Sustainable awareness

Utrecht University (UU) consists of some 32,000 students and 7,000 employees. They play a crucial role in making the university more sustainable. Not only are they the ones who realise changes within the organisation; they also take this experience with them to other environments. In this way, the sustainable impact of employees and students has a much greater potential reach. Enough reason for the UU to further strengthen the level of knowledge and leadership among its staff and students. The step that precedes this is to increase awareness on sustainability.


Sustainable consciousness is measured in two ways:

  • The social media section of the Green Office gives an indication of the interest of employees and students in the sustainable development of the university. The UU believes it is important that the awareness of students and staff in the field of sustainability grows during the period that they are connected to the university through work or study. Awareness of a particular subject is not easily measurable. However, there are measurable things that can be an indicator of sustainability awareness, such as the number of followers on social media.
  • The number of student volunteers of the Green Office gives an indication of the involvement of students in the sustainable development of the university. The aim is to increase the involvement of the volunteers so that they want to be associated with the Green Office for a longer period of time. In addition, the Green Office wants to increase the diversity of study programmes of students who volunteer: the various faculties should all be reflected in the Green Office volunteer database. The Green Office actively recruits new volunteers, especially during the introduction time and the start of the academic year, with both online and physical promotion.

From 2020, new indicators will be added to the sustainability monitor, such as the number of visitors to events around the theme of sustainability, the amount of items saved from the waste heap through the Green Office Thrift Shop and the number of Travel Green Grants awarded.

KPIs for measuring sustainable awareness among students and staff

10.1 Social media reach Green Office UU

At the end of 2019, the number of followers of the Green Office start-up account was 1,534 (32% growth compared to the end of 2018) and the number of Green Office facebook page likes was 3,899 (17% growth compared to the end of 2018). The Green Office is committed to organic growth of its reach by providing content with integrity through its social media channels. In addition to offering content on its own channels, the Green Office started in the autumn of 2019 with so-called monthly Insta story takeovers of the UU Instagram channel. The three stories in 2019 each reached more than 4,000 followers.

10.2 Number of volunteers

In 2019, 85 volunteers were active at the Green Office.

Because the Green Office deliberately works with a varying number of volunteers per year, based on the content of projects, this indicator does not say much about the course of student involvement in the long term. Therefore, this indicator will probably be replaced by other indicators in the next edition, such as numbers of event visitors

Activities 2019  

  • The Green Office entered a partnership with the Digital University Journal (DUB). At the end of 2019, DUB published the first Green Office article on the theme of sustainable travel. The article was opened more than 3,700 times in total. This collaboration will continue in 2020.
  • The local media also paid attention to Green Office projects. Radio M and RTV Utrecht visited the Future Food Lab and published De Utrechtse Internet Courant (DUIC), and RTV Utrecht about the Tiny Forest.
  • The Green Office investigated the extent to which students attach importance to sustainability. The majority of the respondents considered sustainability to be very important. International students scored significantly higher in this respect than Dutch students. Female respondents also generally considered sustainability more important than male respondents. More than half of the respondents were already familiar with the work of the Green Office.
  • In September, the Future Food Lab opened in the Educatorium restaurant. The Future Food Lab is a collaboration between caterer Sodexo, Future Food Utrecht and the Green Office. Within the Future Food Lab, students, researchers, staff and the caterer explore the future of sustainable food.
  • In November, the Green Office planted a Tiny Forest in the Utrecht Science Park in cooperation with the Utrecht Biologists Association. This is the first tiny forest in the Netherlands that is managed by a university. A total of 600 trees increases the ecological value of the campus and offers opportunities for research.
  • Two successful (follow-up) editions of the Green Office Thrift Shop took place, where thousands of items of departing students were given a second life in the rooms of new students. Many employees also made use of this second-hand shop in the USP.
  • The Green Office worked on extra visibility by organizing pop-ups at various Studium General lectures.
  • In the summer of 2019 University College Roosevelt also opened its own Green Office: the Eleanor Green Office. Like its sister department in Utrecht, the Eleanor Green Office focuses on organizing activities and projects to involve the community in the sustainable development of the university.
  • The first edition of Our Big Fat Green Trip started in 2019. With this campaign, the Green Office stimulates study associations to make more sustainable travel plans.
  • In 2019, theme sessions on sustainability took place in the Green Office for the second year. These were organised by the Real Estate & Campus Management team (V&C), aiming to inspire employees to make more sustainably based choices in their professional working life. In total, some 650 employees attended the sessions.
  • Since 2018, the sustainability programme has been creating sustainable content for TV screens in buildings. The aim of this content is to increase sustainable awareness among staff and students. The content highlights sustainability developments, facts and figures and presents sustainability stories from within the organisation. In 2019, the concept was further developed and the content was updated every two months. This resulted in more buildings and faculties running the content on their own screen casting. As a result, the total reach has increased fivefold since 2018.

Outlook 2020 

In 2020, various departments of Utrecht University will once again organise events with the aim of increasing the sustainability awareness of students and staff. For example:

  • A virtual biodiversity week: in May, the university organises a virtual biodiversity week. Students and staff are included in the importance of biodiversity, both locally and internationally, and in the university’s biodiversity plans. During the week, UU staff are also encouraged to work on biodiversity themselves, for example on their own garden or balcony. In addition, virtual walks through the Botanical Garden are available.
  • The Future Food Lab will be continued. As of June 2020 a new caterer has been contracted with whom the university will further develop the Future Food Lab. It continues its aim of combining science, education and food supply to inform restaurant visitors about sustainable food choices.
  • The sustainable monitor, which creatively informs employees in the physical space about sustainability at the university, is being further developed. The number of locations is being expanded. The aim is to have sustainable content running in ten university buildings by 2020.
  • Students will be able to claim the Travel Green Grant in 2020: the UU provides a Travel Green Grant for approximately 150 exchange students per semester. The condition is that the students forgo the plane and instead choose a less environmentally damaging option, such as the bus or train.