Students and lecturers in front of Fortum biomass cogeneration station.

University of Latvia (UL) participates in a project „Creating aligned studies in Resource Efficiency (Crea-RE)”. The objective is to develop aligned higher vocational education training in resource efficiency in study programs as a response to the current sustainability requirements of companies.

In the Central Baltic countries, there is a need to develop current education regarding resource efficiency, which is a relatively new and complex issue. Many Baltic Sea region countries have acquired considerable experience in the development of sustainable energy solutions and environmentally friendly technologies in various fields. However, great disparities remain with respect to both socio-economic developments and the implementation of sustainable practices. Lahti University of Applied Sciences (Finland), University of Gävle (Sweden), UL and University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics (ITMO, Russia) are answering this need by developing higher vocational education training (VET) together to better match the needs of companies. The objective is to develop aligned higher VET in resource efficiency in study programs as a response to the current sustainability requirements of companies through aligning and producing learning content to be used in higher environmental VET studies; through producing a channel to share aligned materials; through implementing joint innovative cooperation between companies and higher VET to ensure better matching work opportunities of sustainable business. The activities enable the creation of the holistic view of students and companies in the theme of resource efficiency and circular economy. Working with resource efficiency and circular economy, which are thematically relatively new and complex issues, requires swift delivery of information to those actors who can influence (companies, future workers and those teaching the future workers). Working with resource efficiency requires international cooperation due to needed holistic perspective. The joint learning materials developed in the project bring required perspective and improve VET in CB area. All partners bring their own expertise to the activities. Companies' awareness on resource efficiency is promoted and meanwhile institutions' better understanding of the needs of working life increases.  
Participants of the project visit Latvian companies with a sustainable vision
Project participants worked together in Latvia from September 30 to October 5, participating in lectures and visiting various companies. For example, students had the oppurtunity to visit the Finnish Fortum biomass cogeneration station in Jelgava. It is the first cogeneration station that uses local renewable energy - wood chips - as a fuel, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and making heat production process more environmentally friendly. After the establishment of the company, the amount of CO2 emissions in the city has decreased by 70%, thus contributing to the achievement of the goals set by the municipality decrease by 20% CO2 emissions and increase by 20% the use of renewable energy in energy generation. Customers of the company are Jelgava city residents and entrepreneurs who use district heat supply services for delivery of heating and hot water for housing, office, commercial and industrial premeses. The electricity produced is sold in wholesale free market - among cooperation partners there are also the largest electricity traders in Latvia. Also on the 3rd of October participants of the project visited one of the 21 eco-fields of the Vidzeme company ZAAO - the landfill "Daibe".  "ZAAO" offers high quality waste management services in North Vidzeme Region including waste collection, sorting, transportation, recycling and disposal in an environmentally friendly way; it is also involved in educating and informing the community about waste issues. Participants also visited Nature and Technology Park "Urda" which offers active recreational activities in nature as well as educational opportunities for different age groups of people located only few steps from the waste disposal and sorting area. offers environmental education opportunities environment for the people of North Vidzeme. Students also got acquainted with the activities of the largest environmental management group “Eco Baltia grupa” and its companies - AS "PET Baltija", JSC "Latvijas Zaļais punkts" and SIA "Nordic Plast". The visit took place at the PET bottle processing plant at the ”Eco Baltia group” PET bottle, where the project participants looked at the process of PET bottle recycling, as well as discussed the development of the waste sorting and recycling industry in Latvia and in Europe. Also on the 3rd of October participants of the project visited Valmiermuiza brewery. Owner of the Valmiermuiža brewery Aigars Ruņģis notes that the company is actively considering reducing its environmental impact. Including, Valmiermuiza’s beer is filled  in glass bottles that can be reused, while draught beer in the Valmiermuiza’s beer market can be bought in glass jars that can be re-used. Merchants use paper bags and food residues compacted in the beer's kitchen, while the by-products of the beer brewing - drabins - were handed over to the farmers. By the end of this year, the brewery will build a more powerful sewage system. The goal of the brewery in the coming years is to base the strategy on sustainable thinking, and each company can start with small things, encouraged by the owner of the Valmiermuiža’s Brewery.  
New experience and opportunity to travel all over Latvia
  Students appreciated the opportunities given by the project. “Crea-Re project- is an amazing opportunity for students and staff from different countries and universities to gain new contacts and international experience  while solving environmental problems. Diversity of participiants allows us to take look on these questions from different angles. Food manufacturing and food waste problems are being solved using other country experience and professional point of view. Collaboration between Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Russia is good example how to solve questions, which are characteristic for this region. I hope that this is the beggining of a fruitful cooperation in the future,” said the students from UL. Foreign students appreciated the opportunity to travel around and get to know Latvia. “During the trip, we had excellent opportunities to learn about Latvia, its culture and about circular economy. Culture hours provided an excellent chance to get a more in-depth look to Latvia's history and recent development. Company visits provided a good knowledge about the local environmental economy and gave us some insight on how different the systems are for example in Finland and Latvia. The international aspect of the trip was also one of the biggest selling points for us, as meeting and connecting with people from different countries provided a good learning experience for each and every one of us,” the experience shared student from Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Crea-RE is implemented in collaboration with the University of Gävle, UL, Lahti UAS and University ITMO. ITMO is integrated to this project with the funding of the Swedish Institute (Crea-RE-RU). Crea-RE project is a two and a half year project funded by Interreg Central Baltic programme. More information about the projects can be found here.