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“There’s room for improvement”

Green Office presents Climate Action Report

How sustainable is Maastricht University? This is the question the Green Office – which initiates and coordinates ecological, social and economic sustainability projects and aims to raise sustainability awareness at UM – asked in its Climate Action Report. Their conclusion: “The first steps have been made, but the road to an ideally sustainable university is long.”

With this report, the Green Office has made the first baseline overview of projects and policies undertaken by UM on sustainable development. They are now working on a sustainable development policy for the whole university for the next two years. “The previous policy on sustainability has been fragmented. The new one will provide a common framework”, says Felix Spira, project coordinator at the Green Office. “The goals will be clearly stated and with every goal there will be a proposal on how to achieve it”, adds student coordinator Arian Meyer.

One of the policy points is a waste scan. From 2003 until 2010 UM saw a 43 per cent increase in residual waste. Although this is partly due to the increasing number of students, the report found no full explanation for this increase – which is where the waste scan comes in. “The waste disposal company will measure the kilograms of waste which are disposed of at the different university locations. Then we know exactly where how much waste is produced and will look for ways to reduce the waste streams.”

When it comes to the energy usage, UM is doing fairly well. It was among the three (out of fourteen) Dutch universities with lowest energy consumption per square metre in 2010. However, total electricity usage went up by 1.53 per cent and gas consumption by 1.09 per cent. “There’s room for improvement”, says Spira. “The difference between usage when the buildings are open and when they’re closed is less than you might think.” There are two problems when it comes to saving energy: firstly, in the Inner City the university has many old buildings that are badly insulated, but fall under the monuments law and therefore can’t be changed. Secondly, research equipment uses a lot of electricity . “That’s why the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences has the highest kWh per student”, says Spira. “When the Brains Unlimited scanner is finished, this figure will be even higher.”

 As a first step on the long way to a more sustainable university, the Green Office first focuses on the “low-hanging fruits”, says Meyer. “Solutions that are low-tech and low-cost; we have to use our creativity and intelligence.” Spira mentions the Green Office Ctrl-Alt-Delete Emissions project as a good example. This project aims to improve energy efficiency of computers. Since the beginning of this academic year, computers shut down in the Inner City Library, if they remain unused for more than thirty minutes. “The ICT department is very enthusiastic about these kinds of projects, and in two weeks we know how much elecricity has been saved.” 

Last but not least, the Green Office would like to see sustainability better integrated in the curriculum. “This is already happening at UCM and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The new Sustainability Master is also a very positive development”, says Meyer. He also thinks there could be more exchange between the different departments that do research on sustainability. “They could learn from one another.” The sustainability policy will be presented later this academic year. 

 

Cleo Freriks

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