Towards Sustainability on Campus:

The Role of The Green Office

By Taskin Quagliani | Campus | February 3, 2022

Cover Illustration: UvA Roeterseiland Campus & UvA Green Office official logo. Sofia Righi / The Amsterdammer

Campus reporter Taskin Quagliani discusses the role of the UvA Green Office and how they initiate sustainable practices at the university. 

“Connect, Educate, Change”

– UvA Green Office

 The Green Office is a sixty-member strong, student-run initiative focused on the development of sustainability located at the Roeterseiland campus of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Currently, the well-oiled machine that is the Green Office is the sole organization at the UvA devoted to making the campus a more ecologically sound locale.

Within the organization, the campus team is one of four focus groups, each dedicated to interdependent aspects of sustainability efforts, which works directly with Facility Services. The team consists of a group of ten students, each of whom direct their efforts towards ensuring that issues, such as waste reduction on campus and cafeteria catering, are brought to the forefront. 

Sustainability is scarcely an unfamiliar term to most living in the current political and socio-economic epoch, but do we really know what it means? Lucy Upton, the co-manager of the Green Office at the University of Amsterdam, helped to elucidate this question for the layman. She emphasized that a culture of sustainability at the UvA brings together the triad of connection, education and impactful change.

Connection, education, change – an exemplary theoretical policy, but how is this being put into action?

The Green Office creates an interdisciplinary space for students and staff members alike who have a vested interest in various sustainability efforts (social, environmental and beyond) to come together, share ideas and perspectives and contribute to ongoing sustainability projects. In addition, students are connected to external parties, such as start-up founders, through both the Knowledge Hub and the career days hosted by the Green Office. Educational efforts take place at the micro and macro levels through raising awareness of not only how an individual can be more sustainable in their daily lives – for example, by reducing one’s meat consumption – but also focusing on the sustainability of institutions in their entirety.

This ethos is candidly exemplified in the Green Office’s single-use coffee cups project wherein eradication of single use coffee cups from the multiple campus locations is the primary goal. Connections are formed between students, faculty members and external platforms in order to create awareness about the approximately 120,000 disposable cups used each month. This translates to an immense yearly CO2 footprint, of which the Green Office is conducting research into at present. Implementing change in this instance requires a drastic transformation at the institutional level, i.e. replacing all single-use cups with reusable cups at all campus locations in the city with support from the individuals who make use of such facilities.

In order to move towards a greener campus, Lucy has recommendations for both students and the UvA as an educational institute.

As students, it really is as simple as bringing your own coffee cup to campus. Beyond that, students are encouraged to think about how they can incorporate sustainability into their field of study. There are a variety of sustainability courses on offer at the university, such as the Science for Sustainability minor – available for science Master’s students – that can be incorporated into one’s existing studies. Ultimately, the challenge is to leave the university with an informed knowledge on sustainability and the drive to use the resources at one’s disposal to enact change and to contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable future.

At the institutional level, the scope is broadened to include efforts to convert the campus into a “[semi] closed-circuit system” wherein projects such as on-site composting, low food waste and affordable meal options are offered on campus through partnerships with organizations such as Taste Before You Waste. Looking to the future, an ideal green campus would be an integral part of the doughnut economy and contribute towards the longevity of a thriving, interconnected hub that is the city of Amsterdam.

Should you want to get involved in an existing project or if you have an idea regarding how to make the campus a more sustainable and greener place, head over to the Green Office website to see how you can make a difference.

UvA Roeterseiland Campus & UvA Green Office official logo. Sofia Righi / The Amsterdammer

Taskin Quagliani is a student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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