by Nick Johnston
Soon in Leuven Editor
Founded in 2016, it has been 3 years since the Green Office was founded here in Leuven. Still young and growing, the Green Office will be hosting its first ‘Sustainability Week’ from the 5th to the 10th of May. For each day an event will be hosted, many in cooperation with other organizations, aiming to highlight sustainability in ‘all its dimensions’. The week will include activities of different varieties. Beyond Leuven, the Green Office also organizes with KU Leuven Association campuses in Kortrijk and Brussels. The first event of its kind, there’s a lot to learn, see, and do.
While connected to the Green Office Movement, Leuven’s is autonomous and guided in its activities and ambitions by the students that work and volunteer within the office. Preceded by a Green Office in Ghent, Leuven is a part of a growing scene of such institutions in Belgium, now including Antwerp, Brussels, and soon Hasselt. The first ever was not far, originating in Maastricht in 2010. Since then, the phenomenon has spread across the globe. Following the model, as it exists elsewhere, the Green Office features a physical presence in a permanent office space; with online outreach, permanent staff, and part-time student employees. The mission, above all, is to co-organize events about sustainability, co-design courses, promote sustainable practices and policies at the university, and advise and engage interested students.
Driven by student input, our Green Office is growing steadily in participation, engagement, and ambition. As of 2017 there were around 15 consistently active students. Today, however, there are about 50 volunteers, with so many applications that some had to be turned down. 10 more are now active on the KUL Association’s campus in Brussels. They are quite autonomous - they decide their own agenda, logo, and manage their own website.
These students have been a decisive force in determining the aims of the Green Office. They were responsible for a campaign to collect and recycle people’s mobile phones. Quite successfully, they managed to get well over 1,000. They have also lobbied to increase the number of taps and the number of refillable water bottles among students, and create a workshop available for students to repair their possessions for free. Among other initiatives, they have co-sponsored or organized such events as the ‘Fair Fashion Fair’ to promote sustainable fashion. Speaking with Ann-Sofie Van Enis, the coordinator, we learned that the KU Leuven Green Office is especially motivated to think about sustainability socially, economically, and practically rather than in purely environmental terms. Hence, Sustainability Week seeks to promote this all round understanding of sustainability.
With events in Leuven, Brussels, and Kortrijk, Sustainability Week is an ambitious move from the young Green Office, yet very promising. Originally expecting perhaps 10 organizations to respond to their open call for collaboration, they received 26. Since the events and organizations cannot be listed here, we can nevertheless emphasize the variety. Whatever students’ interest in sustainability there are plenty of avenues to engage, from cooking workshops, to debates, documentaries, kickboxing lessons, food stands, and lessons on home repair. Organized thematically, each day hosts a few events, so take a look online to learn more and find the event for you. As the coordinator Ann-Sofie Van Enis said, it’s an opportunity for those who “really want to do something” rather than “just hear about it and be informed.”
Information about the program for the week can be found here: https://www.kuleuven.be/duurzaamheid/sustainability-week-eng