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Green Waka: Using the green office movement to advance sustainability

Youth have a major role to play in achieving the global sustainability target. In this article, Etta Michael Bisong explores the Green Office Movement (GOM), intending to outline its benefits and go into detail on how Green Waka is leveraging its vision to empower young people in higher education to become change agents for sustainability

Green Waka
L-R: Etta Michael Bisong, Abuja Bureau Chief (ABC), EnviroNews Nigeria; Hamzat Lawal, Chief Executive Officer/Founder, Connected Development (CODE); and Michael Mbaike, Project Lead, Green Waka, during an advocacy and ambassadorial decoration visit to CODE’s office in Abuja on Monday, January 29, 2024

Green Waka, GOM, and adoption of the Green Office Model

The Green Office Movement (GOM), one of Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS) International’s portfolio projects, was carefully designed to serve as a student-led sustainability hub that informs, connects, and supports students and staff to take action on sustainability using a whole-institution approach.

Since its start and the establishment of its first green office in Maastricht, Netherlands, in 2010, the campaign has grown into an international crusade with over 40 green offices, more than 65 initiatives, and 11 partner organisations. In addition, the noble initiative has created over 200 sustainability jobs and career opportunities for students and staff, as well as over 500 successful projects each year that address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by raising awareness, engaging students and staff, and incorporating sustainability into curriculum, research, governance, and operations.

So, after conducting extensive stakeholder mapping that identified youth as key actors in driving the global quest for a harmonious and sustainable world, with a focus on Africa, particularly Nigeria, one of the study’s findings, according to Michael Mbaike, Green Waka’s founder, was the question of where and how best to reach out to this scattered and disconnected, but inevitable, community. As a result, the search for an answer to the question challenged him and his colleagues to conduct additional research to learn about more successful approaches that have been used to mobilise young people worldwide to advocate sustainability.

“Since we were not interested in reinventing the wheel, at the end of our research, we arrived at the “green office model,” he told a group of participants in his presentation at SOS International’s 2024 international summit at Twente University in the Netherlands.

The sustainability campaigner went on to say that the manual created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to implement its Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development was adopted because of its effective, scalable, and adaptable approach that combines research, operations, community, and governance to help institutionalise sustainability in higher education.

Achievements and challenges

The presentation, titled “Making Change through the Green Office Movement,” examined some of the engagement programmes that Green Waka has implemented since adopting the green office model, such as collaborating with two Nigerian universities, Nile and Bingham, to devise plans for what promises to be the country’s first green offices. Because Nile University is a sister university of several other African colleges, the overreaching objective of partnering with the institution is to connect Green Waka with many universities throughout the continent.

Another notable accomplishment that this inventiveness has demonstrated in promoting the operationalisation of the green office model is the ambassadorial initiative, which has so far decorated five influencers to serve as sustainability champions.

Green Waka’s partnership with three major media organisations in Nigeria is also another remarkable achievement that is worthy of attention because of the strategic role that the media plays in helping to actualise its overall mission.

“We are going to be building on it,” Mbaike said, aligning his statement with the significance of the ambassadorial programme, which he described as very important because, “As our ambassadors, they are also going to be playing a role in promoting the adoption of the green office model in these higher institutions.”

All these achievements, though, have come with major obstacles. One such obstacle that has been faced thus far in implementing this campaign is the general need for more funding to work with schools to ensure the best possible delivery. The model needs to be implemented, which will require several actions and a significant financial investment to be completed.

Another problem that was identified as severely hampering this process is figuring out how to find people and organisations with common interests. Being able to identify other mastermind alliances can help fill the void left by scarce resources because, no matter how much money you have, the project’s execution will suffer if you don’t have people with similar interests.

“Sustainability is a complex concept that requires collective efforts to tackle; the more the stakeholders understand the nitty-gritty of what needs to be done, the better the success is achieved,” Green Waka’s founder stated.

Way forward

After the presentation, the audience raised several questions, but one, in particular, stood out: they wanted to know how Green Waka was helping students engage with and take part in the advocacy side of climate change policy.

One thing people should know about Green Waka and its support for the GOM is that all of its efforts to establish the green office model are still ongoing. Many strategies remain on paper, waiting to be implemented.

However, starting a comprehensive carbon literacy project is one of the first things the organisation is looking forward to doing to inform students about climate change and guide them in understanding how their behaviour can help respond to the issues. The idea behind this is that by raising students’ awareness, they will be better equipped to comprehend the issues at hand, and the carbon literacy programme provides information on climate policy, which will enable them to engage with policymakers at all levels and raise policy issues.

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