Sustainability in the Spotlight: The UvA Green Office
In 2016 the UvA Green Office was officially launched. An initiative of Students for Sustainability (SFSA) and the UvA’s Facility Services, this student-run organisation aims to contribute to the university’s sustainability goals and embed sustainability practices within the UvA’s teaching, research, governance, policy and community.
In honour of international Earth Day, a short interview with Aimee van Nieuwenhuizen, who holds the education portfolio at the UvA Green Office.
What exactly does the Green Office do?
Our mission is to increase awareness among students and employees on the topic of sustainability and to make the university more sustainable. We want to accomplish these aims by educating and informing others, by initiating sustainability projects and by creating a community of informed peers. Some examples of current projects include 10-day challenges, lectures by researchers and sustainable businesses, recycling projects and information on energy savings at the UvA.
Is it run mainly by researchers or by students?
The Green Office is run by students and supported by the UvA. Our team consists of two managers, four portfolio holders, a communications officer and nine volunteers – all students. We receive advice and guidance from a supervisor who is kept abreast of our activities and is responsible for quality assurance. The Green Office also has an Advisory Board that provides solicited and unsolicited advice.
Most of our projects are initiated by students. But we also get input from the faculties.
Do you also work with green offices in other countries?
At the moment, we’re only working with Green Offices in the Netherlands. We do trainings together and share information and ideas. For example, several weeks ago we took part in a workshop on sustainability in ICT where we learned more about energy savings, e-waste and some of the ways to encourage a more sustainable mindset. The workshop also led to the development of new joint strategies.
Most notable achievements since 2016?
The UvA Green Office has grown considerably since being founded in 2016. We originally started off with two passionate students and now have sixteen people working on various projects. Some of our recent achievements include the collaborative projects Ban the Bottle and Join the Pipe, which aim to promote drinking tap water as opposed to bottled water. To encourage this, several easily accessible refill stations have been placed at various UvA locations such as the Roeterseiland Campus.
We’ve also started a pen recycling project in collaboration with TerraCycle in which we’ve managed to collect 18 kilos of pens through two collection points at Roeterseiland and the Maagsdenhuis.
Other projects we are currently working on include a workshop for students to start up their own sustainability project, a promotional campaign on sustainability measures at faculties, enhanced waste separation, an overview of all sustainability education and research, and a symposium on sustainability research at the UvA.
Plans for the coming years?
In addition to practical measures aimed at making the UvA more sustainable, we also want to highlight sustainability-related themes in UvA teaching and research.
A lot of interesting research on sustainability is taking place at the UvA, but unfortunately this isn’t widely known. By providing a platform for such research, we want to further simulate research into sustainability and encourage collaboration between researchers in this area.
The same applies to education: sustainability is a topic that forms part of the curriculum of UvA programmes. However, despite ample opportunities to learn more about sustainability many students are unaware of the possibilities. We want to address this by providing an overview of the courses in which sustainability figures prominently.