The UvA rates well in terms of campus sustainability; however, that does not mean there are no aspects that could be scrutinised and potentially implemented to make the University greener and more sustainable. For example, there is a severe lack of awareness among students which hinders them from being as sustainable.
This lack of awareness is real especially at the University of Amsterdam as 020 found that informational campaigns are quite rare and could turn out useful for many students, especially first-years, as they often confuse issues such as recycling.
This reality obtains even more relevance in an international setting because every country has its specific way of recycling. The different pillars which constitute the basis of future informational campaigns are listed below.
The 020 student party has researched the following pillars that could help future campaigns with the potential of making the University of Amsterdam a more sustainable place for everybody.
This campaign aims at informing students on the negative impacts of industrial agriculture. An example would be the harmful use of pesticides in many landscapes, threatening biodiversity. A sustainable food campaign would point at activities such as a “Meatless Monday” to encourage people to reduce meat consumption, both at the UvA and at home. This is not uncommon: Dutch universities like the VU and HU Utrecht have already occasionally implemented this.
This may be the most apparent but relevant issue on which to inform students. As explained before, recycling often proves confusing for many students who never really learned how to sustainably. The main problem is plastics, which is cheap to produce but only 15% of its total global production is recycled. Sustainable actions on this issue include encouraging reusable cups and/or offering students discounts for bringing their cup.
In some aspects, the UvA has already implemented this. However, many plastic elements are often present in different food packages. Students find themselves confused about the correct waste separation, resulting in low recycling. This explains why 020 is looking for a better-organised waste separation, backed by posters around campus, showing the right disposal. This includes improving informative labels for recycling bins and possibly distributing more of them around campus and in student accommodations.
Many students do not know that food and clothes could be unsustainable for the environment because of pollution and poor working conditions. It is important to take into consideration the protection of workers’ rights. 020 student party has already made a booklet with a list of sustainable shops, companies, supermarkets, and restaurants in Amsterdam. This is the first step to create an informational campaign.
With help from UvA, we could develop this by offering students discounts at shops in the city seen as sustainable. The University of Groningen has implemented something similar since its Green Office has published a map of “Sustainable experience” of Groningen.
As the global climate crisis worsens year after year, on May 2nd, 2013 students asked for a cease in the University’s investment in fossil fuels. The UvA seems to be incrementally adapting to its detachment from non-renewable forms of energy since then. This was part of an informational campaign that started in the United States and Canada. The students wanted a formal statement from the University of Amsterdam to guarantee that they would start investing in fossil-free projects and buildings. This is still significant today when there is no positive sign that the crisis will be stopped.
020 wants to keep promoting this campaign by requesting continuous and updated transparency regarding the University’s indirect investments in fossil-related companies or organisations. This is important now more than ever: the UvA is a well-regarded university that prepares and trains its students for a better future. It should show an appropriate example on the issue as the end will necessarily need to be climate-oriented.
The University of Amsterdam could also encourage student participation in national manifestations for better sustainability. Many students and especially first-years often skip or completely ignore such initiatives if they overlap with classes. However, these manifestations, will continue to increase government awareness and help students realise the importance of their freedom of speech. As the Fridays for Future movement demonstrated, these initiatives can grow ‘viral’ rapidly, raising the need for more climate-friendly policies.
The UvA should invest in funding and supporting ways to integrate such events into students’ schedule, given the above-stated relevance. They could do so by sponsoring climate-awareness events that would involve both University students and staff. Their Instagram page can be used to notify most students about such events, encouraging them to participate. Collaborating with the UvA Green Office, 020 will get closely involved and help with such events in any possible capacity.