Education for sustainable development – interview with Dr. Gilda Alcívar García, rector of ECOTEC University
EKOenergy is an ecolabel for renewable energy consumption. Companies and individuals are not the only ones that can use EKOenergy-labelled energy and benefit from its additional advantages. The ecolabel is also available to colleges and universities, for example. By choosing EKOenergy, such institutes are able to teach and communicate about their choice to their students, and the world.
We are very proud to say that ECOTEC University, from Ecuador, decided to join the group of EKOenergy consumers by choosing EKOenergy for its on-site solar panel installation on Samborondón campus. ECOTEC University has the vision of leading by example in order to educate people and it does so by combining theory and practice with ethical values.
We interviewed Dr. Gilda Alcívar García, rector of ECOTEC University, about environmental protection which is the main pillar of the institution’s philosophy.
How did the idea of installing your own solar panels at the university come about?
ECOTEC University is a young university that started 15 years ago. It was born from the vision of prioritising sustainable development, therefore its name breaks down to ECO, from ecology and TEC, from technology. Over the past and present years, we decided to give more emphasis to one of the core pillars that I established as a rector, which is ecological awareness. We developed a sustainability plan according to several actions and indicators. One of these actions is energy sourcing. Previously we were using grid electricity, made up of the electricity mix and based on different energy sources, including fossil fuels. We searched for solutions to initiate a change of our energy source, and one of those was on-site installation of photovoltaics. We analysed different proposals and studied their environmental impact, as well as their long term sustainability.
Our goal is to have a project that starts in the university and has long term viability. Solar energy helps us to reduce our carbon footprint, one of our main goals. Beyond that, it helps us to reduce our electricity bill and minimise the ecological impact of our institution. So, we decided to invest in solar as green and clean energy.
Why did you choose to add the EKOenergy ecolabel to your on-site consumption? Was it easy to do in Ecuador?
Adding the ecolabel was easy since we already had our roadmap with concrete actions and a clear aim. This plan and EKOenergy’s promotion of a renewable future are within the University’s vision, so choosing the ecolabel was a straightforward process. Both the planning and the construction of the solar panels were parallelly developed.
You are a pioneer university in using the ecolabel. How does that make you feel?
Having an external and independent certification which largely focuses on ecology validates our work, mainly focused on the ecological part. This is why we have worked on the Green Metrics carbon neutrality certification, and now, the EKOenergy ecolabel too.
”Being pioneers in obtaining EKOenergy ecolabelled energy as a university, at least in Ecuador, is indeed very meaningful. It is a demonstration that we must create awareness in other institutions, such as services or education, and show that choosing EKOenergy-labelled energy should not only be for industries or related areas but that all organisations which have an ecological footprint on the environment because of their work must reduce their environmental impact.”
How do you plan to communicate about your use of EKOenergy-labelled energy?
Communication is essential in our university. What is not communicated is not known. We are really active on social media and we have a community of students and stakeholders that always keep an eye on what we do. Communicating about EKOenergy is fundamental and aligns with our values. It is an honor to show that we have this label in addition to the work we have been doing until now with ecological awareness.
EKOenergy’s work is a broad topic. Which part of EKOenergy do you most identify with?
We are a medium-sized institution at an organisational level: our staff, or ECOTEC team, consists of about 300 people working at the university, but there also are 200 teachers and 8000 students. We are an educational institute, not a company with a business goal or vision: Our actions are inspiring examples that leave a trace on people’s education.
Therefore, it is really important to work alongside EKOenergy’s approach, inspiring others through this change of energy sourcing. Our actions influence the new professionals we train, and we want them to be multiplying agents so that in the future, when they are in charge of a company, they will decide to take the same sustainability actions that they have seen during their training.
The university is an institution educating people and professionals. We need to set an example for those who will be the new agents for transformation.
Sustainability includes many other dimensions, especially for an institution as complex as a university, what other climate actions are you taking?
Two years ago we established 5 management principles. One of these principles is ecological awareness and the actions within this sustainability plan are:
- The change of energy matrix, which I previously mentioned.
- Our reforestation plan: We brought 350 trees, both native and exotic species located in areas where they could not be taken care of and planted them on our campus. We keep them alive and in return, we benefit from having a greener campus, more shaded areas, more oxygen production and cleaner air and temperature regulation.
- Water treatment plant: 60% of water consumption on a campus like ours, with green areas, is irrigation water. This irrigation water was originally drinking water, but we have installed a treatment plant that allows us to treat wastewater from the campus. In this way, we achieve efficient use of water since we obtain treated water suitable for irrigation, with nutrients that benefit the plants.
- Treatment and separation of solid waste: Reduce, reuse and recycle are the key actions. We work with specific suppliers specialised in recycling for different types of waste, mainly office waste such as paper, and waste from the cafeterias such as plastic or glass.
- Finally, last year we worked to enter the Green Metrics ranking, which we achieved in 2021. In 2020, we were also working to achieve carbon-neutral university certification, which is updated every year. Thus, we have an annual carbon footprint reduction plan, and we compensate with carbon offsets.
We thank Ecotec University for choosing EKOenergy and leading by example to train the young generations, and also for their efforts towards 100% sustainability and carbon neutrality. We also thank the rector Gilda Alcívar García for answering our questions! We hope that their commitment to sustainability will inspire other institutions to take similar steps, speeding up the transition towards a 100% renewable world.
We thank our licensee seller in Ecuador, Delta Global, for making this possible.
We are very proud that an increasing number of consumers using electricity produced on-site are choosing EKOenergy. To see other articles like this and to learn more about consumers using EKOenergy-labelled energy, have a look at our user stories. We, and our licensees, are happy to help consumers choose the most sustainable renewable energy available.
If you are considering ways to display your environmental commitment or thinking of switching to environmentally sustainable electricity, don’t hesitate to contact us. To stay updated, follow us on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Xing!
Interview by Icíar Montes – Published on 16 August 2021