The University of Groningen wants to be green and sustainable. The University’s Green Office is the supporting structure and beating heart of this aim, coordinating and initiating efforts in the area of sustainable policy. Its mission? In the words of coordinator Yanike Sophie: ‘We want to get staff and students thinking about their role and about the concrete contribution they can make to a sustainable society’. And that’s just what it does.
In late May, the University of Groningen student start-up SustainableBuildings won the Pioneers Challenge Community Award 2015. This award recognizes the students’ ideas and sustainable energy solutions for buildings.
In the same month the University of Groningen has leapt up the list of the most sustainable institutions of higher education in the Netherlands, the SustainaBul. It now takes fourth place after Wageningen University, HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and VU University Amsterdam. It is now the third research university in the list, and
wins gold status
. Alongside the SustainaBul, a prize was awarded this year for the most iconic sustainability project. The University of Groningen took third here with its design for the
Energy Academy Europe
in which the University of Groningen is a partner. The construction of the new building will make optimal use of materials already in plentiful supply: the elements earth, water, air and sunlight. Very green, in other words.
‘This is one of the projects that really stand out,’ says Jorien Meems, a Psychology student who also works in the Green Office. ‘There’s a buzz about the initiative among students too.’
Recent projects that have been developed range from a focus on healthy eating, the 'O-SWAP' project, an exchange meeting for second-hand clothes, and promoting the Green Mind Award, which rewards staff and students who come up with innovative solutions to improve the sustainability of the University of Groningen’s business operations and buildings. Meems: ‘Considering sustainability does not just mean considering nature and the environment, but also thinking about health or making business operations sustainable.’
As if to underline the multifaceted nature of sustainability, the day-to-day business of the Green Office is conducted by students from many different areas of study: psychology, business, environment and infrastructure, and law. The next step must be to transfer knowledge about sustainability from the University to society at large by means of symposia and courses. Yanike and Jorien: ‘As a knowledge institution, we have the staff, the facilities and the cutting-edge knowledge to do this. The University has a societal role, and if it doesn’t step up, then who will?’
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