01 March 2024

Sustainability Week 2024 Interview

Every spring, Master students from the Graduate Institute Student Association’s Environmental Committee organise and promote Sustainability Week Geneva events, in coordination with the University of Geneva, to ensure that engagement in sustainability remains a core subject at the Institute and beyond. Master student in International and Development Studies ('MINT') with a specialisation in Environment and Sustainability and Director of Sustainability Week 2024, Ruiling Zhang addresses the priorities of the week.

What does Sustainability Week contribute to the larger conversation on environmental issues?

As a student-led movement across Switzerland, Sustainability Week offers a student-led perspective on what topics matter in facing our current environmental challenge. How can we respond and make impact – collectively, systemically, and on a personal level?

To this end, we are offering a wide variety of events from discussions with academic and professional experts, to experiential activities such as a second-hand exchange and art-making, to hands-on workshops such as cooking and bike repair.

What outcomes do you hope to achieve?

This year’s feature event is a screening of the documentary Greenwashing: The Climate Killer in collaboration with Festival du Film Vert, with special guest Mr. Alfonso Gomez, mayor of Geneva. It’s especially relevant since “sustainable” has become one of those suspect words. Many things are touted as “sustainable,” but to what extent is that true? To what extent is it simply used to increase cultural (and economic) capital? “Sustainable” is easier said than done – not just at the corporate or governance level but also in our personal lives.

So I hope our diverse line-up will allow people to see where impact, big and small, can be made in both civic life and private life. I hope attendees will find more than one way to respond to the environmental challenge to be more sustainable.

What is the number one thing members of the Institute community can do on a personal level to make their everyday lives more sustainable?

I think there is no one-size-fits-all solution due to differences in ability and finances, to name a few factors. But if I have to recommend one concrete action, it would be to question convenient things! Whatever this means for you, whether it’s grabbing processed food with lots of packaging, not keeping a compost bin because it takes time to walk to the Ecopoint, etc. Try doing one thing in a less convenient way – this can add a slower, more sustainable, and even enjoyable moment to your day.


Sustainability Week 2024