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 that supply water to the following twelve bottle filling stations across the Ciudad Universitaria campus:
Plant 1 supplies water to the bottle filling stations at the central administration building, the School of Architecture, the School of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, and the School of Civil Engineering (2 stations).
Plant 2 supplies water to the bottle filling stations at the Gaspar Mass Stadium (2 stations), the soccer field and dressing rooms, the athletics track, the basketball court, and the indoor soccer facilities.
During 2016, a total of 550,145 liters of water were consumed by using bottle filling stations, which represents a saving of approximately 1,190,290 bottles of 500 ml.
Environmental and economic benefits are some of the results of this project. It prevents solid waste generation (PET bottles) and it has allowed saving more than 11,000 million pesos.
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:
a) Reuse materials as much as possible before discarding—e.g., use both sides of a sheet of paper.
b) Email notices, memos, invitations, and documents instead of printing.
c) Use boards for announcements instead of distributing printed papers.
d) Print in draft quality to reduce ink use and promote the use of both sides of a paper.
e) Edit documents in digital format to reduce paper use.
f) Implement campaigns for book and magazine donation and exchange between UANL entities.
g) Promote the use of tableware in offices, reunions, and conferences to eliminate disposable flatware use.
h) 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.
i) Avoid bottled water consumption by promoting the use of flasks or any personal reusable containers that can be filled with water dispensers.
j) Promote the sale of returnable glass bottle drinks at cafeterias and the use of tableware instead of disposable flatware.