In the major educational challenge of transitioning to a sustainable society, responsible consumption gains strategic relevance as there is wide agreement that consumerism is the main driving force behind economy and unsustainable practices.
Consumerism has pervaded almost all social classes, particularly in developing and highly developed countries, due to the exponential growth of productivity during the last seventy years.
On the other hand, responsible consumption is seen as the consciousness on the consequences that personal and mass consumption have on the world, such as cultural, socio-economic, and environmental crises.
Responsible consumption also involves critical consciousness, ethical assessment, and an enthusiastic stance that supports justice, global solidarity, and respect for nature but opposes companies with products and practices contravening those values. A behavior that is consistent with these attitudes leads to a voluntary austerity of materialistic desires, finding satisfaction in social relationships, arts, and nature, as well as living in a world free from utilitarianism.
For Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, promoting responsible consumption among its community and the general public is a twofold objective: to encourage commitment to an ethical and conscious lifestyle and to show people that adopting responsible consumption practices without compromising life quality is possible.
Responsible consumption means choosing products and services based not only on quality and price, but also on their socio-environmental impact as well as the corporations’ conduct and respect for human rights. This approach stems from the idea that besides filling a need, consumption concerns the socio-economic and environmental processes of providing goods and services.
UANL seeks to become a touchstone of good practice for people by promoting fair trade of local, organic products among its members as established in the Goal 12 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted at the United Nations Summit on September 25, 2015.
Therefore, UANL’s main strategy to promote responsible consumption is to reduce waste generated from its daily activities. In 2015, it implemented an institutional program consisting of the installation of two water purification plants located in Ciudad Universitaria.
Fountains which included the installation of two purifying plants of water located in Ciudad Universitaria, which supply 12 drinking fountains located at the following places:
Drinking Fountain 1: Rectoria Building, School of Architechture, School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and the School of Civil Engineering 1 and 2.
Drinking Fountain 2: Sports Stadium Gaspar Mass 1 and 2, dressing rooms and soccer field, athletics track and basketball court and fast soccer court.
During 2017, it was consumed 598,342 liters of drinking water from the portable drinking fountains, which meant that the members of the university community stopped consuming 1,196,684 of 500 mL plastic bottles of drinking water. This project represented a great environmental benefits by avoiding the generation of solid waste (PET bottles), protecting the health of the consumers, as well as significant economic savings for them calculated in over 600,000.00 US.
The operation of the portable drinking fountain program installed at Ciudad Universitaria has allowed to obtain the following environmental benefits by avoiding the generation of solid waste (PET bottles), protecting the health of the consumers, as well as, significant economic savings for them.
Furthermore, UANL is currently promoting the efficient use of paper and plastics to reduce their consumption, which has allowed an important decrease in waste generation. Some actions are detailed as follows:
- Reuse materials as much as possible before discarding—e.g., use both sides of a sheet of paper.
- Email notices, memos, invitations, and documents instead of printing.
- Use boards for announcements instead of distributing printed papers.
- Print in draft quality to reduce ink use and promote the use of both sides of a paper.
- Edit documents in digital format to reduce paper use.
- Implement campaigns for book and magazine donation and exchange between UANL entities.
- Promote the use of tableware in offices, reunions, and conferences to eliminate disposable flatware use.
- Upgrade to an electronic records management system or email platform, such as Outlook, that allows scheduling meetings, conferences, and formal events, sending reminders to appointments or events, and requesting read receipts. This prevents document printing.
- Avoid bottled water consumption by promoting the use of flasks or any personal reusable containers that can be filled with water dispensers.
- Promote the sale of returnable glass bottle drinks at cafeterias and the use of tableware instead of disposable flatware.