Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

Carlo Buise, Sustainability Advisor at Radboud University in Nijmegen

Nijmegen, European Green Capital Award winner 2018, NeatherlandsUniversity students and staff account for approximately 50% of Nijmegen’s population. With such a huge number of students living in the city, what they do has a profound impact on the city’s environment. How does Nijmegen ensure that its student population is living sustainably? Meet Carlo Buise, a Sustainability Advisor at Radboud University in Nijmegen.

Carlo has been living in Nijmegen for over 40 years, and has been working with the University for 25 years. He comes from an environmental science background and advises the university on how it can make more sustainable decisions, which will in turn influence and change the behaviour of students and staff alike.

Carlo and his team aim to achieve their sustainability objectives by 2020 through the implementation of five key themes:  Sustainable behaviour; Sustainable work and study environment; Sustainability in education and research; Sustainable relationships with partners and stakeholders; and Embedding sustainability within the organisation.

So, what changes have they made so far? As half of Nijmegen is made up of students, Carlos recognises the important role he has; “I think it is very important that we teach students how they can be more sustainable, not just so they know what to do, but also so that they will actually be motivated to do it.”

One example of these efforts to stimulate change is encouraging people to car share on their way to and from the University if they require a vehicle. With the use of a local carpooling app, TwoGo, students can find a quick and cheap solution to making their way across the city. The app allows people to find their perfect carpooling match and incorporates real-time information on traffic in order to provide the best route.

Carlo also believes in the power of outdoor activity in promoting good health. One of the ways the University encourages people to spend time outdoors is with the creation of a walking route through the campus. The route incorporates a number of sustainability activities and features within the Radboud campus, including rainwater harvesting, beehives, and the sustainable Grotius building. As Carlo explains, providing an environment that invites people to get moving rather than sitting indoors is one of the most effective ways of promoting good health.

As part of his plan to implement sustainable behaviour throughout the campus, Carlo also encourages both the students and the employees at the University to make vegan and vegetarian food choices when eating out on and off campus; “We know that vegetarian and vegan food is much better for our carbon footprint, yet so many people are still eating meat. We have to take steps to try and change this behaviour. Sustainability is all about creating change.”

This approach is also used in the RadboudMC Psychiatric Unit. The building was recently redesigned based on the principles of a healing environment, using evidenced-based design features to promote good health. These include natural light for bright and airy rooms and also using natural materials and colours throughout the building. The healing environment continues right outside to the patio and garden. Carlo explains, “We want to stimulate movement. We don’t want people sitting down all day. We want to invite people to take a walk on their breaks from work and in turn, stimulate good health. I think it’s very important for a city to be able to invite people to take a walk or jog in a green environment.”

Radboud University 12Another main focus for Carlo is Radboud’s push to increase uptake the use of more renewable energy sources throughout the University. The University Medical Centre, Radboudumc, has installed 1,200 solar panels on its buildings with 450 of these panels installed in 2018, during the city’s European Green Capital year. So far tests carried out by the University have shown the installed solar panels to be 43% efficient in producing energy, whereas some regular panels are only 20% efficient. These solar panels provide 300,000 kWh of electricity a year, which is equivalent to the energy consumption generated from 85 households!

Another way they are pushing for greater sustainability is through holding relevant international conferences, such as CleanMed, which is the leading global conference on sustainable healthcare. Since their Green Capital win, Carlo has noticed an increase in the interest and attendance of such conferences. “I think the year as the European Green Capital has already benefited Nijmegen’s change in direction towards greater sustainability. The Green Capital award has stimulated all kinds of projects and a wider interest on all things sustainability.”

As Nijmegen is famous for its fantastic cycling network, Carlo also highlighted the importance of cycling as a mode of transport around the University and into the city. He emphasised the positive effects cycling has on a student’s brain (or anyone for that matter), particularly during stressful times, like during examinations; “Cycling gives you a different kind of energy compared to when you’re sitting down all day getting tired. Cycling a bike is a quick and powerful way to stimulate your creative thinking which is particularly important for anyone studying.”

Above all, Radboud encourages dialogue between students and the University in order to work together to achieve a more sustainable campus. He recognises the huge role the University students’ behaviour has in Nijmegen and he sees it as his duty to lead by example for them; “We want to be an example for them – to all of the citizens who attend Radboud University and its hospital and to all of the citizens of Nijmegen.”