Working towards a greener university
Helping the University to become more sustainable. This is the task of seven students and three members of staff at the Leiden University Green Office that officially opens its doors on 27 September. Three members talk about why and how they want to make their colleagues greener.
Dieneke de Weerd
Liberal Arts & Sciences: Global Challenges (Leiden University College The Hague), 2nd from the left on the photo
‘I was at the United World College Maastricht, a secondary school whose mission is to use the power of education as a tool to create a more peaceful and more sustainable world. Being involved in the issue made me think about what I could contribute myself. I am fascinated by water, and a lot of conflicts seem to centre on water. I was amazed, for instance, when I heard that water is at the heart of the Palestinian conflict. There is apparently a reservoir under Palestinian soil that is used by Israel. Water is something that everyone absolutely needs and some very strange things go on around water.'
‘My study programme is the ideal stepping stone for working in this field in the future. What I like about the Green Office is that all the things I am learning now I can put into practice later. There are times when sustainability policies can be hard for an outsider to understand: I live, for example, on the campus in The Hague and after five years there is still no recycling. I hope we can help to get action taken on this kind of problem.'
Master's student of Social and Organisational Psychology & Industrial Ecology, 2nd from the right on the photo
‘University is the best place to bring about change. It's where you give people norms and values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I see that many students don'tthink they have anything to do with sustainability; it's something I only came to quite late, too.’
‘And then I realised that the knowledge and skills I have as a psychologist can be very useful. Don't get the wrong idea, we don't have a box of special tricks to make people alter their behaviour, but you do learn to understand how a particular culture works within an organisation and how it can change. I want to become involved in sustainability. During the introduction weeks we let students pose for a photo standing next to a message with a good intention that they could choose themselves. You see them starting to think about it more carefully, along the lines of I already go everywhere on the bike, but I could do more about separating out the rubbish. And if they have their photo taken with that good resolution, it really means something to them. It's only a small thing, but it's a good way of getting the message across.'
Completed her bachelor's in Political Science and is about to start a master's in Sustainable Development in Utrecht, left on the photo
‘When I was at secondary school, I learned about sustainability in the social geography lessons. I felt really concerned about the kinds of problems it causes people on the social front. I did a minor in sustainable development during my bachelors's and then I thought: I want this to be something I'll do in the future.'
‘The university has been very involved in sustainability recently, but there is still a lot that needs to be changed. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, for example, does separate out its rubbish. It's going reasonably well, but it has to be introduced in all the faculties. All the furniture that's in this office has been left over by the faculties; it doesn't need to go out with rubbish. We want faculties to bring their left-over furniture here, then students, for example, can use them.’
‘Many students have little environmental awareness, but there are things that everyone can do, such as spending less time in the shower or turning the heating down. When I started studying, I had no idea either! We're students ourselves, and we're racking our brains to see how we can use social media, for example to reach other students. But we also want to actually go out and speak to people, so we are going to fix a time every month when students can come to us with their ideas and suggestions. You'll all be hearing from us!'