On a chilly February morning Floor van den Elzen and I boarded a train to the city of Groningen. Having seen nothing of the Netherlands higher in latitude than Amsterdam, I was very excited to journey to this ‘far’ northern city. Upon arrival we were greeted by the yellow brick streets and cute canals of this student city, not to mention the friendly smiles of Leander, Robin, and Yanike of Green Office Groningen.
The first question I asked was how Leander and Robin got involved with the Green Office. This was only Robins third week, and she modestly stated that she merely applied to the vacancy and was accepted. However she gave us an insight into her motivations… “Why would I apply to this vacancy? I believe that interdisciplinarity in sustainability is the answer, and that the GO is a place where this is made possible. There are university staff, students, and people from various disciplines all working together here, it is very inspiring” – Robin. Robin is working to help improve awareness of the great projects the university and GO are doing.
Leander has worked at the GO for a longer period of time. Initially he was involved with the University Council, which is where he heard about the GO. He then worked at the GO for a short period of time, but left for an internship at Rotterdam. However as I have noticed already, it is next to impossible to fully leave the GO world, and Leander soon found himself back in Groningen, working at the GO again. “If you want to work with different aspects of the university and sustainability then the GO is the place to be.” – Leander
Walking into the GO, Floor and I were surprised to find that it is located within a university staff building. Initially this gives the impression of formality and business. However after speaking with Leander and Robin we learned that although they are professional, it is actually also very casual here, and has a free and inspirational atmosphere. “This GO has an organic structure, it is not hierarchical, we are all equals. It is like this in the whole building, so they know we are students but they take us very seriously. We can all communicate like equals.” – Leander Although this GO is not readily accessible to students they are better incorporated into the university structure as a whole, and not seen as a separate entity.
Leander is a student in business administration and has also discovered, as other GO employees have, that there are Ps beyond profit. He wants to spread this way of thinking to other faculties – that sustainability is not just for ‘green people’. Robin is just finishing her bachelors in international relations and philosophy, and is currently writing her thesis. She is researching Coetzee, author of the book “Disgrace”, and his definition of forgiveness, in comparison to author Jacques Derrida.
And in their spare time? It seems that the Green Office has yet again fully infiltrated the lives of its employees, even way up here in Groningen. In their spare time Robin and Leander attend courses offered by their GO lecture series, and they hangout as a GO…outside the GO too. Everywhere GO! After the interview GO Groningen was kind enough to lead us on a tour through their city, and for a lovely lunch and further discussion.