1st Sustainability Workshop at the University of Akureyri

Sustainability Workshop on Zoom, all welcome!

Welcome to an online Sustainability Workshop on Zoom, free participation and no registration. You attend via Zoom link at the button.


11:00-12:20 - Lara Leik, University of Salzburg, Austria: Scientists for future

Austrians rely more on modern science than political institutions to solve our current environmental problems in relevant surveys. How do individual scientists live up to this expectation? Scientists4Future (S4F) support the FridaysForFuture (FFF) goal of achieving science-based climate policy. Since the birth of the initiative in Germany in March 2019 by Gregor Hagedorn, S4F has grown into a sizeable movement that unites scientists of all disciplines, whether climate, social or natural sciences, behind this common goal. More than 27.000 supporters have signed its initial petition. United behind a common chart, communication and action guidelines, S4F operates internationally, but especially in the German-speaking region. S4F Austria is active since 2019. S4F actively work to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, protect biodiversity, honour the sustainable development goals and achieve sustainability through knowledge transfer within universities as well as towards schools, politics and into the wider society. The backbone of S4F is scientists and students from all sectors, disciplines and career levels who actively contribute through voluntary engagement in regional and topical teams. Only at the Salzburg University, there is an S4F representative employed. They support FFF on the ground at climate strikes, as well as providing access and increase accessibility to strategic scientific resources, organising public lectures, and fact-checking relevant current topics in media and politics.

11:20-11:40 Yvonne Höller, University of Akureyri, Iceland: Sustainability in scientific publishing

Scientific publishing has not been subject to sustainable decision making, so far. When researchers choose a venue for their research to be published, factors such as the impact factor play a major role. While open-access publishing is discussed to become a gold standard, further concerns about the sustainability of publishers are not that popular. We propose that a sustainability factor should help researchers to base their choice of a publisher not only on aspects like the impact factor.

A survey was conducted among scientists, journal editors, staff at publishers, and non-academic staff at Universities in order to analyze motivations of stakeholders to act sustainably, and in order to rank factors that should be rated in a sustainability factor. Among the 4000 contacted stakeholders, 119 participated. The respondents thought that non-academic staff, scientists and universities would be mostly influenced by their personal motivation to act sustainably, whereas they thought publishers policy would be the most relevant factor that motivates journals, their and the publishers' staff. Furthermore, respondents thought that governmental policy is highly relevant for the publishers’ motivation to act sustainably. Respondents indicated that publishers should be evaluated by the existence and publication of a sustainability plan, parity of payment, ensuring minimum live standard, supporting sustainable resource use, and encouraging their staff to act sustainably. For journals, their open-access policy and costs per publication, journal’s topics, the content of published papers, their global origin, and gender equality were rated to be highly relevant.

Based on these results we propose a rating scheme for the sustainability factor.

11:40-12:00 Thomas Weiger, University of Salzburg, Austria: Plus Green Campus – Sustainable Universities

Universities play a key role in our pathway towards a sustainable future. They need to be transformed themselves into sustainable universities to further help the transformation of the public into a sustainable society. Staff and students of a university are the core to promote sustainability. Their actions and behaviours make the difference. In addition, universities need strategies in agreement with goals identified by the international community like the SDGs to set the targets for their transformation.

At the “Paris Lodron University of Salzburg” (PLUS) 10 years ago “PLUS Green Campus” was launched to initiate this change. Differently to other universities in Austria PLUS Green Campus was essentially initiated by students further taken up and institutionalized by the rectorate at that time. From the beginning, this movement was balanced in bottom-up versus top-down actions and worked primarily by inviting people to act responsibly instead of issuing regulations. At the core of PLUS, Green Campus stands the international EMAS (Eco management and audit scheme) certificate, which is not only looking at operational ecology but to a smaller amount also on research and teaching. Besides EMAS PLUS Green Campus has divisions for mobility management, green offices, green meetings and for raising awareness for more sustainability. The PLUS in addition has external partners like the state of Salzburg to push together the state's goal to become CO2 neutral in 2050. In 2020 one of the new guiding principles of the PLUS was announced as “Development and Sustainability.” Our future goals are to integrate sustainability more into teaching and research and to become CO2 neutral. With PLUS Green Campus the PLUS is also a member of the “Alliance of Sustainable Universities in Austria” a network of 17 Austrian universities that aims at promoting sustainability issues in Austrian universities and thus to contribute to a more sustainable society.

