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Cooperation to make the UvA sustainable

Published on 24-11-2022
‘By 2030, the Netherlands will use renewable and affordable energy only.’ With this uplifting promise, Ruud Koornstra kicked off the sustainability session on Thursday, 17 November. The goal of the session was to build on sustainability policy and objectives from the White Paper on Sustainability.
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In addition to a keynote by Ruud Koornstra, there were a number of work sessions and a panel discussion with UvA deans.

Ruud Koornstra (sustainable entrepreneur, National Energy Commissioner and honorary Fellow of the UvA’s Faculty of Science) held an optimistic talk about tackling climate change. Using examples from history, he showed it’s not impossible to become sustainable quickly and effectively. The action group University Rebellion interrupted the morning to call attention to the UvA’s ties with Shell – an issue later discussed by the panel of deans.

Four work sessions then elaborated measures for achieving the objectives of the White Paper on SustainabilityExternal link. The focus of these sessions was on sustainability in the UvA’s teaching activities and operational management.

From sustainable travel to the closure of buildings

One of the work sessions, chaired by Jan Buursma (Facility Services), addressed sustainable mobility. It’s a key issue: commuter traffic and international business travel make up over a quarter of the UvA’s environmental impact. How can we reduce carbon emissions caused by international business travel, and how can commuter traffic reduce its footprint? Introducing a carbon emissions budget for employees was a frequently heard suggestion, while other innovative solutions discussed included giving presentations to (international) colleagues by way of a hologram in order to reduce the number of flights. 

A work session chaired by Rowan Boeters (Facility Services) mulled over reducing the opening hours of some buildings as an energy-saving measure. What should the UvA take into consideration, what are the pitfalls and what are the benefits? 

Sustainability in education

The education track worked on paying appropriate attention to sustainability in education. The first session, chaired by Coyan Tromp (Faculty of Science), discussed support for lecturers who want to integrate sustainability into their courses in the shape of, for example, the Special Interest Group Sustainability in Education and the Sustainability Grant for Teachers. The second session, chaired by Sylvia Witteveen (Faculty of Science), discussed methods to give sustainability a fitting place in the entire curriculum.

Deans speak out in the panel discussion

The morning concluded with a panel discussion involving five deans. Roel Beetsma (Faculty of Economics and Business), Agneta Fischer (Faculty of Medicine), Hans van Goudoever (Faculty of Medicine), Peter van Tienderen (Faculty of Science) and André Nollkaemper (Amsterdam Law School) took questions on a range of themes, including their plans and measures to mainstream sustainability in education. Nollkaemper, for example, noted the Faculty of Law teaches a compulsory Bachelor’s course on sustainability. The deans were also asked about partnerships with Shell, and were asked whether the UvA is doing enough to become sustainable and is prepared to budget for sustainability.

Results of the sustainability session

Many valuable ideas and points of view were exchanged during the sustainability session. This input is being used to improve the sustainability policy and to enact new measures to achieve the White Paper’s objectives.

More information

  • The White Paper on Sustainability details the UvA’s sustainability objectives and measures.
  • For more information on the Special Interest Group Sustainability in Education and the Sustainability Grant for Teachers, please email Coyan Tromp at J.C.Tromp@uva.nlExternal link.