Subjecting ‘green’ first-years to initiation rituals is going out of style. But going green is in. More and more student societies are forming sustainability committees (DuurCos) to help them get serious about the environment. Ceres is one of them. The society has started producing solar energy and wants to heat its building with the heat generated by the beer refrigeration. .
text Luuk Zegers
‘One of our objectives last year when we set up the sustainability committee was to have solar panels on the roof within five years, says Lennart Alderlieste, project officer on the DuurCo. That target has already been met: last week 104 brand-new solar panels were placed on the society’s roof. ‘It is a good investment. We use quite a lot of electricity, but with this many panels we have overcapacity at certain times. By supplying that to the net we shall recoup the investment in a couple of years.’
Thousands of litres of beer
And the solar panels are just the beginning. The Ceres kitchen is switching from gas to induction during this academic year and the old ventilation system will be replaced by a more economical one. In February the beer refrigeration – not unimportant at a social club – will undergo an ambitious makeover ‘The present refrigerator is outdated so a new one will save energy anyway,’ says Alderlieste. But Ceres wants to go a step further than that. ‘During the cooling process you extract heat from thousands of litres of beer, and currently that gets pumped out of the building. With heat exchangers we can use some of that residual heat to heat the building.’
LANX in Amsterdam, which calls itself the largest student society in the Netherlands, is already using this method. Last year the society hosted a Sustainability Day for societies from all over the country. Ceres was there, and took a good look at the new beer refrigeration system. ‘It is a challenge but technically it is possible,’ says Alderlieste. ‘We are now looking into the possibilities and the costs. If the investment is too big for now, then we shall at least install our new refrigerator in a way that makes it possible to take that step in five years. Future-proof.’
In contract to hazing rituals, greening initiatives are clearly trendy among student societies. And they are learning from each other. The national Sustainability Day at LANX in Amsterdam will be followed up this year in Wageningen: Ceres will run the second one. And KSV Franciscus, which has started a DuurCO too, recently organized a sustainability consultation with the other Wageningen societies. Besides KSV and Ceres, Nji-Sri and SSR-W attended the meeting, and Argo and Unitas will join next time. Alderlieste: ‘Yes, there is rivalry between the societies sometimes. But if we want to become more sustainable, it is better to join forces.’
Hard or soft plastic
One of the topics at the Wageningen sustainability consultation was cups. On quiet evenings, beer is served in glasses but when it is very busy that is risky, says Alderlieste. ‘On Thursday evenings and at open parties we use plastic disposable cups at Ceres. Hard plastic cups may be more sustainable but switching all at once is difficult. You have to wash them so there is more work behind the bar. It can be dangerous to stand on them, and you can’t just endlessly hand out plastic cups at parties, because people take them home with them.’ Cost is a factor too: Ceres gets the disposable cups free from the brewery, but not hard plastic cups. SSR-W and Nji-Sri do use hard plastic, says Alderlieste. ‘So at the consultation we asked them about their experience and how they go about it.’
Ceres is currently working on a life cycle analysis of the different kinds of cups. ‘We are comparing how long the cups lasts, their environmental impact and their CO2 emissions etc.’ That doesn’t automatically mean the end of disposable cup, says Ceres president Coen Hubers. Creating a ‘mono-flow’ with just one type of disposable plastic can be effective. ‘With the university, we are looking into the best way to recycle that kind of mono-flow,’ he says. During the Ceres anniversary festivities, hundreds of thousands of cups were recycled and turned into PP granules to be used for new plastic objects.’
With the solar panels and the planned in the kitchen and refrigeration, Ceres is taking stride towards a greener future. What are the long-term ambitions? Alderlieste: ‘We want the whole building to be gas-free. Geothermal energy is a very interesting option. The technique is still too high-risk to use here and the investment is huge. But in the long term it really is our dream.’
What are the other societies doing?
Student rowing society Argo has generated all its own electricity since 2015, thanks to 150 solar panels on the roof of the boathouse. The new training space in the boathouse is well-insulated. Last year, Argo started a DuurCo, tasked with looking at waste-sorting among other things. The club has to find a way of doing this itself as the council does not collect waste separately at its location.
KSV Franciscus installed smarter, more sustainable central heating boilers at the end of 2017, reducing gas consumption by 70 percent. The society sorts ‘PMD’ waste (plastic, metal and drink cartons) separately and the DuurCo is now writing a sustainability plan for the whole society. KSV initiated the sustainability consultation among Wageningen societies.
SSR-W is consulting with ex-members from the sustainability branch as to how to upgrade its premises’ energy label. Beer is served in reusable plastic cups, all the light bulbs are LED, and the kitchen is due for greening soon. SSR-W plans to start its own DuurCo this year.
Nji-Sri serves beer in reusable plastic glasses and disposes of paper and plastic separately.