Science - May 15, 2008

Student actions for greener university

The statue of a tree in front of Forum is decorated with green paper leaves as a reminder that Wageningen UR's own environmental policy could be improved. And a papermaking activity at the Saturday market was design to set people thinking. After a year of promises, the Wageningen Environmental Platform (WEP) and the Progressive Student Fraction (PSF) think it’s time for the university to come forward with a clear sustainability policy.

Making paper at the Saturday market in Wageningen.
In the afternoon sun, people hand out organic apples and seeds to passing students and staff, and take the opportunity to explain what the tree decorating action is about. ‘Last year, the Student Council asked the Executive Board to formulate a clear green policy for Wageningen UR,’ tells Rishi van de PSF. ‘Over a thousand students signed a petition at the time, but so far not much has changed. So we organised this afternoon’s activity and a papermaking workshop at the market a couple of weeks ago to get the subject on the agenda again. Wageningen promotes itself to the outside world as green, but internally there’s room for improvement. Independent research also shows that Wageningen UR is not as green as it makes out. Student and staff expertise on sustainable and green matters is often not used, and good initiatives often don’t reach beyond individual chair groups.’
Many students and staff clearly appreciated the action held on Tuesday 13 May. Tetje and Bram, two Land and Water Management students, who happen to be passing by: ‘They have some good points, especially when it comes to using the knowledge we have in house. Our chair group could certainly have advised on the water problems around Forum.’

Peter, who works at Alterra, also thinks that the different sciences groups could learn more from each other. ‘Each sciences group has good internal aspects, but it would be good if these could be shared.’ Liesbeth, who works at the Library, thinks Wageningen is doing just fine. ‘Aren’t we often in the news with positive things when it comes to the environment?’

That’s an argument you hear a lot, says WEP coordinator Roan: ‘Wageningen does good work, but mostly outside Wageningen. As far as we are concerned, if you are green on the outside and shout about it, you should also look closely at how things are organised internally. On that front Wageningen scores less well.’

According to Joris Fortuin, head of Forum, Wageningen is getting better, but many people don’t know exactly what the organisation is doing. ‘Maybe everyone needs to communicate better about the initiatives that are being taken. For example, there’s already an agreement that purchasing takes place centrally and sustainably. And Wageningen produces green energy with a wind park in Lelystad. We even produce more than we use.’

Masters student Judith thinks the initiative is worthwhile: ‘At last the tree is more attractive.’

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