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Keen on green?

Smart thermostats, low-energy buildings and batteries that store power. There's no shortage of technical solutions for making life greener, but what can students themselves do?

If you invent smart technology to encourage sustainability, of course you want people to use it. You hope they'll be willing change their behaviour. A comment that was heard a lot at the symposium on Social Innovation and the Energy Transition held on 2 April was that although lots of students are keen to do their bit, they don't always know how.

For example, students may live in an historic building, in which the housing corporation is unwilling (or unable to afford) to fit double glazing. During a discussion about ways that students can help to speed up the energy transition, UN youth representative Martijn Visser gave a number of practical examples:

  • Change banks
  • Buy a refurbished phone instead of a new one
  • Switch to a greener energy provider
  • Eat less meat
  • Talk to other people about being greener

Virgiel goes green
In another session, the Delft student association Virgiel gave a presentation about what they are doing to have the greenest society building in the Netherlands by 2020. The association has taken the following steps:

  • Installed low-energy beer taps
  • Installed a heat transfer system unit in the kitchen
  • Replaced its gas ovens with electric ovens
  • Introduced vegetarian weeks at the dining table
  • Started separating plastic waste
  • Signed a new energy contract with a green energy provider, with plans to fit solar panels to the roof
  • Insulated the roof while the attic was being renovated

All these measures (and more) have been set out in a Sustainability Report 2015-2016. However, as two board members explained during the symposium, the sustainability measures have also met with opposition within the association. "It costs €6,000 to separate waste. You could use that money to throw a fantastic party or lower the subscription fee", said Freek Swart. "It's tricky. A lot of people are sceptical."

Turn things round
In any case, Virgiel is at least trying to turn things round, explained Swart. "In the past, we used to just throw our plastic cups onto the floor, whereas nowadays we separate them. We used to leave the lights on or the windows open, whereas nowadays this is 'not done'. We now have a fund for sustainable initiatives instead of for artistes."