The last few months have been ‘a rollercoaster’ for Julia and her team. Just two weeks ago, the International Business & Business Economics (IBEB) student and her team had no idea what the five-day event was going to be like. Would all activities have to be offered online, or was there a chance that some of them might be done in person?

One of the consequences of that ongoing uncertainty was the fact that the team, whose members are now spread all over the world, have never convened in person. “In September I wanted to schedule a get-together, but I thought: let’s wait for the coronavirus crisis to be really over and done with. But things only got worse. I’m kind of sorry now that I didn’t do it at the time,” admits Julia. “We’ve had to change tack at least four or five times. So we’d watch the news to see what kind of restrictions might be imposed, and then we’d start brainstorming.”

Now they have made their decision. The entire event will take place online, with a few interactive workshops and lectures. Originally, the organising committee also wanted to organise about a dozen in-person events in the port area, ‘but curfew put a stop to that’. So Julia and her team will drop off materials and goodie bags at the homes of the online attendees. “They are mainly for people who live in or around Rotterdam,” Julia explains. Among other things, the goodie bags will include a box of ingredients for a mystery box challenge, in which participants must prepare a nice meal using predetermined ingredients.

Do-It-Yourself

This year’s theme is DIY, i.e. doing it yourself. “Students are cooped up in their houses, so we’ve tried to reduce the conference to the level of individuals. What skills can they learn that will help them lead a more sustainable life at home?”

The events are highly varied. The first two days will be dedicated to ‘the new normal’ – what impact is the pandemic having on aspects of sustainability? A workshop will be taught on the impact of fast fashion. “People have suddenly realised that they don’t need all those clothes,” says Julia. Other subjects that will be discussed include human rights, gender and diversity, and there will also be someone who will demonstrate how to make your own candles in an ecologically sound manner.

Isn’t that a very broad interpretation of the concept of sustainability, though? “Our plans are based on the United Nations’ sustainable development goals,” says Julia. “They are not just about the environment, but also about equality, freedom and other fundamental rights.”

This is why the Sustainability Days Organising Committee has also invited a speaker who will discuss prostitution in Amsterdam. “It will be about emancipation, safe working conditions and decent terms of employment,” Julia explains.

Recycling chickpea juice

Needless to say, a large chunk of the programme will consist of more obviously sustainability-related themes, which are, however, equally creative – such as Falafval, a start-up that will turn left-over food into falafel, and Seamore, a company that makes pasta out of seaweed. And then there will be the Vegan Student Association Rotterdam, which will teach a workshop on how to reuse aquafaba, the juice you will find in a can of chickpeas.

The Sustainability Days will start on 1 March. Tickets for the online events are available to everyone and will cost €4.99 each. If you wish to attend the in-person activities, as well, you will be charged €7.99. Two hundred tickets for in-person events are available. You can find the programme and ticketing here.

Clemens-Visser

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