Hochschule Geisenheim University aims to integrate principles of sustainability into the university development process. In order to achieve this goal, a Sustainability Office has been established which coordinates all efforts and is part of the recently created Department of Strategic University Development & Sustainability. The department’s role is to elaborate a comprehensive sustainable development strategy for the whole university (Whole Institution Approach) including all members of the university with the aim to strengthen existing commitment. This comprehensive approach includes five areas of action: university administration/governance, operations, teaching & student affairs, research and transfer. Our goal is to make the entire university as resource-efficient as possible.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) describes Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) as empowering people with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions and sustainable choices. For each and every one of us, it is all about understanding the impact of our actions on our own generation around the world and on future generations. We all need to be aware of our responsibility and make sustainable decisions based on that awareness.
At Hochschule Geisenheim University, we understand sustainability and a sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – a definition from the Brundtland Report published in 1987. Our efforts to make the university more sustainable are guided by the integrated sustainability model: what can be implemented within planetary boundaries (ecology) and in a socially just (social) and economically efficient manner (economy) is considered sustainable. In addition, we are guided by the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and the UNESCO program “Education for Sustainable Development: Towards achieving the SDGs” (ESD for 2030).
We must use all the resources we have to make our planet a greener, fairer and more positive place to live. Challenges such as food security, climate change, resource efficiency and environmental protection can only be met with global cooperation, smart ideas and clever minds, and dedication and commitment on a small and large scale.
Institutions that follow a whole institution approach integrate ESD principles (Education for Sustainable Development) into all areas of higher education: in courses, learning processes and methods. In addition, the institution raises awareness for the conscious use of energy and resources and empowers students and staff to make sustainable choices. In this context, teaching and administrative staff can attend trainings and programs, and all members of the university are involved in decision-making processes. In addition, institutions with a holistic approach cooperate with local communities and other partners and civil society associations.
The whole institution approach is to be implemented by 2025 within the framework of the current Higher Education Pact (Hochschulpakt). This timeframe was defined in the 2021 - 2025 target agreement with the state of Hesse. In order to achieve this goal, we are developing a cross-university sustainability concept with clear measures and objectives under the leadership of the Sustainability Office. This concept will be continuously updated and communicated. An integral part of our efforts to make the university more sustainable is our ongoing commitment to gender equality, diversity and accessibility. On the following pages, we will provide more information about the goals agreed upon with the state of Hesse.
Hochschule Geisenheim University is working towards a Fair Trade University certification, which is awarded by the “TransFair Association for the Promotion of Fair Trade in One World”. What started out as a student initiative has turned into a cross-university project group involving students, scientific and administrative members of staff as well as professors. The group is chaired by University President Prof. Hans Reiner Schultz.
The project group brings together interested members of the university, and communicates the topic both internally and externally. They organize initiatives and make sure that all requirements are met. But the group even wants to go one step further and raise awareness of subjects such as green production, sustainability, food waste and resource efficiency.
Clothing, coffee, fruit or vegetables – by choosing Fairtrade products, consumers can make a difference. Our choices help to make sure that people who produce, process, transport and sell our products are paid a fair price. Quite often, farmers and workers only receive a tiny share of what we pay for their products. By making production costs, wages and value chains more transparent, different initiatives aim to make trade fairer and more sustainable and promote solidarity.
In addition, communication and raising awarness are other important factors that Hochschule Geisenheim University wants to promote.
In the Cafeteria
Fair Trade includes much more than just monetary aspects. The World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) has defined 10 principles of Fair Trade:
In Germany, 55 kilos of food per capita end up in the waste every year even though half of it is still good, according to the 2020 Food Report by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. But this is not the only problem: in 2016, 21.6 % of fruit and vegetables and nearly 12 % of meat and animal products were lost or wasted between harvest and retail. The production of these foods required a lot of resources - water, energy, time – which were ultimately wasted.
As of now, we are using up our planet’s resources far too quickly. Within just eight months, we will have used up all the resources that the Earth can generate during one year. In light of global hunger and water shortages, this excessive consumption has severe consequences. That is why we are raising awareness about the urgent need to use resources wisely, and conducting research to protect them.
1. Shop smart and plan ahead
Check your fridge and plan wisely: Are you eating out this week or having friends over for dinner? Make a list of what you need to buy and stick to it.
2. Take your time
We tend to buy more than we actually need when we are hungry or in a hurry. Take your time and choose products wisely to avoid impulse buys and reduce food waste.
3. Don’t buy in bulk
People often think that buying products in bulk saves money, but quite often this is not true. To reduce food waste, consider buying products in smaller quantities, especially if you live alone.
4. Buy “ugly” food
Many products in the supermarket are often wasted because they are not perfect. Do your part by choosing imperfect produce in the supermarket or leftover bread at the local bakery. Quite often, these products are also offered at a discount.
5. Organize your fridge correctly
Perishable items, such as meat, should always be kept cold, so put them in the fridge as soon as you buy them. Fruits and vegetables can be stored in the vegetable bin of your fridge. Fish and meat should be stored on the bottom shelf, which is the coldest part. Keep dairy products and cheese on the middle shelf and leftovers on the top shelf. Butter and beverages can go in the door.
6. Store properly
Store potatoes in a dark and dry place and put bread in a box to keep it fresh. Leftovers are best stored in airtight containers. And did you know that apples and tomatoes produce ethylene which makes other fruit ripen faster? So store them separately to make your produce last longer.
7. Understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use-by’ dates
The ‘best before’ date indicates how long a product is at its highest quality. But if the day has passed, the food could still be perfectly okay to eat if it looks, smells and tastes the same. In contrast, consumers should pay attention to the ‘use-by’ date which appears on perishable items such as raw meat and fish. It the food is past the use-by date, it is no longer safe to eat and should be thrown away.
8. Check your supplies regularly
Even if you store your food properly, you should check your shelves from time to time for moths and other insects. Always watch out for moldy food: bread, yoghurt and nuts should be thrown away immediately if they show any signs of mold
9. Love your leftovers
If you don’t eat everything you make, freeze it for later or put it in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. The next day, you can add a few more ingredients and create a new dish out of it.
10. Order smaller portions
Avoid buffets and order à la carte as a lot of food is wasted at buffets. Bring home the leftovers or ask for smaller portions.