Nieuws - 11 juni 2014

Blog: The tragedy of the thermodynamic student kitchen

Little has fascinated me more during my time in Wageningen than that ultimate, inescapable incubator of cultures, standards, values and habits that is the shared student kitchen.

Thermodynamics teaches us that a student kitchen is no different from our solar system or the universe. Without energy or work, entropy will always increase. Which is a fancy way of saying:
a kitchen will always get dirtier unless someone rolls up their sleeves and cleans up. It is an ancient, probably everlasting battle of those who clean up against those who don't.

It is also a neat model of our global problems as a species, bearing the realization that the individual contribution (or non-contribution) does in fact count. I have been sharing kitchens with 17 others in Dijkgraaf, with 6 others at the Herenstraat and now 5 others at  Droevendaal. And it was more or less the same story everywhere. How is it possible that well-raised, well-educated people can't seem to manage running a clean common kitchen?  Is there any culture that is fond of cleaning up after others? A culture that loves cluttered sinks, crusts of fat from midnight frying and the myasmatic perfume of organic decay from overflowing bins? Methinks not.

So how to motivate these pesky peers to rise to the responsibility and wash up? You don't need a communication scientist to figure out, that a sign with ‘MOM DON'T LIVE HERE NO MORE’ doesn't help.  A while ago, I made two posters. One was just a good idea, the other is based on some theories.

Oh well. If there is one thing I have learned in my studies, it is that posters don't do much and that good intentions or knowledge or even motivation isn't enough to get folks into action. The only thing that I ever found to actually work was a cleaning schedule. As so often, simple, but not easy.

If you have found a working solution beyond nagging and schedules, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. :)