"Moving Towards the Industry of the Future" – impressions and experiences"

The author: Tsira Gvasalia, Georgia, course participant of the Green Industry course

Her trip from Manila to Budapest took Charlotte 16 hours. Like many of her course mates she traversed oceans and seas to attend the Green Industry course in Hungary.

A Chemist, Charlotte currently works as an Environmental Manager and helps industrial companies, mostly based in the Philippines to reduce their hazardous waste.

That is why she attended the 2012 Summer Course “Green Industry – Moving Towards the Industry of a Future” organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) jointly held with Central European University (CEU) at their Budapest campus in Hungary. It gathered 25 people from 22 different countries and a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds to teach them about new trends in Green Industry.

“I really appreciated the mix of people. There were political scientists, economists and public relations specialists. They raised questions that I myself often do not think of”, Charlotte said on the last day of the course, sitting in a ferry boat, going sightseeing and capturing her last photos of memories by the River Danube.

For her, the most important lecture was dedicated to hazardous waste management. It was conducted by the Director of UNIDO’s Environmental Management Branch, Heinz Leuenberger providing detailed information about global trends and treatment practices around the world.

After 17 hours in the air, Birhan Eshetu Kebede joined the course from Ethiopia. He said he found it hard to convince his employer to be away from work for two weeks. He finally persuaded his boss by explaining how much the course would add to his knowledge and that he could indeed put it in practice.

On the last day of the course, Birhan says that he learned so many new things. One of the most enlightening lectures was on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. He found this topic the most interesting.

Talking about Green Industry, Birhan thinks that world development should not favour wealthy countries at the expense of poor ones.

“I think developed countries have to pay to compensate for their wealth to the poor ones. We, as poor countries, are losing something for which we do not get any benefits from in return”, Birhan said.

The two-week course included topics like Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP), environmental management, sustainable energy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Many lecturers had just returned from the Rio+20 talks and shared their impressions with the students.

The course was loaded with practical work. Interactive simulations were held, participants had to develop sector-specific strategies for different countries in small groups and a lot of debating went on throughout. The lecture about industrial symbiosis and eco-industrial parks was complemented by a field trip to the former Nitrokemia gun factory, now an industrial park hosting a variety of green SMEs. Course participants were also given a guided tour of a former Soviet power station hidden some 15 metres below ground.

Sophanna Nun from Cambodia took a lot of photos of the old chimney of the factory. Working as a Deputy Project Coordinator at the National Cleaner Production office in Phnom Penh, Sophanna found the course practical and outlined some issues discussed during the course.

“Chemical leasing will change the parameters for the optimization of chemical products so that they are more environmentally friendly” says Sophanna. He was inspired by Leuenberger’s lecture about this service-oriented business model which based on a life-cycle approach for safer chemicals management, allows for increased economic benefits for both chemical suppliers and users.

Riad Sultan, a PhD student and teacher at the University of Mauritius, says he enjoyed the geographic diversity of the group.

Indeed, the 25 participants of the Green Industry Summer Course came from a wide range of backgrounds. Engineers, young policymakers, cleaner production practitioners, professors, NGO representatives, public relation specialists, PhD students and other environmental professionals were given the possibility to share their specific area of expertise with others.

“Given the geographical background of participants, it was an enriching experience to learn from each other so that strategies from very different contexts could be shared”, Riad says.

The Budapest course was preceded by an e-learning module. Over 100 participants read assigned papers and articles, debated in online forums, completed a test and wrote a case-study. Finally 25 people were selected for the in-residence course at CEU.

“Through this process participants gained a coherent perspective about the opportunities and challenges of Green Industry and thus discussions during the face-to-face part started at a higher level. It allowed us to get down to the issues right away”, Riad said of the course.

The Course Coordinator, Jacek Cukrowski from UNIDO believes such a mix provides a good background for discussion and allows insight into these important issues from different perspectives.

“In the immediate future, we hope that the knowledge gained during the course will help participants in their work and deepen their understanding of Green Industry issues”, Cukrowski said. “We also believe that participants from our course - young professionals and researchers –as they deepen their knowledge and further develop their skills, will become valued partners and counterparts in UNIDO’s work in the years to come.“

Jacek Cukrowski says UNIDO will try again to gather such a mix of diverse people in the future.

The Green Industry Facebook group allows participants to keep in touch and share memorable photos of their time in Budapest while also remaining true to the original purpose of the course, serving as a platform to share interesting information and insights on issues related to sustainable development and Green Industry.

The only journalist

I was the only journalist in the group. During the e-learning phase I was a bit daunted by the others who were all professionals working in the field of environment.  The only experience that I had was my journalistic experience of covering environmental issues in my country.

During classes I felt I was one of the more active participants of the course. As a journalist I had more questions than others and I found the course highly enriching and inspiring for my future stories.

Indeed, I have applied the experience I acquired from the course: I just pitched to my editor a story about the waste management system of my country, Georgia. Before I begin writing, I’ll certainly have to go through the materials handed out during lectures.

I recall a memorable quote from the Director of Environmental Technology & Management University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Prof. Markus Wolf`s lecture: “Nature never pollutes. Natural processes always close their cycle. It is us, human beings, who generate so much waste that nature cannot digest.”

I think my story about waste will begin with this quote.