This column was written by prof.dr. Gail Whiteman and Ingrid de Vries for the official launch of Plado on June 10, 2010. Miss Whiteman is professor of sustainability, management and climate change at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Miss De Vries als works at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, where she's developing new educational programs on sustainable transitions.
The Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is one of the most traditional universities of social studies in the Netherlands. Situated in the working city of Rotterdam with its important harbour, our University has always strongly focused on economics and trade. It might therefore have created some astonishment that EUR saw rise to a greening the campus initiative started up by its academia. Whereas greening the campus initiatives were already widespread in North America and the UK, in the rest of Europe including the Netherlands they were not.
The success might have been due to the fact that this initiative came from the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM); sustainability is nowadays often just seen as good business practice. As two professors at the RSM, Gail with a background in marketing and Ingrid in accounting, we started this initiative in 2006. We realised that if we didn't green our own working and teaching environment, the credibility of what we were telling in the classroom and our research papers was undermined. Don’t just tell others what to do, but also walk our own talk. Greening the campus also enhances the attention given to sustainable development in research and education and vice versa. This RSM initiative spread to the EUR and gained support by the Board.
In greening our campus, as well as in teaching on sustainability, we are currently building up our collaboration with TU Delft. The challenges we are facing today need to be resolved by bringing together multi-disciplinary knowledge. TU Delft can use our expertise on finance, marketing and management and we can use their technical knowledge. It is, however, not always easy to have entities with different languages and cultures collaborating; right now this is also an issue for the student sustainability clubs of both universities, GreenEUR and Osiris, to address together. Still, both parties are of good will and persistent, acknowledging the mutual advantages of collaboration.
Greening the campus works as an excellent teaching case. The global challenges, that often seem so hard to solve, are brought nearby making the students realise they can actually make a difference. The effect is that suddenly students become very active. Most success is obtained when there is room for real implementation. Usually, facility management’s culture is one of control, not focused on change or taking risks. Over the past years we’ve worked intensively with facility management, building up trust and credibility by offering our expertise, and this is now paying back. Facility management sees the advantages of students bringing in creative ideas and a bit of extra capacity, which is always welcome. Learning through experience is still the best way to have the students remember what they’ve learned and have them taking this experience on to their professional lives!
Ingrid de Vries (firstname.lastname@example.org) has recently been appointed at Drift (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions) to develop new educational programs on sustainable transitions.
Gail Whiteman (email@example.com) has recently been appointed as full professor, Ecorys chair in Sustainability and Climate Change.
Are you inspired by prof.dr. Gail Whiteman and and Ingrid de Vries? Then click here to go to the Plado theme page on the 'sustainable campus'