On November 17th, 2023, the Sustainable DKU student club released Duke Kunshan University’s first-ever sustainability report at the Duke International Forum (DIF). The DIF is an annual event organized by Duke Kunshan University since 2015. Every year, the DIF involves policymakers, business executives, investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers to discuss the challenges and opportunities associated with a selected topic that is impacting our global world. This year, the DIF focused on the theme of climate and sustainability. The objective was to foster close collaborations among Duke, DKU, and other entities in the US and China in climate and sustainability to make a decisive contribution to the global green transition and the sustainable development goals.
Starting in the summer of 2022 with a team of 16 undergraduate student volunteers and the support of five faculty under the Environmental Research Center, namely Professor Coraline Goron, Professor Chuanhui Gu, Professor Song Gao, Professor Richer, and Professor Ka Leung Lam, as well as DKU Operations, Sustainable DKU investigated and analyzed DKU’s baseline data in five different sustainability areas, namely energy, air quality, water, food and waste, in Phase I. On this basis, the report provides recommendations to DKU to improve the sustainability of its campus even further.
As one of three student project presentations at the DIF, this sustainability report highlighted the importance of student work within the university, as well as the importance of focusing on sustainability at the institutional level. DKU students have actively promoted sustainability via various means; for example, Sustainable DKU is a student-led initiative that promotes sustainable living, raises an educated and informed generation, and creates an international, interdisciplinary platform to solve environmental issues. Over the past few years, Sustainable DKU has organized and led in-person, hybrid, and online speaker events, workshops, competitions, and informational campaigns to promote environmental, economic, and social sustainability.
Creating the report required a sustained commitment through several phases, consisting of a background literature review, multiple rounds of bilingual interviews with DKU Operations, DKU Dining, and DKU Environmental Health and Safety, drafting and faculty revision, photography and design, editing and publication. Through the hard work of student volunteers, faculty, and staff, the creation of DKU’s first-ever sustainability report will add to the conversation of prioritizing sustainability in campus operations, education, and DKU-wide policy and choices.
The report included thematic recommendations, as well as institutional-level recommendations.
- DKU has implemented multiple energy-saving technologies and policies, earning it multiple LEED certifications. DKU has installed solar thermal panels to heat water and a few solar PV panels generate electricity. DKU’s printers, washing machines, fridges, and air conditioning are highly energy efficient. To encourage energy conservation, DKU has placed reminder stickers in classrooms.
- However, per capita energy consumption could be further reduced/ optimized. In the future, DKU should experiment with more low-carbon and energy-efficient technologies, fill relevant data gaps, and promote further energy conservation.
- DKU has adopted various measures to ensure good indoor air quality and monitor it, such as through the HVAC filters and the provision of additional air purifiers.
- However, the air quality has a mixed public perception in the DKU community. To maintain the best international air quality standards, DKU should improve its monitoring, organize data disclosure, and adopt additional measures to reduce indoor pollution, for instance by increasing the number of green plants around campus.
- DKU has a meticulous water management system. It has rainwater recycling processes in place, procedures to ensure good water quality, and uses various water-saving devices.
- To further improve, we recommend that DKU implement additional water consumption and quality meterage, as well as actively promote water-saving practices.
- DKU has various measures in place to meet the various dietary needs of the DKU community. When choosing a food supplier, DKU Operations’ top considerations are price, food safety, the reputation of raw material suppliers, and the overall quality of goods. DKU is responsive to community feedback, and has adopted communication with, for instance, vegan and allergen labels.
- However, DKU’s current food supplier does not consider environmental impacts when sourcing ingredients. DKU should also provide more options for vegan/vegetarian diets and ensure correct allergen labeling.
- DKU endeavors to promote good waste management practices at the school level by providing waste bins for food waste, residual waste, and recyclable waste. These are distributed across campus and are clearly labeled in both English and Chinese. DKU also implements strict procedures for storing the chemicals for lab use and disposing of biological and chemical wastes in accordance with local regulations and best practices.
- However, waste production data is sparse and actual waste sorting practices on campus are not monitored nor proactively educated. DKU should collect such data and consider policies that reduce food waste.
In addition, the authors proposed three university-wide recommendations. First, the DKU administration, in consultation with key community partners, should set campus-wide sustainability goals such as climate net-zero targets. Secondly, DKU should track all relevant data and analyze it regularly to inform decisions on campus. Finally, DKU should consider creating a sustainability office, as coordinating sustainability actions on campus, analyzing data, and reporting on the progress toward DKU’s future goals will require dedicated, full-time professionals.
To read the full report, please scan the QR code below / click on the URL: https://newstatic.dukekunshan.edu.cn/dkumain/wp-content/uploads/2023/11/22095841/2022-DKU-Sustainability-Report-FINAL-14.11.pdf
Project Co-leaders: Emerson Meeks and Wynona Curaming.
Student authors: Emerson Meeks, Wynona Curaming, Weijia Zhang, Echo Gong, Xiaoyi Kuang, Aisha Shen, Isabella Kroon, Soham Dorle, Max Huang, Anthony Liao-Yates, Aicha Slaitane, Yitong Su, Maya Slack, Chenyu Liu, Ace Asim, & Jaden Chee