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Imagine A Sustainable University

Three reasons why you should engage in changing your university.

“Imagine all the people…” This is the first sentence of what I believe is one of the most powerful songs ever written. John Lennon cherished dreaming of a better world. You as a student can start with your closest environment: your university. “You are not the only one…”

By Femke Lootens

I am writing my thesis on how Green Offices (GO) in the Netherlands help students achieve a change towards sustainability in their university. I am particularly interested in two questions: Why students want to achieve a change and what setting makes it most suitable for them to reach their goals.

At this moment, students and staff in no less than 25 Green Offices in 6 countries are putting effort into making their institute greener in all of its dimensions. What makes them willing to invest a big part of their time in this?

My first two weeks of interviewing gave me three beautiful insights on why people engage themselves:

(1) Because your dreams are not yours

You can be engaged in multiple organizations as a student. However, what makes being engaged in the GO different from study associations is ‘the cause’ of making a sustainable change.

Dreaming of a better world is something which is sometimes considered as not pragmatic or unrealistic in current Western societies. This is in contrast with some indigenous communities that highly value dreams. For example, aboriginal wisdom says that dreams are not yours. It is the other way around; dreams are possible changes that want to be expressed through you. It is your task to say them out loud, because other people might have the same dream.

To give an example: when Lilo started her PHD in Wageningen University, the massive number of disposable cups shocked her. During the sustainability week, she talked about this with several people and found out that she was not alone in this. This was the start of a project group that aims to achieve a reduction of disposables: ReUse Revolution.

Famous lyrics of Imagine, by John Lennon

(2) Because you meet amazing people

When I started my Masters in Wageningen, I only had one friend who came with me from Belgium. However, when I began a project to mobilize students for the COP21, I found a lot of people that wanted to help me out. Some of them became my best friends. It thus makes the process of integrating in a new environment easier. This is especially the case for international students. Next to this, you build your network in the field of sustainability. This might be highly valuable for your future career.

(3) Because you learn to fall (and get up again)

Building a network is not the only thing beneficial for your future professional life. All people that I interviewed, both student employees and volunteers, mentioned that their confidence skyrocketed along their Green Office journey.

To quote Josep, project and volunteer coordinator at GOU: “I am still nervous for some things, but I am not afraid. I learned that I am more important than I thought I was, and that other people are less busy and more willing to help than I thought they were. And this counts for all human beings!”

Josep also told me that this confidence building also benefits other aspects of his life. For example, if he has a crush on someone, he is no longer afraid to express this!

Josep’s closing words of the interview gave the perfect answer on why you should change your university:

We have to shed light on this: ‘Hey, these Green Office people, look! They learn so much, they get good friends, they get a good career!’

So what are you waiting for?

Want to know more?

More about the Green Offices Model

A conversation about the power of students

Impact of working in the GO on the personal life of a student

 

 

 

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