Sustainability Learning Café at the 2023 Sustainability Science Days: current and future themes, issues, and solutions in sustainability learning

Climate University, together with the Una Europa alliance, decided to pitch a parallel session to the 2023 Sustainability Science Days -conference, organised in Helsinki in May. The pitch was for a session like none before; ranging across multiple sessions, aiming to host several different discussion topics, and foremost letting the discussions around sustainability education and learning emerge as they did in the event. As the event started to resemble a café, with several tables for people to convene and talk, we asked for Oatly—a global leader in vegan products and Cafetoria roastery—a local pioneer of sustainable coffee to help us. 

The cafe took place over 2 days, consisting of 6 parallel sessions and 22 hosted discussions, with topics ranging from university staff sustainability training to utilising gaming in sustainability teaching to business and technology opportunities in sustainability learning. Along the days, there must have been more than 200 people visiting the café, of whom some appeared to engage with several different discussions and sessions and some just popped by to get a cup of coffee and vegan soft serve to go. As there were so many discussions parallelly ongoing, we asked for the table hosts to submit a report of their session, which we have collected to this separate blog. As the blog may hint, we are planning to reorganise such Sustainability Learning Café events in the future too. 

While going through the reports, one theme appeared prevalent; an aim for a more critical approach to sustainability learning and education. From suggesting that companies in their aims to drive the sustainability transformation ought to challenge the existing policies; to confirming that climate experts are needed in various fields and locations and university students and alumni can act as bridges for societal collaboration—and from realising the necessity of reflecting the effect of the existing culture to sustainability change to stating that there is a risk of academic greenwashing and that students ought to approach critically the information they are given. Although, this surely is just one theme—go read the session reports and see what you can find there!

Text: Janne Salovaara, University of Helsinki

Photos: Bernhard Reischl, University of Helsinki 

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