Sydney adopts green manifesto

5 September 2003

On the first day of spring, appropriately, prominent environmentalists Peter Garrett, Jack "Green Bans" Mundey and fellow of Senate Adam Spencer launched a major new sustainability project at Sydney University.

Universities and Sustainability is a national scheme promoted by the Australian Conservation Foundation Tela which aims to promote better sustainability policies and practices.

Dr Phil McManus, Director of Environmental Science and senior lecturer in geography said the Senate had endorsed a University environment policy, which is expected to influence the University's new $200 million capital works program and other operations.

Dr McManus is a founding member of Towards a Sustainable Campus (TASC), a group of staff and students committed to a sustainable environment at all levels.

Students and staff heard veteran environmental campaigner Jack Mundey speak of the combined powers of students and union members in helping end the Vietnam War and apartheid.

"Student activism is not at a high level," said Mr Mundey, who holds an honorary Master of the Environment degree from Sydney. He spoke of the need to give central position to the ecology and the environment and to link it with all political movements.

Right: Peter Garrett and Adam Spencer exchange thoughts on a sustainable campus.

Peter Garrett and Adam Spencer
Peter Garrett and Adam Spencer

Anna Rose from student group SASU (Sustainability at Sydney Uni), announced that both the Student Representative Council and the University Union have been introducing environmental initiatives, replacing Styrofoam cups with cardboard ones, and will soon move to using 100 per cent recycled paper instead of paper produced from Indonesian rainforests.

The University's newly appointed manager of environmental strategies, Ms Janet Broady, also spoke. "I do urge you all to get involved," she said. "The decisions we make every day and what we do every day really have a huge impact on our local and global environment."

One of the authors of the paper, Dr Sarah Bekessy from the University of Melbourne, said "We hope universities around Australia actually read this paper, and realise the demand and the really exciting opportunities that exist to lead our society in a sustainable direction."

Peter Garrett, former singer with Midnight Oil, spoke of the political, social, economic, intellectual and moral imperative to act, and of the collective power of committed students, highlighting the success of protests against the Jabiluka uranium mine in the Northern Territory.

"You are really more important than you know, partly because you can move the University to do something it should have done long ago. There are no excuses for not embedding sustainability in buildings," he said.

"We really need you to get stuck into this, to see what's happening in this document and to move it forward as champions. It's in your own backyard that you can usually do something. Your backyard is the University, and it ought to be as sustainable as possible."

Written by academics and scientists and published by the Australian Conservation Foundation, Universities and Sustainability can be downloaded from

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