Campus and Community

Técnico moves towards greener campus

The permaculture garden “Hortus IST” created at Alameda campus is one of the 4 initiatives of “Pensar Verde” (Think Green) project, which aims to enhance the outdoor spaces of the campus.

“Hortus IST” is promoted by the “Técnico Sustentável – Environment, Society, Economy” project, developed by the Environmental Sciences and Engineering Platform (IST-Environment), and arises from the need to rethink the outdoor spaces of university campuses “which have progressively lost their purpose, are excessively paved and have become intensively used for parking”, highlights Silvia Di Salvatore, MARETEC/LARSyS researcher and one of the people responsible for “Pensar Verde”.

“Pensar Verde” was created to convert the “Mecânica I” garden into a permaculture garden, including “a biodiverse meadow, a vegetable garden, a green wall for greywater recycling, a green roof and measures to improve the space accessibility”, recalls Silvia Di Salvatore. Later, the team decided to move the biodiverse meadow and the vegetable garden closer to the Interdisciplinary Building, and the green roofs closer to the Civil Engineering Building. “We kept the location of the green wall for greywater recycling in “Mecânica I” garden, which will start operating in September, and we hope to improve the garden’s accessibility soon”, stresses the researcher.

Four initiatives sharing a common goal

“Pensar Verde” is divided into four initiatives: “Hortus IST”, “APIST Kindergarten Pedagogical Vegetable Garden”, “Green Roofs” and the “Green Wall for Greywater Recycling”. Some of these initiatives are also related with other projects and served, or will serve, as a basis for curricular units experiments.

“Hortus IST” is a permaculture garden that aims to provide environmental and social benefits, and is coordinated by researcher Silvia Di Salvatore. “We were inspired by ‘Hortus Conclusus’ – medieval gardens that were generally surrounded by hedges or walls, which became conviviality spaces in the Renaissance period”, explains the MARETEC/LARSyS researcher.

The Green Roof monitoring is carried out by the researcher and biologist Vânia Proença (MARETEC/LARSyS), with the collaboration of two Integrated Master’s students (Biological Engineering). “We have also worked with professor Cristina Viegas, in the context of Microbiology curricular unit. Soil samples from meadow were collected and then analysed by Biological Engineering and Environmental Engineering students, in lab classes”, shares the coordinator of “Hortus IST”.

In April, the seed germination in biodiverse meadow allowed to continue the permaculture experiment. “Specific aspects of natural and synergistic agriculture were applied, including a composting experiment, which has already been tested in “Mecânica I” garden with excellent results”, says the researcher Silvia Di Salvatore.

“Hortus IST” is also a collaborative initiative promoted by students, technical and administrative staff, faculty members and researchers, “who play a very important role in the continuous planning process”, stresses Silvia Di Salvatore.

The Pedagogical Vegetable Garden, located in South garden, is coordinated by the APIST Kindergarten. It consists of a set of small vegetable gardens cared by the kindergarten educators, giving children the opportunity to plant seeds, watching them sprout, and eventually harvesting what they have grown.

The “Green Roofs” initiative is coordinated by Cristina Matos Silva, professor at IST Department of Civil Engineering, Architecture and Georesources (DECivil) and researcher at CERIS – Civil Engineering Research and Innovation for Sustainability, and is part of the GENESIS project. This initiative aims to choose different types of native plants and the feasibility of using recycled materials in substrates, as well as the consequent contribution to rainwater retention and variation of surface temperatures.

The “Green Wall for Greywater Recycling” is coordinated by the CERIS researcher Ana Galvão, and consists of designing a green wall for greywater treatment. The initiative will ensure that the plants’ needs are met using a non-potable water, redirecting excess water to other uses. The “Green Wall for Greywater Recycling” initiative is also part of the GENESIS project and will be subject of study for master’s and doctoral theses. Collaborations with foreign universities are also planned.

Social Responsibility

The amount of vegetables that could be produced in “Hortus IST” was unknown. Even so, the social responsibility and the idea of donating the products has always been present. On July 1, 20 kg of vegetables, including lettuce, beetroot and green beans, were donated to “Centro de Apoio ao Sem Abrigo (CASA)”. This Thursday, July 15, 8 kg of tomatoes were also donated to CASA. “Our challenge now is to maintain a good crop production and to continue supporting CASA”, stresses the coordinator of “Hortus IST”.

In addition to the professors and researchers, who coordinate and participate in each of the initiatives, “Pensar Verde” also has the contribution of several students from AmbientalISTAEIST. “AmbientalIST students are not only our collaborators, they also participate in the planning and design process. They play a key role in the development of the initiatives promoted by “Técnico Sustentável – Environment, Society, Economy”, stresses the researcher Silvia Di Salvatore. The project is actually open to the entire Técnico community.

“Pensar Verde” Facebook page includes more information about the project, photos illustrating the results already achieved, latest news and testimonials from some participants. If you have any further questions, please contact the project team via email.