12:00-12:20 Brynhildur Bjarnadóttir, University of Akureyri, Iceland: Sustainability in teaching

Education for Sustainability and Sustainable Development has received increasing attention for the last decades. It encompasses a new vision of education to empower people to assume responsibility for creating a sustainable future. Its overall aim is to empower citizens to act for positive environmental and social changes, implying an action-oriented approach. But which learning strategies should we use within the Educational system to make our students become engaged and active citizens? Research shows that strategies, where we link environmental, economic and social issues within subjects and across subjects, are successful. Also, linking students to each other, their home life, their schools, their environment and their community is of high importance. Strategies, where we link knowledge, skill and perspectives through students engagement and action, are extremly valuable and provide a meaningful context for the student. At the Educational department of UNAK, students use Hands-on Science, integrated learning and Real-World connections to enhance their awareness of Sustainable Education. They also learn how to implement useful learning strategies in their own future teaching.

Lunch break

13:20-13:40 Andrew Jorgensen, University of Toledo, Ohio: Climate Change education


13:40-14:00 Jan Habel, University of Salzburg, Austria: Insect Decline

The severe decline in terrestrial insect species richness, abundance, flying biomass, and local extinctions across Europe is cause for alarm. I will summarize this decline, and identify the species affected most. I will focus on the species that might respond best to mitigation measures relative to their traits. I will review apparent drivers of decline and critically reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of existing studies while emphasising their general significance. The generality of recent scientific findings on insect decline has shortcomings, as results have been based on irregular time series of insect inventories, and have been carried out on restricted species sets, or have been undertaken only in a particular geographical area. Agricultural intensification is the main driver of recent terrestrial insect decline, through habitat loss, reduced functional connectivity, overly intense management, nitrogen influx, and use of other fertilisers, as well as application of harmful pesticides. However, there are also supplementary and adversely synergistic factors especially climate change, increasingly intense urbanisation, and the associated increase in traffic volume, artificial lighting and environmental pollution.

14:00-14:20 Nathalie Gerner, Paracelsus Medical University of Salzburg, Austria: Health impact of natural environments

Today, chronic diseases are the fastest-growing global health burden, increasingly associated with environmental risk factors such as air pollution and global warming. A key strategy to avert exploding public health costs targets sustainable health care by following an integrative One Health approach that addresses the sensitive interrelation of human health and natural ecosystems. To this end, a comprehensive evidence-based understanding of this interrelation is essential.

There is an inherent awareness that spending time in nature benefits our health and well-being. Eco medicine research supports this notion with measurable effects indicating that significant and sustained health benefits are notably place-specific. Findings suggest that certain natural green and blue spaces improve the treatment of specific chronic conditions, adding to the importance of their further investigation, conservation and preservation.

Current research focuses on the health-promoting qualities of waterfalls, aiming to replicate those qualities and make them available when real nature is not an option. Using virtual and augmented reality technology, clinical solutions are being developed that pave the way for nature-based therapy towards the bedside.
Key words: public health, chronic diseases, nature-based therapy, sustainable health care, virtual reality.

14:20-14:40 Ásta Margrét Ásmundsdóttir, University of Akureyri, Iceland: The presence and effects of microplastics in the arctic region

Microplastics have been found in most parts of the world, including the Arctic. Surprisingly high concentration of microplastics has been detected in the most remote areas such as sea-ice and deep-sea sediments.  With global warming, a considerable amount of microplastics entrapped in sea ice and glaciers could be released into the environment, posing a serious threat to the already vulnerable ecosystems in these extreme habitats.


15:00-15:20 Sigurður Friðleifsson, Energy Agency of Iceland: Sustainability in Transport

Energy use with fossil fuels is the biggest challenge regarding climate change. There are three main energy sectors: electricity, heating and transport.  Iceland is in a unique position because both heating and electricity are already covered by carbon-free renewable energy. Therefore, it is only possible to reduce fossil use in the transport sector. It is a complicated sector, but t good news is that there are many viable solutions for a shift to renewable energy in transport. Technical solutions are one thing, but implementation is another one. Education plays a key part in the work ahead.

15:20-15:40 Sean Scully, University of Akureyri, Iceland: The Promise and Perils of Bioplastics or Green Chemistry: Putting Principles into Practice

Plastics and other synthetic polymers have infiltrated every aspect of modern life due to their low cost, ease of manufacture, versatility, and durability across a wide range of applications. Their use, however, has a number of substantial drawbacks; most plastics are synthetized from finite petroleum resources, are not easily recyclable or biodegradable, and are often highly recalcitrant pollutants that accumulate in the environment. Fortunately, bio-based plastics prepared from sustainable materials are an area of active investigation and in many cases provide an alternative to traditional plastics. While a number of bio-based plastics have been known for a century, modern advances into the chemical and biological synthesis of plastic substitutes have provided a growing number of alternatives although challenges, such as the limited biodegradability of highly prolific alternatives such as polylactic acid, remain. We will cover the history, current status, and future of bio-based plastics with an emphasis on the future of microbially produced polyhydroxyalkanoates.

15:40-16:00 Student session: Exchange of sustainable ideas between students in Akureyri and Salzburg



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