On a long table in front of the entrance to Mandeville were cups of smoothies with fruit garnish. An opening ribbon of small branches hung in front of the new Hub. Once the audience gathered around the entrance, Rotterdam’s Alderman for Sustainability and Energy Transition Arno Bonte had the honour of cutting the ‘branch ribbon’. Everyone clapped, and the new sustainability centre was officially in business.

The new Hub will host the Erasmus Food Lab and the Erasmus Involved initiatives such as Post Plastic Generation, Edible EUR and EURWardrobe. “But everyone is welcome,” emphasises Louise van Koppen, chairperson of Erasmus Involved. “You don’t even have to become a member of the organisations. What is important is that you want to commit to sustainability.” Students can engage in research, sustainable food projects and awareness campaigns on sustainability themes.

In the middle of campus

Pinar Coskun, Project Manager of the Erasmus Food Lab, was probably one of the happiest people present. She was the one who knocked on the door of the then-rector Huib Pols three years ago, convincing him that the university really couldn’t do without sustainability projects. “And now we’re literally in the middle of the campus,” she says enthusiastically.

Max Dörr of Post Plastic Generation shares that enthusiasm. “The location will make us more visible to everyone,” he says. “That way I hope we can reach many more people, and bring about positive change.”

What Dörr means by ‘positive change’ is a plastic-free campus, among other things. “For example, I see that the Food Plaza still uses plastic packaging and cutlery, or that Spar sells coffee in disposable cups. I hope that together we can find better alternatives in the future.”

Collaboration with the university

Van Koppen really likes the fact that the student initiatives will work alongside external partners, such as the municipality, the business community and social organisations. “But it would be even better if we could build up structural cooperation with the university itself,” she continues. “You see lots of good sustainability initiatives on campus here, but they come mainly from students.”

Dörr adds: “The university always exhorts us to be green, but there’s no specific explanation as to how.”

Yet the two are also aware that they bear partial responsibility for contributing to change. “That’s why we plan to meet with the university board two or three times a year,” says Van Koppen. “If we students come up with a concrete plan, the university really should listen to us.”