Student - March 22, 2007

‘Wageningen should put its money where its mouth is’

All over the world Wageningen UR preaches sustainability, but the organisation itself is not that friendly when it comes to the environment and poor producers, say the Wageningen Student Organisation (WSO) and the Progressive Student Fraction (PSF). Energy is wasted, non-sustainable plastic is used and we don’t even drink fair-trade coffee. On Friday 16 March the organisations presented a petition with 1034 signatures to the Executive Board, all from students who think it’s time for Wageningen to live up to its words.

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Tijs Breukink, the financial man in the Executive Board, was there to respond to the petition. His colleague rector Martin Kropff, who was supposed to speak, was unable to attend as he had gone to a meeting on Sustainable Higher Education.
Breukink does not agree that internal management ignores sustainability. ‘There’s a lot being done, but not everyone knows about it.’ The member of the board cited a few examples, such as the fact that Wageningen UR now uses FSC-certified paper for printing, and cardboard beakers instead of plastic ones. ‘But sustainability is not an objective in itself. We have no working groups on the subject or special policy plans. We take a more pragmatic approach.’ The problem, according to Breukink, is the lack of awareness of the measures. For this reason a communication plan is being prepared.
The students indicated that this does not go far enough; they want ‘sustainability targets’ to be established. ‘The words of Mr Breukink have only decreased my faith in the sustainability of Wageningen UR,’ said one student. ‘As I understand it, when sustainability gets in the way of finances, the choice is against sustainability. If we don’t put our money where our mouth is, who will?’ Sustainability at all costs is not possible, said Breukink. ‘But in many cases it is a win-win situation.’
‘I do not agree that sustainability should not be an objective,’ said a PhD student. ‘If you have a green image yourself, you make your research more credible.’ The critical students intend to try and achieve this by setting up the action group Wageningen Environmental Platform.

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