Green Office, VU Amsterdam



One of the reasons I started my blog is because I would like to participate in the journey of getting so much more attention for the environment and all the problems it started to cause in the last couple of years, and unfortunately the upcoming years to come.
And even though I’ve been reading a few books, watched some documentaries regarding the matters (there is so much more to read and invest), what do I know after all?
I know that there are problems, even though some people like to shut their eyes pretend it isn’t happening and act like it’s not their fault.
I think we are past that problem already, because blaming someone isn’t going to solve the many problems that are caused by climate change and all the other matters and terms regarding the environment.
So let’s stop blaming one another and focus on the things we can do. now. Right now. Every individual can make a difference, no matter how big or small. In the end we can make a big effort.
And as much as I can do these things by myself, I wonder.. What else is happening, who is helping? Are there companies, organisations and even Universities well aware of these questions, problems en searching for answers.

And the more I read, the more I realise, I am too contributing in all these problems. Which is madness and weird. And it’s even more weird that I haven’t learned about these problems years ago..why aren’t there weekly classes at primary schools or high schools? Why do I have to find out about these things because it caught my eye a few years ago, and I started reading and watching docu’s about these subjects on my own initiative?
And why do I have to find out about these things in my midd-twenties? Because I’m not the only one finding out just now, I see the ignorance among people being my age.

Maybe you already know, maybe not. And maybe you read once an article halfway through one of the above named that is indeed helping to make this planet become a better place..but, you were reading it while sitting in the subway, or packed in a pretty full train and found the METRO newspaper, thought “hé, that’s great, the are investing their time perfectly”, and stopped reading it because you were at your destination.. You see, that’s me.

I would like to get to know so much more about the problems that Mother Nature and every citizen of planet earth is facing right now. And suck up the information, spread the word, learn from it en meet people along the way, whom feel and think alike. ‘Cause collecting information and learning new things, it’s a perfect way to pass on information, to the next generations. It keeps the mind trigged, keeps the world interesting, and there is so much we don’t know. Yet.

My first ‘Take initiative’ blog is about the VU University located in Amsterdam.
With their enthusiasm following my email, I scheduled a meeting with Shanice van der Sloot on Monday, May 15th.
Several universities in The Netherlands have developed a green office since the launch in 2010. In September 2010 the first Green Office was established by the University of Maastricht, after that many more Universities followed. The Green Office movement is growing each year and so far there are serval Offices located in The Netherlands, and even abroad (Germany, Belgium, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

The GO (as shown on the site); green office is a student driven and staff supported institute within the institute of higher education, with the primary goal to help the university become more sustainable in all its dimensions.
Every Green office consists the following principles :
⁃ It consists of students and staff (of the relevant university)
⁃ It has an official mandate to enhance sustainability in the institute of higher education and receives resources to achieve this
⁃ It’s integrated into the institution’s organisational structure
⁃ Every Green Office collaborates with internal and external stakeholders and learns how to achieve this change through training
⁃ The Green Office is in a unique position with both characterises of ’traditional’ university sustainability programs and grassroots student sustainability groups

I had a great meeting with Shanice and she gave me a lot of information to work with, to learn from and to be surprised about…Cause, reducing PET bottles at the university..GREAT idea! but i had no idea it was even possible to reduce so much plastic at such a big ‘business platform’..until now.

As explained above, the Green Office at the VU in Amsterdam is driven by students of the university and supported by the VU staff. It is a separate office, so no control by senior management, but at the same time it’s intwined with the VU. They are independent so that they can keep a critical eye on the VU’s method. But at the same time the VU took the initiative to create a platform for the Green Office, and give them everything there is to work with and work for, regarding every GO.

The green office of the VU operates on four different portfolios within the UNI.
these are ; Education, research, commencement and campus. There are now several projects on these four portfolios.

Education; they take subjects about sustainability in the curriculum and students study cases from the university to see how something can be more sustainable within the VU.
They are also working on realising a minor at the university.

Every month there is a lunch lecture at the VU. Which will be held, with good weather I guess, on the rooftop of the VU. People can step by for a healthy lunch and in the meantime they get some more information on topics like sustainability.
Everyone can step by, everyone can join. A lowkey meeting, extremely healthy lunch and learn a bit about the environment..what’s not to like?

Back in May, Shanice told me that they where working on a new project as well; projects for primary schools.
Something I found very interesting and cheer for to happen at every primary school around the world. Cause like I mentioned earlier, it surprises me how little we learn about our habits. Our eating ways, our carbon footprint, what we are actually consuming, how it’s prepared.
If information about all that could become a subject at school, even if it’s once a week, it could make a great positive influence on everyone in the longrun.
Cause what you don’t learn, you don’t know.
Planting the seed at an early age, let it grow into something wise.
At Friday, May 12th this year they presented the first class at a primary school in Amsterdam. More details about that will be in my next article.

And besides teaching and learning, there is so much more that the GO is doing at the moment.

The GO created a platform for connecting people with each other regarding research.
Associating the right people with each other and support and offer a good sustainable research project. At the VU there are already many various researches who have already conducted sustainable researches, and the GO connect these people with each other.

The VU also has a living lab. And not the type with animals for the use of animal testing or anything, no. no such thing. The living lab is the place to be where companies and the university itself can get in touch with the students. When they are stuck on a problem, want to know what to do regarding a certain subject, the can contact the GO and the connect the students with these companies/people.

Community; They organize events and workshops for (non-)students.
You can find the list with all the events on their site.

Shanice joins the GO on the platform community, which means that she rules everything about the GO that plays online. Social media, newsletter, the website etc etc.

Campus at the VU; Improve, they are now working to make the plastic bottles on the campus disappear. And they are working on improvement in the canteen, since there are little to no vegetarian options available. They are also working on ways to improve pre packed food. And asking for more attention for the environment by organising warm sweater day (Every student is doing a warm sweater, the heating goes a few degrees lower, so attention is being paid to energy consumption among students and staff at the VU, see how much energy can be saved on the VU) or meatless Monday (every Monday in the cafeteria at the VU / canteen, less meat is served on that day and a vegan option is present, not just the salad bowl, but a full hot nutritious meal option)

And they are now really busy trying to figure out where and how many water stair points should be placed at the campus and Uni, before the plastic bottles disappear. And searching for alternatives, when the restaurant stops selling plastic bottles.

So far this is my first ever article I wrote regarding my list of interest ‘the environment and all that is attached to this subject. First, ever. And as much as I tried to include the information that is to find and share. there is still a lot more to read about. At their own website you can look up everything the VU in Amsterdam has done so far ; and get more information on how to get involved with the GO at the University as well.
The thing I want to do, is to get in touch with the VU every once in a while, and write about the progress along the way.
Maybe next visiting the UNI once again, but look, talk and write about the GO and all their hard work from a different point of view..
Students, do they see a difference since the start of the GO, are they more aware of the ‘habits and things that could change at the VU’. are they more aware of their own habits, changed them, and step by step changing their live and become a little bit greener themselves. Do they care at all?
The employees of the VU, can they see a difference?
What about employees whom been working at the VU for years, are they starting to see a positive outcome from everything the GO is working for?
Are the people from the senior management satisfied with the suggestions since the GO was launched at the VU.
A few questions that could be answered for the next time.
In the meanwhile I’ll be talking and contacting other UNI’s in The Netherlands al well, hearing and seeing what they are working on, are they just as enthusiastic as the people who work at the green office at the VU?

P.S. Are you a student and part of a Green Office?