As the chair of the Erasmus Sustainability Hub, Ege had a position at the Sustainability Liaison Network, a newly founded network for faculty representatives to discuss sustainability issues and solutions. Ege was the only student among the twenty faculty representatives.
A little push from the students
In one of these meetings, a faculty member questioned the involvement of students in sustainability initiatives and belittled their actions on the grounds that that they ‘graduate every 3 years’. “I felt like they needed a push from the students, from the Erasmian Community”, Ege confesses.
“There are so many different efforts on sustainability coming from different student associations, but they are all disconnected. The impact we made was very little. That is why we created this petition as a group of associations.”
Since its publication until the writing of this article, the petition has received over five hundred signatures. Considering that the campaign had minimal promotion due to the war in Ukraine, Ege sees these numbers as a ‘good sign’.
Erasmus University’s Executive Board has yet to issue an official response to the authors of the petition. However, three of the fifteen action points have already been partially implemented.
A reusable cup pilot programme initially destined for only one restaurant, will be expanded to cover all restaurants and catering services that sell hot beverages on campus. EUR’s press office detailed that the pilot programme will start the upcoming academic year and will run for a period of three months.
Another action point that is at least being explored, is about Ecosia, a non-for-profit search engine that uses its advertising revenue for reforestation actions across the globe. As a result of the petition, EUR has now started to ‘explore the possibility’ of making Ecosia the default search engine on all university computers. An official date has not been set for its implementation.
Four new water bottle filling systems have also been installed on the Woudestein campus. However, Ege considers this to be insufficient. “Four is not enough for a university with thousands of students and staff. They are all outside as well, considering the Dutch weather and if it snows, I wouldn’t go out to fill my water bottle. What we are forced to do, and what I see in the bathrooms every day, is people filling their water bottles in the bathroom taps. This isn’t sanitary. That’s why we need more water filling spots that are inside the buildings, just like the ones in Polak.”
Carbon neutral campus by 2027
When asked about the reasoning behind action point number five, which aims for a carbon neutral campus for 2027, Ege alludes to the European Geosciences Union’s research on the ‘point of no return’ set for 2035. “We wanted to give Erasmus University five years. It is super ambitious and maybe it’s not feasible. But at least we wanted to see what kind of plan they could come up with. Right now, there’s no plan, so that’s worse. That’s why I believe in being a pain in the ass sometimes. To speed things up and express the urgency. I hope we achieved this with the petition.”
But sustainability is not only about environmentalism. Inspired by the answers ESH received through their feedback form, socially sustainable actions were also included in the petition. “Social sustainability, like equality and accessibility, are part of sustainability. You cannot have a sustainable planet without having sustainable systems”, Ege explains.
Looking to the future
“These demands show us what the future will look like, what type of communities we’ll live in. So, if we want our university to be a pioneer, we must incentivise these changes. By supporting this petition, we will contribute to making Erasmus University one of the first institutions to adopt sustainability actions”, Ege concludes.