Erasmus University’s Eurekaweek can hold its own with induction weeks held elsewhere in the Netherlands, as far as sustainability is concerned. Sustainability is a more prominent part of the programme than ever before. Emma Clemens, an EUR student and a UN Youth Delegate for sustainable development, was very happy to hear about the greening of the induction period. “I hope they tell the freshers that small changes can have a huge impact.”

Quite the statement

Emma Clemens over duurzaamheid tijdens de Eurekaweek-van-der-most_emma_clemens_1
Emma Clemens Image credit: Sanne van der Most

UN Youth Delegate and EUR student Emma Clemens feels that induction weeks that do not focus on sustainability in any way are unacceptable in 2018. “For this reason, it is brilliant that the Eurekaweek Organising Committee had the courage to put sustainability out there and present it as an important subject,” Clemens said, looking at the dozens of booths that made up the information market. “Granted, it costs a lot more money, and it took some doing to get the university to agree to it, but they are making quite the statement.”

Vegetarian by default

Maaike de Keulenaar, the President of the Eurekaweek Organising Committee, said that the organisers really wished to raise students’ awareness of sustainability this year. “We are not organising a Sustainability Week, but we do reach a lot of students, so we did want to show that we care about sustainability.”

For instance, on the event’s opening night, first year students danced on a sustainable dance floor that generates electricity. There is also a daily ‘sustainability meter’, which shows the savings made by the measures implemented. In addition, the breakfasts and lunches served at this year’s event are vegetarian and group leaders are given vegetarian meal kits they can cook for the freshers under their guidance. All these meals and drinks are consumed from sustainable cups, plates and cutlery. “We don’t expect all students to become vegetarians overnight, but we do hope they will find themselves thinking: hey, I could do this,” said De Keulenaar.

Marlies Meindertsma, too, thinks the introduction period is a great opportunity for universities to commit to bringing about a better climate. “When you get so many new students together and then present them with sustainable practices, you have a great impact right from the bat.” Meindertsma is a judge in the ‘Most Sustainable Introduction Week’ competition, whose winner has been presented with an award by Studenten voor Morgen (Students for Tomorrow) every year since 2012. In her capacity as a judge, Meindertsma has appraised thirteen introduction weeks this year, among which the Rotterdam Eurekaweek.

She is happy with the steps taken in this year’s event, particularly the payment system involving bracelets (which means that there is no longer a need for drink tokens). She has also noticed that vegetarian meals have become the norm.

Duurzaamheid en Eurekaweek
Image credit: Sanne van der Most

More flyers than you will see anywhere else

She was, however, a little shocked at the number of flyers handed out to first-year students. “That is still a bit of an issue. Such a pity. Forty flyers in the bags freshers are given – that is unheard of in most induction weeks these days. And these flyers aren’t printed on sustainable paper, either, but rather on new and glossy paper.”

Organising Committee President Maaike de Keulenaar acknowledged this issue, but said she thought it was something that would have to be taken up in future editions of the event. “We would have liked to use an app, but we have taken such major steps forward this year that we think this is something we can pass on to the committee that will organise next year’s event.”

Tell the story of sustainable change

For her part, Emma Clemens, too, has noticed that there are plenty of things that can be changed to make the Eurekaweek more sustainable, but she thinks it is too easy to point out everything that is not being done. “It’s very easy to shoot down the progress made, for instance, by bringing up the large number of flyers.” In her opinion, it is better to focus on the things that have been done, such as the fact that the buns no longer come with lunch meats. “Although I suspect half of the students didn’t even notice that,” said Clemens.

She knows from her own experience – she took a sustainability minor – that you must take care not to shove the subject of sustainability down students’ throats. “The Eurekaweek organisers should tell the students what kinds of hoops they had to jump through to bring them a more sustainable introduction week. They should turn it into a cool story and show them they can really make a change if they wish. Now that would be a message on sustainable behaviour.”

The Most Sustainable Introduction Period

Maaike de Keulenaar

The winner of the Most Sustainable Introduction Week competition will be announced on 26 September. “Rotterdam is in the running,” is all judge Marlies Meindertsma wished to say about Erasmus University’s chances of winning the award. The winner will receive €750, which is a small sum for an induction event attended by over four thousand students. “The money can be used to fill the kitty, because sustainable solutions tend to be far from cheap,” Meindertsma explained. Maaike de Keulenaar: “It would be nice if we won, but to us, it is mostly about the principle of the thing.”