Student - September 20, 2007

Post: No such thing as waste

Sustainability has finally been put on the map over the last few years. Not only globally, by Al Gore and friends, but also locally, by a whole range of organisations. However, the challenges are tremendous, and there is a dire need for a holistic approach.

Given that sustainability is a core issue for Wageningen University and Research Centre, it would seem only natural that our university takes the lead in redefining existing ideas and developing new ideas on how to put sustainability into practice. A vital step is to implement these ideas in the organisation itself. Unfortunately, the latter seems to remain difficult and the present policy of the university does not include a holistic vision.
One of the most refreshing practical ideas on sustainability at the moment is a movement called ‘from Cradle to Cradle’. This innovative approach incorporates ecological mechanisms into industrial design and challenges the idea of waste as something useless (waste is food). This approach also has the potential to truly integrate people, planet and profit. An excellent example in the Netherlands is a big project in Venlo, where all the stakeholders in the area have launched ambitious plans together, to make the Cradle to Cradle concept reality.
The Executive Board of Wageningen UR has been challenged by Professor Louise Vet, the director of NIOO-KNAW, to take a similar approach. Given the knowledge, network and creativity present vision within our organisation, Wageningen is an ideal place to realise a Cradle to Cradle paradise. Greenhouse warmth can be used to heat buildings, organic matter can replace oil-based plastics and further development on the Wageningen Campus can lead to integrating landscape planning with an ecologically sound design.
Judging from the lack of response to Professor Vet’s challenge, it seems that the Executive Board thinks Cradle to Cradle is rubbish. Ironically, it is exactly this type of classification that the movement wants to challenge. We think that Cradle to Cradle deserves to be given a chance at this university and we hope that everyone involved in the organisation, including the Board, is willing to think about it. It would be a pity to miss this wonderful opportunity to recycle the WUR motto ‘Science 4 Impact’.

Mattijs Smits, on behalf of the Wageningen Environmental Platform (WEP)

On Wednesday 26 September a film about Cradle to Cradle will be shown at Zeezicht. Mail email('wep','wur.nl'); for more information and registration.

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