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On Thursday, 14 September, Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) held a kick-off event for World Cleanup Day in the University’s forecourt. Representatives of RSU management, the Student Union (Studējošo pašpārvalde, SP), the organisers of the Lielā talka (Big Cleanup) initiative, and other environmental activists participated.

World Cleanup Day took place on 16 September this year. In Latvia, the event was organised by Lielā talka and this year focuses on involving young people in environmental protection activities. The participants planted three rhododendrons in the RSU forecourt, in this way symbolically joining the Laimes koki (Trees of Happiness) campaign. In addition, RSU received a tree donated by Latvian national hockey team player and 2023 World Ice Hockey Championship bronze medallist Rihards Bukarts. He gifted the tree and wished that it bring the university new achievements in science and research, and attracts intelligent and curious students who are environmentally responsible.

World Cleanup Day is an international environmental movement across 197 countries with the aim of keeping the environment clean and encouraging a green lifestyle. This year will be the sixth time World Cleanup Day is observed in Latvia and will include environmental cleanup and improvement activities, as well as the opening of the sixth Tree of Happiness Park, which will be located in the Ādaži municipality. The slogan for this year’s event is "A clean or dirty environment starts in our minds" to remind us that our actions depend on our thinking and that the environment we all live in depends on our actions.

‘This event is very symbolic and takes place next to the University to lay the foundation for a cooperation in the future.

Most of the people who take part in World Cleanup Day are young. They are active, have a much clearer vision of the country they want to live in and are much more knowledgeable about environmental problems and current issues,’

emphasised the event's organiser Vita Jaunzeme.

RSU Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs Assoc. Prof. Dins Šmits added that ‘international students at RSU represent at least one third of the countries participating in this year's World Cleanup Day. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are important for RSU and are included in the University’s strategy. Besides, our study programmes also include courses on public and environmental health, as well as on economic sustainability, food security and other social science issues.’

‘RSU has introduced a new and modern waste sorting system, we care about reducing the use of plastics in everyday life and the energy efficiency of our buildings, as well as improving the environment,’ said Director of the RSU Infrastructure Department Dainis Zemešs, commenting on the practical steps that have been taken.

Luīze Monta Remese, the Chair of the Board at the RSU SP, stressed that environmental and green lifestyle issues are becoming more and more topical for young people. She encouraged everyone to start by changing their everyday habits, as such small steps towards a green lifestyle will influence the environment in the future.

Among the participants were also Aiva Rozenberga, the Latvian representative of the Let's Do It World movement, Māris Strautnieks, the winner of the Zaļais, kur esi?! competition, and kokle player Zane Sniķere.

197 countries participated in this year's World Cleanup Day by organising waste collection events. In Latvia, the Lielā talka takes place in the spring while World Cleanup Day in autu,m features other activities – like planting Trees of Happiness, organising public discussions, and educating the public. This year, everyone was particularly encouraged to get involved and help the victims of the storms that took place across Latvia in August.