As the world commemorates Earth Day 2021, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) has announced its new Center for Sustainability. The Center is being established to increase environmental research and teaching within the university and to promote sustainability projects across Israel.
In recent years, there has been widespread consensus regarding the critical importance of sustainability in the face of rapidly changing climate conditions. HU President Professor Asher Cohen emphasized that “sustainability needs to be a central goal of our university”, adding, “while there is considerable ongoing ‘green’ activity across the university, it does not reflect the urgency of this issue for Israel and the world.”
The university has initially allocated one million dollars for the Center, which will be directed by HU Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment Professor Yael Mishael and representatives from all HU campuses. The Center will retain university fellows and graduate students and will work with government officials, leaders in civil society, and the private sector to promote sustainability efforts across Israel. The Center’s first initiative will be an international conference in June 2021 to outline the Center’s goals and avenues for potential partnerships.
Alongside HU’s new Center for Sustainability, HU announced plans to expand its “Green Campus” initiative. As part of this initiative, HU will increase the use of renewable energies, including the installation of solar panels at the Rehovot and Safra campuses, and will swap its current cooling systems for Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) technologies that reap significant energy savings. The university will also continue its strict adherence to environmentally-friendly building standards for all new campus buildings.
Additionally, the initiative calls for the gradual discontinuation of all one-use and disposable utensils. Acknowledging the heavy toll transportation takes on the environment, the “Green Campus” initiative also lays out incentives, including financial ones, to encourage faculty and students to use public transportation and hybrid vehicles. “As academic leaders in Israel and the international community, Hebrew University must act as role model and innovator to usher in a more sustainable and healthy planet,” Cohen shared. “We are committed to this issue with all the means at our disposal.”
Among its initial academic programs, the Center will fund new research that advances sustainability, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary and inter-campus collaborations.