From light sensors to research into bioplastic

From light sensors to research into bioplastic

Ask Me Anything about sustainability

23-05-2022

MAASTRICHT. A Sustainability minor, a sustainable hub at the Tapijn barracks and a large variety of research into how people can live a more environmentally friendly life. These are just a few of the steps taken by Maastricht University in the field of sustainability. But plenty can still be done, as appeared during the latest Ask Me Anything session.

Joining panel chairman Cyril Heuts were Peter Møllgaard, dean of the School of Business and Economics and chairman of the Sustainability Taskforce, rector Pamela Habibović, and Thomas Cleij, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, to react to the questions and worries of the employees and students present.

Take the mobility plan – or rather, the lack thereof. “We have a flying policy – Take the green seat – but that is on a voluntary basis,” says Møllgaard. “We ask staff to attend conferences online, to take the train or to compensate the CO2 emission of their flight.” Habibović feels that whether anyone does it, is in the end the responsibility of the people themselves. “Behaviour needs to change. Policy is only there to support.”

And what about the university’s CO2 emissions? Møllgaard states that these could be lowered. Does he have a specific objective in mind? “We first have to know how much CO2 we emit now. We have a reasonably good idea when it comes to our buildings, but not when it comes to the Brightlands campuses for example. We first have to map that out, otherwise you can’t create definite objectives.”

Are such objectives even feasible with so many old heritage buildings? It is indeed a challenge, says Møllgaard. “It is on the Taskforce’s agenda, but making a building more energy-efficient is in itself very expensive. It is only affordable if you are going to renovate anyway.” And it is not as if nothing is happening at the moment, Habibović adds. “We recently turned down the heating and replaced our light bulbs with LED lamps.” In many places, there are sensors that turn the lights off when no motion is detected in the room.

Cleij sees research and education as the UM’s most important contribution. “Of course we – just like all organisations – also need to become more sustainable ourselves, but we can lead in these areas. We need to choose subjects and make them our specialisation. We already do so, for example, at Chemelot, where we and industrial partners are looking at the materials of the future.”

Møllgaard also mentions the Seed Fund – a pot of money for sustainability research projects. Sustainable Cities and FOODSY (sustainable food systems) are already up and running. “We can finance at least two more projects.”

Ultimately, sustainability must permeate all aspects of the university, says Habibović. Whether it concerns the curriculum for the students, the professional development of employees, or our daily life at the university. “It needs to become evident that sustainability is one of our core values.”

Read here about what else the UM is doing in the field of sustainability.