A sustainable university in the making

It is Green Week and you can tell by all the special activities that are taking place. For example, a wildlife safari was organized on the first day. During the discussion that took place at the opening on Monday in the Blauwe Zaal - which saw but a moderate turnout - the question was raised as to whether the transition to a sustainable university could not be accelerated. The TU/e Sustainability Core Team appreciated the question, “but a radical transformation such as the one we envision takes time.”

The TU/e Sustainability Core Team proudly recounts all the things that have already been achieved at TU/e in the past two years. “We didn’t have a vision yet and we still had to put together the team. Nevertheless, much has been achieved in the four areas of governance, research, education and operations,” says Anna Wieczorek, who stepped into the role of sustainability ambassador in 2021.

Step by step

She points out that a radical transformation, which is how she sees her mission, can only be achieved step by step. “Technology alone is not enough to successfully transition to a sustainable university. You need support from the community, i.e. from students, researchers and policy makers. They must embrace sustainability as a core value. The only way to achieve this is if we work step by step, not through coercion, but through personal conversations with policy makers.”

Sindy Harks, newly appointed Head of the Sustainability Core Team, gives an accurate example. “During the COVID pandemic, we saw that people suddenly started implementing the measures that were imposed from above. But after the pandemic died down, all societies reverted to their traditional practices. There has been no lasting change in the way people behave. And that is precisely what is needed for a sustainable society.” That is why she calls the Sustainability Core Team’s vision a major transformation for the entire organization. “Until now, decisions have been made with an economic mindset. We would like to see a broader scope of priorities and for sustainability to be taken into consideration in every decision. That’s a major shift.”


During the opening of Green Week, Erwin Kerkhof, head of operations and the person responsible for GO Green Office, gave a detailed account of all the visible changes that have already been made on campus. “We drink sustainable coffee now, we have energy labels on all the buildings, there's a work-walk system, more charging stations for electric cars and there is a train map available. All our purchases are made with sustainability in mind, and TU/e is now committed to circular construction. This calendar year will also see new policies for mobility and green and water management. In 2024 we hope to present a travel policy.”

Education and research

Last year, the Sustainability Core Team compiled a list of all the courses in the new Bachelor College that focus on the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, drawn up by the United Nations. Students who click on a particular goal will see which courses are linked to it. Zahar Koretsky has started a postdoctoral research project on Transformative Education for Sustainability. 

Get to work

Several workshops and lectures are scheduled for the next few days of Green Week, and the movies shown by Studium Generale also have a green theme; a documentary about the wolf and the award-winning animated film Knor. On Tuesday, a repair café was opened in Atlas where people can bring appliances and clothing for repair. The TU/e logo on Vertigo will be green all week.

For much longer, until December, the exhibition "Museum of the Future" will be on display at the GO Green Office. The displayed projects are all based on an SDG.  The exhibition is constantly changing, adding new projects. It provides space for students and researchers to showcase their work, test interactive prototypes or gather input. Go Green Office wants to touch on a wide variety of SDGs, accommodate every department and is still looking for new projects. Click here if you are interested.

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