Universities can become active promoters of sustainable development and the Université Catholique de Lille (Lille Catholic University), for the past six years, has shown how this is possible and can be integrated in a 10-hectare historic campus in Lille, France with more than 20,000 students pursuing 130 various academic degrees.
The continuing success of this university initiative and commitment to a sustainable campus started with the establishment of the Institut du Développement Durable et Responsable (Institute for Sustainable and Responsible Development). While the Institute and its staff team is not as big as other university units, it has created significant effects on the university’s daily life, thanks to the synergy and multidisciplinary training of the professionals that run and manage operations and their relations with different stakeholders (faculty, researchers, and students) to promote and coordinate actions towards a sustainable campus.
For example, car use by students decreased by 20% in three years after the first University Trip Plan was implemented. Numerous parking spaces were installed for shared bicycles as similar programs developed in most of the major cities of France) and campus pedestrian areas were re-designed, taking after initiatives by the public transport services. The university also recently established a website that allows staff to share shuttle series to the campus with neighbouring businesses.
There are also increased discussions and topics on sustainable development in academic programs. Among engineers, eco-design is promoted along with the evaluation of the energy efficiency of buildings.
There are also several initiatives by students such as the selective collection of used mobile phones and organizing a Conference of Business and Students for Sustainable Development during the French Week on Sustainable Development.
Many creative ideas are being applied to maintain the green cover on campus and protect the existing biodiversity. There is also a smartphone application developed that allows students to calculate their carbon balance in real time.
With this university program on sustainable development promotion and implementation and with strong support from the University President, Pierre Giorgini, it is not just university life that is engaged but also the city and the region. The success of this effort by Lille Catholic University that uses a multidisciplinary approach and sustained by a professional and effective institutional management is certainly an active inspiration to other universities in the world.
Sébastien Carcelle, SJ is a lecturer on sustainable development at the l’Institut Catholique d’Arts et Métiers (ICAM) School of Engineering of the Lille Catholic University.