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What is sustainability?

Sustainability is a hot topic but what does it entail? The UG defines sustainability in terms of three pillars: People, Planet and Performance. They have outlined goals per pillar in the Roadmap 2015-2020 to make the university more sustainable. The activities of the Green Office are connected to these pillars to contribute to the goals that are set in the Roadmap. The Green University, the advisory task force of the UG, also contributes to attaining these goals.


This pillar is about the well-being of people. Common topics within this theme are health and safety at the workplace, retaining staff members, labor laws, human rights, education, internship policies, labour conditions of outsourced activities, societal involvement of the organisation, prevent discrimination and ensure diversity at the workplace.

An example from the UG is the programme BALANS. This programme is for all staff members of the university, who welcome a healthy lifestyle and want to take steps to improve their lifestyle. BALANS has a versatile programme that staff members can voluntarely participate in. Activities range from pilates and chirunning to mindfulness and yoga, but also activities about healthy food and individual health checks. The theme work stress is also an important part of BALANS.


Within this pillar the focus is on well-being of nature and animals. More specifically, it’s about the environmental impact of the UG and how this can be reduced. Common topics are the impact of products, processes and services on the air, water, soil and biodiversity, but also theme’s like Cradle to Cradle, CO2-compensation, waste and recycling, sustainable mobility and sustainable products and services.

An example of this are the ‘compactors’ at Zernike. These solar-powered trash compactors provide entirely for their own energy. They press the waste together and can contain up to five times more waste than a regular trash bin. This means that the container doesn’t have to be emptied as often. This contributes to reducing CO2 emissions and also results in reduced labor costs. Read more about the other UG initiatives on this page of Green Office Groningen.


The focus of this pillar is the integration of sustainability within education. Sustainability is not limited one subject or discipline. The UG encourages staff members and students of all faculties to become involved with the problems and obstacles related to sustainability. Furthermore, informing and creating awareness amongst staff members and students by organising events symposia and lectures are part of the pillar Performance.

An example is the Mythbusters course, an innovative programme about sustainability with speakers from the UG, Hanze and people from the workfield. The course is a unique opportunity for students and staff members to learn about sustainability from a theoretical and practical point of views. This year's theme is focused on how we can actively contribute to sustainability within our society and for the future.

In general we believe sustainability is about taking care of: yourself, your neighbours, the environment, but also for humans and animals on the other side of the world. We want to inspire people and create awareness about sustainability.

So how do we do it when the task we work on is so complex? We focus on projects that help us achieve our yearly goals and that contribute to sustainability. Moreover, we develop projects that are in line with the goals put forward by the University of Groningen in the Roadmap 2015-2020.

Last modified:15 August 2019 1.59 p.m.
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