6 February 2020

Students apply anthropology to campus

Campus as a living lab

Waste sorting, canteen selection and a big green house for hosting meetings. These are three suggestions for making the Municipality Hospital more sustainable from a class in applied anthropology. The students worked with solving actual problems in their own reading rooms and lecture halls.

At the beginning of the semester, the students were not very motivated for Applied Anthropology.

 “When we finally got to work with an important issue as sustainability why should it be in the same environment as walk in everyday?” Malene says.

During the semester, the involvement increased. The students realized that they were walking with global problems – just on a microlevel.

“People take airplane journeys everywhere and people take airplane journeys at City Campus. It is possible to apply our work in a bigger context – it is just hard to do the research on a large scale.” Kirstine tells. In the end the course led to optimism. The students realized that they could come up with solutions that were within reach.

Students at UCPH

“You often feel that the work you do in a course goes straight to the rubbish bin. But this time the rubbish bin seemed to be a little further away than usually.” Kirstine says.

The popularity of cardboard cups decreased

The course made the students look inwards as well. They found themselves as part of the target group for the behavioural change that they wanted to implement. “Normally you come as a consultant and say “A,B,C and there is your change”. But this time we had to ask ourselves how to change our own behaviour.” Kirstine says. In this way, the course made the students more aware of sustainability issues. A lot of the students started to bring their own coffee cup instead of using cardboard cups from the canteen.   

A strength in the course was that the students used their professional capabilities. Climate change has never been Kirstine or Malene’s “mission”. Working with sustainability at the Municipality Hospital gave them a new perspective because they were not driven by personal interests. They experienced using their professional capabilities to make an actual difference. This has inspired them to use sustainability as a “general” parameter in anthropological solutions.

The suggestions where handed over to the associate dean Andreas De Neergaard. A sustainability council is already on the drawing board. The work that the students conducted is used when the issue of airplane journeys is discussed across UCPH.

 Dreaming of a green house

One of the suggestions from to students was to establish a center for sustainability initiatives at campus – situated within a giant greenhouse. Here students from the entire Faculty of social science should be able to experience using professional capabilities to come up with sustainable solutions. “Many people give up on the fight for the climate, because they feel that they do not know enough to make a difference. The university should have a lab, where the students can meet and realize that the things they learn in the lectures can make a change.”