DEREE-The American College of Greece is honored to be hosting distinguished speakers such as Ms Afshane Bassir-Pour, Director, United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe among a slew of others – who will be taking part in the well-established annual Sustainability Week at DEREE-ACG March 10-12.
Open to all and taking place on the DEREE Campus, Sustainability Week will focus on the theme of Sustainable Cities this year, a topic that will come alive through scientific presentations, workshops, and debates by academics and eco-friendly professionals, as well as through numerous hands-on activities, such as a photo exhibition and competition, the “Junkyard Wars” – a “waste art” event, and Solar Busk – a music performance using solar energy, says Dr Christina Marouli, the head of The American College of Greece’s Center of Excellence for Sustainability, who also teaches courses in DEREE’s Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Environmental Studies Program.
“We are really pleased and honored to have such celebrated environmentally-friendly personalities share their insights with us,” Dr Marouli notes, adding, “Ms Afshane Bassir-Pour, Director, United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe will be the keynote speaker, followed by a host of well-known professionals and academics who will touch on a number of fascinating topics: food, waste, energy, climate change, urban green, sustainable living, arts and sustainability – topics that close the loop.
Other distinguished speakers include Katia Lasaridi, of Harokopio University, Christos Giannakopoulos of the National Observatory of Athens, and Eleni Myrivili – Athens Municipal Council member.
Among the myriad fascinating topics at Sustainability Week, Renaturing the City – a concept that has received a lot of attention in the European Union of late – and its many aspects will also be explored, says Christina Marouli, who in her spare time works as a monitoring expert for environmental projects funded by the European Commission in Greece and Cyprus – the LIFE program.
“The concept is simple. We recognize that cities are problematic in the way that we have organized them,” says Dr Marouli who in her spare time also advises the DEREE Student Organization Together for Sustainability – members of which are also helping organize Sustainability Week.
“For example, one of the major problems in cities is that we have a lot of concrete and too little green, and that means a lot of things such as soil sealing – where the soil doesn’t work the way it should, so we have floods and similar phenomena. It also means that we have greenhouse gases that can’t be absorbed; we also have higher temperatures, because green lowers local temperatures; it means more air population, more health problems as well,” says Dr Marouli.
“So, that’s how the European Union came up with this term, Renaturing the City. It’s about reintroducing green to the city. That means introducing urban gardens, places where you can grow your food, so that you can close the loop more easily in terms of the food chain – one of the most important inputs we need in the cities.
“We need to reintroduce green in the cities in ways that it is sustainable, though, and doesn’t require so much water, but enough to make the city more sustainable and to get this food input that we need. Green roofs are another thing that are part of that,” adds Dr Marouli, who introduced a green-roof course two years ago at DEREE-ACG in the context of a European Union-funded project. The open course was piloted at DEREE and has since become a staple of the academic environmental offerings at DEREE-ACG – open to the local community as well.
Green roofs are also “good for energy, cleaning the air, filtering the water; they have lots of benefits,” Dr Marouli says. Out of the green-roof course, not only have Dr Marouli and her colleagues been inspired to do research on green roofs, but to boot, an important student initiative has been born – Simply Cool – a group that developed with the aim of greening Athens.
“Their motto is One Square Meter Each, and that will make a difference in terms of the urban heat island effect and more sustainable cities,” says Dr Marouli.
Sustainability Week will also explore what other steps can be taken to introduce sustainability in everyday life. “Given that we are in a city, given that more than half of the earth’s population lives in cities and there’s an increasing urbanization trend, it’s really important to think of how we can make our cities more sustainable from all aspects – environmental, economic, and social.
Sustainability Week was first launched in 2012, and has featured varying themes: 2012 – a mix of environmental issues; 2013: the theme was the green economy and green jobs, and the third, last year, featured the environment, technology and health.
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