merger between several newly started sustainability initiatives. The purpose was the one stated in our statutes: “Bringing people together, educating KTH students on sustainability and creating an environment of collaboration among initiatives on sustainability.” We wanted to improve communications between teams and towards students about what was going on and make it easier to make a difference.
However, there was actually a KTH Students for Sustainability group already in 2018. I was also part of the previous team, but it was basically inactive after mid-2018. There is a connection though, as the first president of KTH SforS, (Malin Eriksson) was also the founder of this previous team and had already created the facebook page we use today.
The main teams joining the coalition were Student Sustainability Council, Klimatstudenterna and Eco-Enhance KTH. The last one has now been converted into different SforS teams but was originally active in making Green Office development plans and introducing reusable cups in the restaurants on campus.
What kind of events are you offering for students?
Vartan: We offer Green Walks every other Saturday where we take the time to wander in the green areas and we discuss issues that surround the connection between personal and environmental sustainability. We also started the Sustainability Council where campus organisations and interested individuals can tackle one sustainability specific topic. We are going to be organizing more hack-a-thons where a problem in sustainability is addressed. Finally, we are a great source of information for lectures and workshops which we do not host but can share.
Are you only focusing on sustainability topics at KTH and on campus or are your work and activities also about topics outside university?
Vartan: The projects of the working groups mostly target sustainability topics on campus. Think global, act local. This means we can engage and focus in projects that are achievable by volunteers. Collaborations with other organizations, such as Engineers without borders, allow us to work on topics throughout Stockholm, Sweden, and beyond.
How can students get involved in your organisation? And why should they get involved?
Vartan: Our working groups are always looking for individuals to join their ranks. Otherwise if you have an idea of a concrete project you want to carry out that matches our goals of sustainability on campus, you are most welcome to join us and start a project group. Not every idea becomes a project but every project in our organisation has its roots from one or a handful of engaged individuals. We elect a new board each semester, and the next election will be at our bi-annual meeting this October. If you want to join as President, Treasurer, or any other fun position within the organisation, send us an email and grab a fika.
To join the working groups, the best way to get engaged is to reach out to them. Our main form of communication is the slack channel. We will gladly take into the fold and together we can fight the good fight. You will get a chance to work in a semi-structured way to make your surroundings a bit better, engage with other like-minded individuals, and get sweet, sweet CV cookie points along the way. I am happy, I joined SforS for the meaningful work I do and the people I am with.
I hope that this interview gave you some nice insights in what KTH Students for Sustainability is doing 🌳 There will also be a webinar for newly admitted students on 25th May 2021, at 4:00 PM CEST where you can learn about sustainable student life at KTH from SforS and the KTH Sustainability Office. You can register for it here.
Have a nice weekend!