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UvA Green Office: The Hub of Student Sustainability

The UvA Green Office is a student-run platform striving to transform the University of Amsterdam campus into a greener place. Established in 2016, the Green Office has continuously increased its output of policy recommendations and projects to accelerate the sustainable transition at the UvA. Green Office follows an intersectional approach to sustainability that aims to respect the boundaries of our planet without compromising social needs. In this article, I am going to provide an overview of the association and why it might be useful for students to contribute to its sustainable effort.

The Green Office works toward having a University of Amsterdam that prioritizes social and environmental sustainability in its education with the collaboration between students, university bodies, and external partners. The organization functions under four branches to achieve its ultimate goal of a more sustainable university. These branches are namely: Research and Education, Communications, Community and Campus. Each team has an overseeing leader, who helps volunteer students to achieve their goals. The four team leaders are overseen by 2 Co-Managers and a supervisor who serves as a bridge between the university and the Green Office.

The Research and Education team works on interdisciplinary collaboration, educational material, and sustainability-related research projects. The team currently is working on building a sustainable research community to connect UvA, non-UvA staff, and students. The Research and Education team is therefore responsible for building and sustaining, an active sustainability research community through fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and promoting events and developments related to sustainability at the UvA. Moreover, active participation in encouraging the integration of sustainability into new programs as well as reviewing and promoting existing sustainability-related curriculum at the UvA is another mission of this team. For those interested, the Inventory of Sustainability. Related Courses would be an interesting document to review. The course list is updated on an annual basis. Furthermore, one of the ongoing projects of Research and Education is the Knowledge Hub, which is an online platform where students, Green Office members, teachers, employees, and every sustainability enthusiast can come together and exchange ideas, promote events and find enticing vacancy opportunities. If you are interested in conducting sustainability-related research, copywriting, content creation, or copywriting, this team is the right place for you.

The Communications team is responsible for communicating the performance and the activities of the Green Office via the website (also the Knowledge Hub), social media, blog, and the monthly newsletter which students can subscribe to on the main website. The team is also responsible for the establishment of internal links between all teams, and external links between the Green Office and central UvA communications. Therefore, the communications team strives for the improvement of the visibility of teams and projects internally; increasing reach, visibility, and social proof to external stakeholders; maintaining connections with the central UvA communications team and aligning the communication with the wider UvA vision. Students who are interested in and have an affinity with social media account management, video content creation, podcast managing (for the Green Talks), webpage, newsletter, and publication editing, suitable opportunities are waiting for you on the Communications team. On National Sustainability Day in the Netherlands, held on the 10th of October, lecturers from various academic fields are going to be invited for a roundtable discussion on recent developments in their respective fields of sustainability, global developments, and what more UvA can do to reach a further sustainable level. The discussion will also be open for inquiry from students. Discussions will be followed by a networking event & social drinks. If you’re interested, watch out for the website, Knowledge Hub, and other social media channels for further information!

The Community team is about building a sustainable community within and beyond the UvA campus. Fostering a tight-knit community within the organisation of more than 50 members is crucial to the team, the main goals of which are raising awareness among staff and students at the university and running long-term projects to build bridges between sustainability interested groups and institutions in Amsterdam. This team might be appealing to students who are interested in establishing both within and outside of the UvA, organizing events such as the Green Weeks which is held twice a year, and forging bonds with like-minded peers.

Finally, the Campus team works on projects aiming to make UvA more sustainable in a variety of ways including improving the sustainability of the buildings and facilities of the university by addressing topics such as waste separation and reduction, catering, and energy use. In cooperation with Facility Services and other (UvA) parties, the campus team goes behind the scenes to submit policy recommendations, brainstorm creative sustainable solutions and identify problem areas at the university. The Campus team, therefore, takes responsibility for advising UvA bodies on sustainability policy, maintaining the goal of implementing sustainable technologies, systems and projects at the UvA, and bridging the gap between all UvA’s participation bodies such as FSRs, CSR, students and employee associations.

As the current campus team leader, I would love to talk about some ongoing and upcoming projects that are going to be implemented this year. Sustainable banking proposal is one of the recurring projects, which aims for a change of UvA’s house bank from Deutsche Bank to a greener bank due to DB’s high level of investment in fossil fuels in collaboration with the CSR. The project will continue with the tendering process for alternatives. Vytal Reusable cups project which is currently in effect in the H-building cafeteria in the Roeterseiland campus is set to continue, and the further reusable transition is aimed to be extended for cutlery and plates. This extension project serves the waste reduction in the university and ultimately, towards the first goal stated in the White Paper Sustainability which aims for the reduction of ecological footprint by 25% within 3 years.

Vegan (Anti) Cafeteria is a new student-led initiative that is set to be implemented by 2026 with the collaboration of UvA and HvA Green Offices, CSR, and ASVA. One of the goals of the project is to establish a student stand in the sitting area which provides cheaper and 100% vegan food options that are made by students, for students. Furthermore, the project also aims to impose several rules on the current caterer towards having more vegan/vegetarian food options in the cafeteria. Similar to the reusable cutlery project, the presence of a vegan cafeteria means less ecological footprint and a more sustainable UvA! There will be numerous other projects that are going to be promoted throughout the year so be sure the check out our website.

Ultimately, Green Office is the largest and only student-run body focused on sustainability at the UvA and we also align ourselves with the UvA Diversity Commission Report next to the White Paper. Every idea and perspective, regardless of background, ethnicity, culture, race, and gender, is welcome and deemed equally valuable. Green Office acknowledges its responsibility towards equality and social justice. The minimum mandate of the Green Office is to work towards the goals that are set in the White Paper by also creating a safe and welcoming environment for its students to encourage conversation and discussion.

Green Office also supports the efforts of Circular Amsterdam, which is the municipality’s mission to make Amsterdam a circular city. The 3 value chains are: Build Environment, Food and Organic Waste; and Consumer Goods are recognized by the Green Office. As a part of Amsterdam’s largest university, we recognize the importance of our commitment to the city’s goals. The further goals and projects are explained in the Amsterdam Circular Strategy.

Volunteer applications are open for those who’re interested!


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