Universiteit Leiden

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Big steps forward in reducing the carbon footprint

E-mails are not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about sustainability. Yet, your e-mails can add kilos of extra CO2 to the atmosphere each year. Students from the LDE Bachelor Honours Programme Sustainability tackled these and other sustainability challenges on behalf of partner organisations. ‘Students learned that they can make an impact.’

The LDE Bachelor Honours Programme Sustainability is a collaboration between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology, and Erasmus University Rotterdam (LDE Alliance). ‘The different universities have complementary areas of expertise, which makes it very transdisciplinary,’ Professor Paul Behrens says. Both students and teachers have various backgrounds: from biology to business administration.

Sustainability Challenges

At first, students learned about sustainability from environmental,technological and social perspectives. With this knowledge, they later solved real-world challenges that the stakeholders introduced.

One group, for instance, delved into the emissions from e-mail, which can certainly run high in the workplace. An e-mail of 1 MB already emits 20 grams of CO2. Students researched how to reduce this. The solution? Don’t send unnecessary emails and don’t send files as an attachment: provide hyperlinks to the files instead. 

Every team made a poster illustrating their solutions. Tonight, the students present them. Aside from the teachers and students, the stakeholders are also present: representatives from the Haga Hospital, the Ministry of Justice and Security, and the AMS Institute. It’s going to be a celebratory final meeting.

Learning from different opinions

More houses need to be built, but what about their sustainability? Students who tackled this challenge came up with several solutions: top-up building and using timber constructions. Additionally, an independent taskforce should enforce the sustainability requirements. Third-year business administration student Rhode worked on this project and found ‘working with people with diverse backgrounds on one solution particularly valuable’.

‘Within my bachelor, basically everyone agrees with each other. In this programme however, you come across completely different opinions, which elevates the collaboration,’ second-year biology student Anne adds.  

Interviewing ministers

Another team studied the aviation behaviour of ministers of the Ministry of Justice and Security. They delved into literature, analysed data, and questioned ministers. ‘During the interviews we asked them why they fly so much,’ third-year psychology student Neda elaborates.

Tonight, she and her teammates present their solutions. Firstly, a leader board should praise ministers for travelling sustainably. The ‘reiswijzer’ should indicate whether it’s possible to use alternative transportation methods. Lastly, clear rules should prevent miscommunication. In four minutes they present this using a graphically clear presentation. Afterwards, they discuss their results with a satisfied stakeholder.

Making an impact

‘Students learned that they can have an impact,’ Dr. Behrens mentions at the end of the night. That shows: student Rhode would like to use her experience in her home country. ‘There is less emphasis on climate back in Indonesia. Lots of families have two cars, and public transport is barely used,’ Rhode noticed. She hopes to make a difference with the knowledge of this honours programme.

Later this month, students will present their final report to the challenge’s stakeholders. They will think twice about the communication with the stakeholders – knowing that even emails contribute to their ecological footprint. Fortunately, they also know now how to reduce it.

Text: Lin Kokshoorn
Photos: Buro JP

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