Universiteit Leiden

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Green Office chasing green ideas

‘A university is a slow-moving institution, which is in many ways a good thing,' commented student Josephine Rook at the opening of the Leiden University Green Office on 27 September in the Hortus botanicus. ‘Sustainability is not about following the latest trends, but about making structural improvements.'

Improving the environment together

The Leiden University Green Office (LUGO) has invited no fewer than seven students to initiate and implement sustainability projects at Leiden University. Rianne Läkamp, a student of Industrial Ecology, explained what a Green Office is: 'Students and staff can contact the Green Office if they have ideas about how to promote sustainability, and we will help them put their plans into action. The office will be working on environmental projects, building a community with students and staff who want to work actively on sustainability, and also promoting teaching and research on sustainability.' 

The University's environmental plan

Besides the students, who are the driving force behind the Green Office, three members of staff from the Real Estate department and the Health, Safety and Environment departments will also be participating in the project. They will be monitoring whether the LUGO activities contribute  to the  implementation of the environmental plan that Leiden University launched at the start of 2016. Although they have a monitoring role, they will by no means be there to curb the students' creativity.


That the group hasmore than its fair share of creativity was clear during the three introduction weeks (one for Leiden students, one for international students and one for students in The Hague) that Leiden University currently organises for new students: the LUGO team were very active at all three introduction weeks, working on their own visibility and raising the awareness of environmental isues among the new students. New students could, for instance, have their photo taken holding a poster setting out the sustainability aim that they want to commit to. There were ideas like cycling more and being more determined to separate their rubbish. 

Josefine Rook, student of Industrial Ecology and student-assistant at LUGO in de
Orangery: 'Sustainability is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life.' 

Sustainability gatherings and lectures

Josefine Rook, one of the student-assistants, is taking the master's in Industrial Ecology, a programme where sustainability is a core focus. She commented that it's no longer only experts who are saying that we are going to run into trouble if we carry on polluting our planet. 'The idea of necessary change in how we approach sustainability is increasingly becoming a part of everyday life.' It is the job of the Green Office to make use of this increased environmenal awareness and, together with the University community, to bring about some worthwhile changes. LUGO intends to arrange regular sustainability gatherings to bring people together, and will also be inviting expert speakers to these events.  There are now dozens of universities in Europe that have a Green Office. Maastricht University was the first in the Netherlands to have a Green Office and the Netherlands is the European country with the most offices. 

Adopting a tree

The opening event was very busy. A tree in the Hortus was adopted as the official 'green' opening; even the canapés were green. There were a lot of speakers, including Leiden alderman for Sustainability, Paul Dirkse. He commented: 'The University has a determining role in the city; if the University becomes greener, the city will follow suit.' Several speakers stressed that it is one of LUGO's tasks to put pressure on the University's Board and management. 'Keep us on our toes,' was the reaction from Jan van der Boon, Director of Administration, and Geert de Snoo, dean of the Faculty of Science, who, as professor of the Conservation Biology, played a major role in the University's environmental policy plan.  . 

The official opening; Dean of the Faculty of Science Geert de Snoo and LUGO student-assistant Benthe Koster together  perform the opening ceremony: unveiling a plaque stating that LUGO has adopted this Japanese tree in the Hortus botanicus. 

The Leiden University Green Office is located at Reuvensplaats 2 in Leiden and can be reached at: 071-5273161 and via  info@leidenuniversitygreenoffice.nl. Information on acivities can be found on Facebook and LUGO also has a website: www.leidenuniversitygreenoffice.nl 

Sustainability facts

  • With effect from 2017, Leiden University will be using 100% Dutch sustainable energy from windmills. In 2016, more than half the energy came from Dutch windmills and the othr half from Norwegian hydropower. 
  • The Faculty of Science is a major consumer of energy within the University. The system of thermal energy storage in the new science building will reduce gas consumption from 3 million to 35, 000 cubic metres a year. 
  • Agriculture has a major impact on our environment. It would help enormously if we all ate less meat (once a week, or a maximum of 70 grams of meat a day).
  • The solar panels on the roof of Plexus generate 15,000 kWh, and more are coming: on two buildings in the city centre and four on the Leiden Bio Science Park. In-house energy production will then rise to 385,000 kWh.
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