News - June 12, 2010

Greening the uni with flight tax?

Wageningen UR may impose a tax on the flight hours spent by its employees to make the institution more sustainable.

A new compensation fund - involving the so-called CO2 compensation - is one of the ways the institution will introduce to make management practices greener. Its Board of Directors gave the green light on Thursday for an implementation plan approved earlier by its Executive Board. This plan will enable the desire announced last year to take off, which is to be in the forefront of the sustainability strife.
Coffee cups
To be in a leading position calls for several concrete steps to be taken soon. For example, there will be pilot programmes in using compostable coffee cups, promotion of car-pooling, video conferencing and train travel. In the catering business, a CO 2 foot print will be traced. Sustainable purchasing will be brought to bear throughout the entire organization, not just in the canteens. Wageningen UR aims to make its purchases completely sustainable by 2014 according to the criteria set out by AgentschapNL. This year should see half of these being achieved.
The CO 2 compensation fund will be used mainly for trials which do not fall under the normal company management budget.  One of the projects is to find out how much food is thrown away by the canteens. Research into this will begin this year if external funding is available. Another project, to be undertaken by the AFSG, is to develop a heat insulating bioplastic coffee cup.
Cultural shift
The innovation fund will be financed by the CO 2 compensation for foreign air travel. Employees and students will have to contribute money for every flight kilometre. How this is going to be put into practice is being worked out by the Sustainability Taskforce, which will also be the driving force behind all the other sustainable revamps. The taskforce will be given a hundred thousand euros in the next two years to somehow get the projects off the ground.
All these efforts would lead to some kind of cultural shift for employees and students of Wageningen UR. Sustainability will be beat into everyone's head, says the sustainability project group responsible for setting up the plan.