‘Sometimes you just have to be tough’

Students encourage the university

As chair of the Erasmus Sustainability Hub, Ege held a position in the Sustainability Liaison Network, a newly established network of faculty representatives to discuss sustainability issues and solutions. Ege was the only student of the twenty faculty representatives. During one of these meetings, a faculty member questioned students’ involvement in sustainability initiatives and belittled their actions for “taking the exam every three years.” “I had the feeling that the students, the erasmic community, should encourage the university,” Ege admits.

“There are so many different sustainability efforts from different sororities, but they are all separate. The impact we made was very small. That’s why we, as a group of associations, have made this petition.” Since the publication and writing of this article, the petition has been signed more than 500 times, as the campaign has received little promotion due to the war in Ukraine, Ege sees these figures as a ‘good sign’.

Partial implementation

The Board of Erasmus University has not yet given an official response to the petitioners. However, three of the fifteen focus points have already been partially implemented. A pilot program for recyclable cups, originally planned in just one restaurant, will be extended to all restaurants and catering services selling hot drinks on campus. The EUR’s press office announced that the pilot project will start next academic year and run for three months.

In any case, another action point under investigation is Ecosia, a non-profit search engine that uses ad revenue for replanting campaigns around the world. In response to the petition, the EUR has now begun to ‘explore the possibilities’ of making Ecosia the default search engine on all university computers. An official date for implementation has not yet been set.

Four new water bottle filling systems have been installed on the Woudestein campus. However, Ege finds this insufficient. “Four is not enough for a university with thousands of students and staff. All machines are outside. In Dutch weather, for example when it snows, you do not go outside to fill your water bottle. This is how we are forced, and I see it every day that people fill their water bottles by the taps in the toilets. This is not very hygienic. That is why we need more water filling points in the buildings, just like in Polak. ”

The Board of Erasmus University has not yet issued an official response to the authors of the petition. However, three of the fifteen focus points have already been partially implemented.

A recyclable copilot program, originally intended for only one restaurant, will be expanded to cover all restaurants and catering services selling hot beverages on campus. The EUR’s press office announced that the pilot program will start next academic year and run for a period of three months.

Another point of action that is at least being explored is about Ecosia, a non-profit search engine that uses its advertising revenue for replanting campaigns across the globe. As a result of the petition, the EUR has now begun to ‘explore the possibility’ of making Ecosia the default search engine on all university computers. No official date for implementation has been set.

Four new water bottle filling systems have also been installed on the Woudestein campus. However, Ege considers this to be insufficient. “Four is not enough for a university with thousands of students and staff. They are also all outside, the Dutch weather taken into account, and if it snows I would not go out to fill my water bottle. What we are forced to do and what I see in the bathrooms every day is that people fill their water bottles in the taps. This is not hygienic. That is why we need more water filling points inside the buildings, just like those in Polak. ”

CO2-neutral campus in 2027

When asked about the reasoning behind action point five, which aims to achieve a CO2-neutral campus in 2027, Ege refers to the European Geosciences Union’s research on ‘point of no return’ for 2035. “We wanted to give Erasmus University five years. It is very ambitious and cannot be done. But we would at least see what kind of plan they could come up with. Right now, there is no plan at all, so it’s even worse. I think you have to be tough sometimes. To speed things up and show that they are urgent. I hope we have achieved that with the petition. “

But sustainability is not just about environmental awareness. Inspired by the responses ESH received on the feedback form, socially sustainable actions were also included in the petition. “Social sustainability, such as equality and accessibility, is part of sustainability. You do not get a sustainable planet without sustainable systems,” explains Ege.

Looking to the future

“These requirements show what the future will look like, what kind of society we live in. So if we want our university to be a forerunner, we must encourage these changes. By supporting this collection of signatures, we contribute to making Erasmus University one of the first institutions to take action in the field of sustainability, “concludes Ege.

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