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University President on sustainability at the University

Sibrand Poppema on sustainability at the University of Groningen

Sustainability is a hot issue, at our University too. That became evident not long ago, when we decided to hold a sustainability competition entitled the Green Mind Award. There were 62 entries with all kinds of very interesting ideas to improve the University of Groningen’s sustainability performance, varying from projects to reduce energy and water use to plans that mainly focused on changing behaviour among students and staff.

The quality of the entries was so high that we decided to implement more than just one of the ideas. During the award ceremony on 29 November 2012 it was announced that not only the winning idea would have a EUR 100,000 budget for implementation, but also the two other entries that made it to the shortlist.

And this is by no means the University’s only sustainability activity. Just think, for example, of the Energy Academy Building, which satisfies the highest requirements when it comes to CO2 emissions. We have also opted for a high level of sustainability for Nijenborg 4, for example via ground source heat pump installations, which are being used more and more within our University buildings.

We are also getting better at making small adjustments. Our Sustainability Steering Group, which was introduced in 2010, devises ideas for possible adjustments in collaboration with the University Services Department. This does not necessarily always concern big changes – just like many other companies we sometimes discover silly little things, for example lamps and equipment that emit so much heat that rooms have to be cooled in the summer. You can already achieve a lot just by thinking logically about such issues. And that’s exactly what the Sustainability Steering Group does –

we’re investing today in lowering tomorrow’s energy bill. It may take ten years to earn back such investments, but sustainability is about more than just money – a sustainability policy is also about doing what's right. That’s why it is embedded in all our major themes (healthy ageing, energy and sustainable society).

All in all, I think we are on the right track. We are even well on our way to becoming one of the most sustainable universities in the Netherlands – not just to look good on the ranking lists, but because we believe in a sustainable approach. Because we feel we simply have to look ahead.

Last modified:13 February 2013 11.24 a.m.
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