As we begin to emerge from what has been a stressful period on campus as well as beyond it, we are turning to consideration of other matters important to all of us in the longer term. In this context, the university administration has declared the 2021–2022 academic year to be one of focus on sustainability and climate change. It is fitting that Bilkent, as one of Turkey’s foremost universities, should assume a leading role in generating ideas and initiating and contributing to discussions on sustainability – an issue of vital importance to humanity – as well as set an example with our actions, as is our tradition.
In a time of lockdown and social distancing, not to mention the mental stress that the pandemic has caused for many, sustainability may not come across to all members of society as a pressing concern. Yet, the very conditions created by the pandemic also serve as a timely reminder for us to think further about this critical issue. To give an everyday example, in the past year or so our consumption of single-use plastics has only increased. The pandemic has thus in fact made attention to and action on sustainability even more pressing than before. As we begin to make a transition back to “normalcy,” it is important that we also move toward a more sustainable post-pandemic future.
Here at Bilkent, the faculties and departments have already begun presenting seminar series, courses (or lectures within courses) and other academic offerings that focus on the topic of sustainability. It is also planned that, when possible, student graduation projects across the university will relate to such topics.
In the coming months, the university administration looks forward to reporting specific projects and initiatives undertaken by our students and faculty. Here are some of the actions the university has already taken:
1. Lojman 12 and Dorms 81 and 82 are environment-friendly buildings that were built with an eye toward energy efficiency. Dorms 81 and 82 conform to “passive house” standards of energy efficiency; these standards have the purpose of ensuring that a building’s negative environmental impact is reduced.
2.The university has met the requirements of the Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change to obtain a “zero waste certificate,” indicating a certain level of success in reducing, reusing and recycling waste products. Needless to say, further progress on this front depends on everyone’s contributions to the effort.
3. Solar panels are used to heat the university’s swimming pool.
4. Water from the reservoir, which is replenished by rain, is used to water campus landscaping.
5. Green roofs are being considered for all university buildings. At present, AB MicroNano Building has a green roof. The roof of the new BLIS sports hall, currently under construction, will also be green.