Paving the Way For A Green Future

Eco-friendly, self-managed, and militant, PAVéS is an association committed to tackling questions on climate change at Sciences Po. But it is also well known by students for CAFéS, its ethical and solidarity-focused cafeteria run by students from the Paris campus. We met to talk with two of its members, Ilytie Piroit and Clémentine Sainclair, over an organic coffee. 

What is PAVéS?

Ilytie Piroit: PAVéS is a self-governed, active student association which is essentially orientated around political ecology. The association was created in 2005 in the context of the student protests over the “CPE”, or the First Employment Contract.

Clémentine Sainclair: PAVéS stands for “Plateforme Autogérée à Visée écologique et Solidaire”, or self-governing platform for ecology and solidarity. It is an association which is a springboard for creating and supporting all initiatives linked to ecology and solidarity work. It is also an association that speaks up, as we have a critical view of the productivist and liberal model and its social and ecological consequences. But we also go beyond that by proposing concrete alternatives - even if they are far from being perfect - to what we are against.

What does the association do?

IP: Our two main projects are CAFéS, our self-managed cafeteria, and Sciences Potirons, the school’s AMAP (fruit and vegetable co-operative). The cafeteria takes up a lot of our time, we have about 70 people who work there. It is a meeting place and also a space for debate; we try to forge links with people and to talk about ecology. Thanks to fundraising, we are able to fund projects every term. As for the AMAP, about 300 people benefit weekly from a basket of organic vegetables. These are our main projects, but there are also lots of initiatives which vary year to year. For example: the ethical and solidarity careers fair, orders of reusable menstrual cups, board-game evenings with the association Rolling Dice at CAFéS, and support for Sciences Po Refugee Help and Paris Solidaires. 

CS: We co-organise the Semaine de l’Agriculture paysanne in partnership with several other Parisian universities - this year, with Ecole Polytechnique, the Sorbonne and AgroParisTech - and with the Amis de la Confédération paysanne. Throughout the week we aim to raise awareness surrounding the challenges faced by farmers. For example, we have a lecture on where mass retail fits into a sustainable agricultural system, and a celebratory apéro and other talks. 

Are debate and discussion important for you?

CS: Yes, more than anything we try to contribute to debates about ecology and solidarity. PAVéS slogan is “moins de biens, plus de liens”, which means “fewer goods, greater ties”. As well as being a place where we sell things, our cafeteria is above all a place for discussion, where the coffee becomes a pretext for starting conversation: “We are selling you an organic, fairtrade coffee which comes from this country, why this choice? Let’s talk about it!” But we can also just talk about your day, exams, etc. At CAFéS we are all students, even those of us who are on the other side of the counter!

IP: We strongly encourage discussion and debate! Some people for example put forward their arguments for vegetarianism, whilst others question different ways to protest for climate justice etc. All of this comes out of debate, without us forcing a specific dogma. People have very different positions surrounding such things.

A self-managed association, what does that mean?

CS: The association works horizontally, we do not have a superior decision maker when it comes to group decisions and anyone is free to put forward their own ideas. Anyone who invests their time in the association has as legitimate a claim to make their voice heard and to decide freely how involved they want to be. 

IP: For example, somebody who goes and gets their vegetable basket from Sciences Potirons, has as much of a right to take part in decision-making as someone who has been involved with several projects. Also, we think that all members have equal responsibility in the day-to-day working of the association. Thus, for anybody who wishes to propose a project… they just do it! PAVéS in turn will provide them with the resources to get their project started. 

On a larger scale, what do you think we need to do today so that people know more about ecology and discuss it more often?

IP: At PAVéS, we turn ideas into reality. If they work, it is because people are ready to start the transition and we then offer them a space to grow their project. Nevertheless, few people at PAVéS think that this is enough. Governments and institutions, like Sciences Po, need to put real policies into action, which join together the social and the environmental in an approach where the economy and politics work in the interests of humans and nature. This is our political and ecological vision. 

CS: In order for people to understand ecology, I think we need to be careful that we do not depoliticise it by making it a simple question of a way of life and individual choice. Although the changes and actions each individual takes are very important, it is the whole economic and political system that we need to rethink to create an ecological society.

What are your ambitions for the future?

IP: That all our projects grow bigger! But we keep in mind that when projects grow, you also risk losing control of the quality of things. It would be great if, above all, our projects have a bigger impact! More concretely, we are currently thinking about a second cafeteria project at Sciences Po and we have also suggested to set up a self-managed cafeteria on the future campus of Sciences Po which will open in 2022. We are also working hard to create a “CAFéS Network”; we would like to group together student initiatives like ours in one forum. The aim is to promote the model; we have created a file which describes how to easily set up a self-managed cafe in a university. We realised that people would often ask us questions and that we have developed a true expertise in this field.

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