Student - February 12, 2009

WAGENINGEN UR TO FORGE AHEAD WITH SUSTAINABILITY

Wageningen UR has resolved to take great strides in sustainable business management. This means green electricity, more sustainable buildings, organic products in the canteen and getting people on their bikes.

These ideas come from a memo on the sustainability of Wageningen UR, which outlines four levels of ambition. On the advice of the writers, the Executive Board is going for the second highest level, and aims to follow in the footsteps of the ‘eco-pioneers’.

Really, a green university like Wageningen should aim higher, thinks the Sustainability Project Group. But in practice, that is too risky, explains spokesman Joris Fortuin. ‘You do have to be able to guarantee the continuity of your business. Our education and research depend on that. If you go for a higher level of ambition that is more innovative, you take too big a risk.’ And besides, it’s too big a step for the organization to take at one go.

But even the chosen level of ambition is expected to bring about big changes. Wageningen UR aims to encourage the use of bicycles and public transport by making ‘company bikes’ and NS Business tickets available to employees. Car use will be discouraged, possibly by introducing paid parking on campus. The canteen should soon be offering a lot more organic and certified sustainable products, as well as making sure the food is healthier.

Big steps can be taken in the field of energy if the current grey electricity is replaced by green electricity as soon as possible. Various measures can also be introduced to reduce the amount of energy used by the buildings. Staff and students can do their bit towards this too: the memo even suggests that buildings should not be heated above eighteen degrees Celsius, and that people could dress up warmer instead. That goes a bit too far for the Project Group though.

Higher standards for new buildings are planned too, with sustainable materials being used as much as possible. New buildings should be energy neutral and blend with the surrounding ecology. The option of using thermal storage and geothermal energy is expressly raised too.

The new ambitions still have to be translated into a plan of action, something which will clearly have its price. Fortuin: ‘If you want to reach a higher level, you are going to have to spend more money, for example on staff time and on investments. But in the long term it mustn’t be allowed to make operations any more expensive. It certainly doesn’t have to. We can see all around us that sustainability is not in itself more expensive.’

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