Students work together for a sustainable future

07 Jun 2024

In an era of increased environmental challenges, sustainability has become a global effort. At Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU), students from around the world are taking action to promote sustainability on campus and beyond.

Waisaka Puspajayani from Indonesia and Erik Hansen from Norway are among the members of Sustainable Future Talents (SFT), a student organisation at XJTLU dedicated to promoting eco-friendly living. From reducing plastic waste to holding a second-hand market, the group is driving change and inspiring others to move towards a greener future. 

Erik Hansen (first row, left), Waisaka Puspajayani (first row, second from right), and other students at the second-hand market in December 2023

‘Ocean is home’

Puspajayani is a Year Three BA Business Administration student at XJTLU’s International Business School Suzhou (IBSS). She says coming from Indonesia – well-known for its stunning natural scenery, including beautiful oceans – helped inspire her commitment to sustainability.

“During holidays, my family and I usually spend our leisure time enjoying water sports such as swimming, snorkelling, and diving,” she says.

“However, as I grow older, I have noticed an increasing amount of rubbish and debris in the ocean. It saddens me to see my home, the ocean, being polluted, and it makes me feel suffocated.

“The ocean is also the home of many marine creatures. We need to put an end to the pollution and protect these animals, as their lives are affected by human actions.”

Waisaka Puspajayani at Pan Gate in Suzhou

Green vehicles vs white plastic

When Puspajayani came to China, she noticed the country’s efforts to promote eco-friendly transportation.

“It’s very easy and convenient to use public transportation in China, such as buses and the metro,” she says. “Electric scooters, or e-bikes, are also very popular here. It’s a much greener alternative to traditional motorcycles or cars.”

She says she also appreciates the mobile phone-based platform she’s used in China to rent bicycles.

“The bicycles are available at various stations throughout the city. I can just scan a QR code and pick up a bicycle from one station and drop it off at another. This is a very flexible and cost-effective way of travelling short distances,” she says.

However, Puspajayani has also observed some delivery platforms using multiple layers of plastic.

“When ordering takeaway food, it’s common to receive multiple plastic wrappers and containers. I’ve also seen apples wrapped in plastic, placed inside a box, and then wrapped again,” she says.

“I know wrapping is to prevent damage during transportation, but any excessive use of plastic is still very concerning.”

And at restaurants, she has noticed some people ordering larger portions of food than they can eat.

“It saddens me to see food being wasted,” she says.

The ‘woman’ in the mirror

To combat these issues, Puspajayani decided to start with herself.

“Finding alternatives to single-use plastics is a challenge, and I don’t have a direct solution for plastic waste yet,” she says. “But I now carry my own reusable bottle wherever I go, and I bring my own lunch box to the canteen to pack any leftovers instead of using disposable containers.

“I have also switched to bamboo tissue because it is biodegradable and less harmful to the environment,” she says.

Puspajayani has shared her sustainable practices with friends, and many people are joining in.

“I’m very happy to see some of my friends embracing sustainable habits, such as bringing their own lunchboxes and using bamboo tissue. It’s really exciting to witness their awareness and action.

“By adopting these practices and sharing them with others, I hope I can make a meaningful impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.

“Together, we can make a difference and create a better environment for all,” she says.

Sustainability actions in Norway

Hansen, a Year Four international management exchange student from BI Norwegian Business School, provides insights into how his country is tackling the need for sustainability.

“Norway has been at the forefront of sustainable advancements for many years.

“While there are still some items covered in plastic, overall, we have significantly reduced our reliance on plastic, especially when it comes to packaging fruits and vegetables. We buy loose fruits and vegetables and place them in our bags directly without using unnecessary plastic,” he says.

Erik Hansen at the Great Wall

From awareness to action

When Hansen heard about SFT, which is led by Dr Ellen Touchstone, Associate Dean for Responsible and Sustainable Business Education at IBSS, he decided to join the efforts.

“It highlights the environmental issues, which I think is an important step in combatting them,” Hansen says.

SFT conducts campaigns and activities to promote sustainability and eco-friendly practices at XJTLU and beyond, with topics including “Meatless Monday”, “Healthy Plate Workshop”, and “Ditch Disposables”.

On 6 December 2023, Hansen and Puspajayani joined other SFT members in organising a second-hand market on the ground floor of IBSS.

Second-hand market at IBSS

SFT members taking photos with the poster

“We want to encourage more people to reuse existing resources instead of constantly buying new products. In this way, we can reduce waste and also carbon emissions,” Hansen says.

Together, the group collected over 300 pieces of clothing. Approximately 70% of the items were sold, and the remaining clothes were donated to public welfare organisations.

Apart from his involvement in the second-hand market, Hansen also designed a poster for Carbon Literacy Action Day.

The poster for Carbon Literacy Action Day designed by Erik Hansen

“I think SFT has the potential to create more engagement and become more influential in the future,” he says.

“It may be small in size, but, as a group, we can make a difference by raising people’s awareness of sustainability.”

By Xinmin Han
Edited by Tamara Kaup
Photos courtesy of Waisaka Puspajayani, Erik Hansen and SFT

07 Jun 2024


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