Sustainability pervades every aspect of our lives

Terézia Zelmanová dedicates her time to environment protection and would like to work in the field after her study. She also likes to work with people and that led her to co-found the Sustainability student association at the Faculty of Natural Sciences (FNS). She is in her fourth year of ecology and environmental protection studies at FNS and currently at an Erasmus stay in Spain. In our interview, she told us about the association’s activities and plans for the future.

09. 05. 2024 11.54 hod.
By: CU External Relations Office

The FNS Sustainability association was founded a year ago at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Comenius University. What were your expectations of this project?

We are a very small and recent association. In that one year of existence we only organised a few events. Our membership is growing, some are coming, some are leaving, but we have a core of permanent members whose participation I value very much. I don't know how other student associations operate but I'm not against this kind of turnover. Associations are a great tool for like-minded students to meet and achieve their shared goals. Ours is open to anyone who cares about the environment, is active and wants to learn something new. We hold interesting events, create and strengthen friendships across the faculty and try to operate sustainably.

Why was you association created? Did the teachers support you?

The former vice-dean of FNS Peter Hanajík told me about a project of the ENLIGHT alliance, which includes schools from several countries in Europe and also focuses on sustainability. He gave us the impetus to organise a large meeting of students at the faculty, where we talked about what we could do, but we lacked an organization that would support us. Some people naturally came to the forefront and others gradually joined in. At the next meeting, we planned the first event of the newly formed association and held it in CU’s Botanical Garden under the title 'The Naturalists’ Breakfast'. We sourced vegan food and focused on local or homemade products. The participants could sample Hungarian smoked vegan sausages and 100% plant-based sub sandwiches, which were supplied by the sponsors. The students themselves also contributed to the refreshments. Some of them brought homemade cakes or jams, and others presented their creations. Former ecology student Maroš Ondrejka presented his book “The Records of the Little Carpathians”, which took him three years of hard work to complete. One of the attendees was Atilla Balogh who studiers effective learning.

How was this first event received?

The Naturalists’ Breakfast was a success, and that was very nice. It happened right after the pandemic when we were still not used to meeting in person. They say that love goes through the stomach and so do good times, which is why we in the association had the idea of spending some time together while eating. We invited students and teachers and received a lot of praise afterwards. The association formed new friendships and those involved had an excellent opportunity to learn how to organise an event and get things done at the faculty.

Half a year later you organised another event.

Yes, it was a swap that we originally wanted to do before the breakfast, but we overreached and it only materialised a few months later. First we needed to become a true team with a common goal. In this case, we invited the students to give a second chance to the clothes they no longer wore, but that could make someone else happy. The call produced enough clothes to fill three mobile racks. Every ‘shopper’ could sweeten their deal with sustainable snacks. We got vegan cinnamon and pistachio pastries. In the end, the swap was quite successful and we got a lot of positive feedback. It motivated us to continue organising such swaps.

You also held a benefit event, right? Tell us more…

Our members Lucka and Naty came up with the idea of baking Christmas pastries which were offered in exchange for a voluntary contribution. The entire proceeds would be given to a charity. The event took place just before the holidays when there weren't many people in the school, but we still managed to collect about 150 euros. We donated the money to the Sant'Egidio Slovakia project - "Give Christmas to people without a home".

You recently held another swap, with a lecture. Is clothes swapping becoming a theme for you?

It is a very popular format and we would like to continue doing it. We think it would be great to have a permanent swap at school. There could be a permanent rack or a designated place where students could leave their used clothes. Of course, someone would have to make sure the rack is not overfilling, and excess items could be taken for further processing or to people who really need them. This idea has not been worked out completely and we are still thinking about its implementation. I hope that in the next academic year, when I return to Slovakia, we can finally launch it.

Who did you invite to the April swap?

The grant that we received for the association's operation allowed us to add an interesting workshop. We invited La Florita, a slow fashion blogger and upcycling teacher, who accepted our invitation. At an interactive lecture, she taught how to distinguish high-quality from low-quality materials and brought samples that participants could touch and see with their own eyes. I did not attend the lecture, but reviews indicate it was quite a success.

Are you planning any other activities before the end of the academic year?

I personally enjoy networking, connecting with people and spreading the ideas of sustainability. So I would definitely like the portfolio of events to grow in some way. In the near future, we are planning a farewell breakfast for naturalists at the end of the summer semester, and we might also invite some guests. We will let you know through our social networks who they will be.

Eva Kopecká