“Don’t expect instant results”

Maxim: It’s not easy being green

17-09-2009

Last Wednesday was National Sustainability Day. For the occasion, Maastricht University organised a programme with presentations and discussions revolving around the question ‘How green are you?’ Sadly, not many students and employees seemed to care. In the audience at the Randwyck cafeteria were mainly those who are already active in making UM more sustainable. Is it really, to say it in the words of Kermit the Frog, not easy being green?

“You just have to take responsibility.” Marc Fischer, who has been working as an environmentalist for UM’s General and Technical Services, does not think that being green is such a hard thing to do. “The challenge is to get our minds set on sustainable behaviour, although it may mean having to work in different ways to what we’re used to.” Since Fischer took his job about a year ago, he has realised that the key is to coordinate existing initiatives to make them more effective, and to show people two things: that there is a common desire at UM to become greener, and that there are things that each individual can do to attain this goal. “Generally speaking, nobody is opposed to living more sustainably – the problem is simply that most people don’t know where to start.” In his own life, he feels that sustainability starts in education: “I tell my two children to take responsibility, and I teach them how important that is.” He emphasises that we have the luxury of being able to choose between what we want and what we really need: “Is it necessary to have a new phone every two years?”

Bernard Gouw, student at the University College and chair of the student political party NovUM, believes that it is indeed hard to be green. “It’s much too over-popularised and at the same time far too abstract for people to actually act upon.” However, it is not a subject that he feels should be ignored. “Organisations can mobilise people and make ideas more tangible.” This is one reason why NovUM included sustainability as a subject in its vision document. He also has a personal tip for individuals who want to turn green pep-talk into a sustainable lifestyle. Of course, they include the usual – turn off the lights, separate your trash, and so on – but also: “don’t expect instant results. And if results only come about if everyone joins in, then you should be doing something as well.”

Not at Randwyck, but at the library in the inner city, stands first-year Dennis Blicke, who did not even know about National Sustainability Day. “But even if I had known, I wouldn’t have gone. It’s probably just a whole lot of talking about what could be done, and in the end, nothing really happens anyway.” So does he think it is so hard to be green? “No, it’s not really, but people simply don’t want to be, because they have to sacrifice something themselves.” So why does he think being green is still so ‘in’? “It’s just hype. Plus, it’s so much easier to tell other people how to be green than to actually do something yourself. That’s why it stays being nothing but talk, and very little action.”

 

 

Janina Weser

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