Making Lapinkaari students residency more sustainable (2/2)

Tags: Housing

This challenge isn’t properly speaking a ‘small challenge’ as it goes beyond my only personal interest. For the personal interest side, the challenge is done, and succeed. If I remember clearly what the main goals were, then I can tell that it is a success. I wanted to prove myself (and maybe other people) that if you want to act, you can. In my situation, in this context, nothing was preventing me from acting. And so, I did. I like being part of groups, taking action and realizing concrete projects. Actually, it gave me a lot of ideas for the future, for when I am back to France. Indeed, here I can implement any long-term project, which is a bit frustrating, and annoying regarding what I can promise to TOAS. But the experience I had from this challenge is precious and gives me a lot of energy and ideas.

Generally, things didn’t go as easy as I thought – I was perhaps too optimistic or ambitious. But our plans aren’t over yet, and the group still exists. the main problem -or not a problem but more a challenge- is to deal if our energy and time, to be reasonable and manage the energy we are investing in different activities. Since we want this to work, we have to invest ourselves a lot. But we all have a lot of things going on, and this activity wasn’t necessarily the priority for all of us, which is unfortunately understandable. It was hard to find the right balance and to convince people to invest themselves in something we are improvising. Moreover, sometimes,
like everyone, we simply can’t find any motivation. In parallel, dealing with group-working dynamics, making sure that everyone said what they had to say, reaching consensus or simply finding the best time to meet can be quite demanding.

So far, we focused first on the things we could change without the approval of TOAS. We wanted to tackle the food waste we were witnessing in the building. Therefore, we have messaged the Lapinkaari group chat, explaining our plan, and sharing a link to a survey allowing people to tell if they were in favour or against the idea. The plan was simply to clarify the function of the shelves located into the kitchens. On each kitchens floor, there are two shelves and a fridge. We wanted to create signs telling which shelf is for private belongings, which one is for common goods and the same goes for the fridges.
Out of 150 tenants, we had 23 people voting. At least, all the votes were in favour!

So, we met again, gathering paper and pens to draw some nice signs and fix them on each floor. We also made signs to remind people to switch off the lights (because it is also a serious thing here). As a result, we notice some positive change. Less food is abandoned on the table. We know what we can freely use and what we can’t. Finally, the lights are (a bit) more often switched off. But we still want to collaborate with TOAS.

We wanted to take benefit from the grant the company is allowing for each building, by using this money to finance our cheap project – the cost is only about printing. But to apply for a grant, one needs to send an application form and to contact the tenant’s committee. Honestly, we were searching for this tenant committee, and I was asking to get their contact, but at the end, it is still a complete mystery: no one could find what this tenant committee was, who it was, and where to find them. The TOAS Housing service is apparently not able to give me the contact, but they can “transfer some messages”. Interesting.

I am learning a lot, meaning how to deal with consensus, how to negotiate and deal with companies. TOAS is showing interest in sustainability but doesn’t actually do necessary things to be sustainable. I am amazed by this, by this ability to say “hey, we are environmental-friendly” and still seeming closed for, at least, listening to what tenants can bring. Currently, I am trying to find the right contact to be able to face the layers of bureaucracy.
The challenge is complex since we have a very short time. The more we wait, the less the impact on the tenants. It is problematic to project myself into bigger projects when I know I will leave by the end of May. I don’t know if what we will implement will work and survive throughout time.
But I believe that I could link this challenge with the bigger one since it will go perfectly hand-in-hand with creating a Sustainable Student Guide or something in this same order of ideas. I know that the potential with targeting students and the Uni is high and can be very interesting -doesn’t mean easy though!

Juliette Caillé (March 2020)