7.4 Sustainable Operations

We strive to achieve sustainable operations. This includes reducing the footprint of students and employees as they work or study, as well as creating a green campus.

We like to see employees choose sustainable transportation. To this end, the Options Model has created additional opportunities for employees to finance the purchase of a bike (or e-bike). In addition, shared bikes and cars were present on the campus in 2021. Using an app, employees can arrange to use these means of transport free of charge for business appointments. Students may also use the bikes.

Tilburg University would like to reduce the use of cars for traveling to campus, in addition to reducing the climate impact of flying by students and employees. In our new strategy, we state our ambition to reduce the carbon footprint of traveling on official business to 0 by 2027. The regulations for traveling on official business were further tightened in 2021. We expect employees to travel with public transportation whenever possible. We do not reimburse expenses for flying distances of less than 500 kilometers (310.6 miles). The adjustment of the commuting policy will be implemented as of January 1, 2023. Due to the pandemic, temporary commuting arrangements (customized to the situation with COVID-19) combined with allowances for working from home were in place. In the coming years, the new policy aimed at sustainable commuting will be implemented.

In addition, various agreements have been made and initiatives taken around the use of plastic (particularly single-use). Examples include the sale of Join the Pipe water, the installation of water taps, and the use of mugs and cups by employees. There is still plenty of room for improvement. For example, in 2021 it was not possible to have all purchases (e.g., by secretary’s offices) processed through a central web shop. Purchasing products through the web shop provides a better guarantee of human rights, sustainable materials, and the limitation of transport movements. In the coming years, we will be working to enhance the sustainability of the products in the web shop and to encourage purchasing through the web shop.

In 2021, a new catering vision was implemented on campus by initiating collaboration with new partners. The choice of operators focused on the aspects of health and sustainability. In terms of sustainability, efforts include encouraging reductions in meat consumption, adopting a focus on reducing waste, and using sustainable means of transportation. Vegetarian food is the standard option for receptions and meetings. In addition, students and staff are encouraged to make healthy choices. There is a wide range of products with less salt, fat, and sugar. Finally, individuals with a distance from the job market will be employed more often.

We have a green campus with over 37,000 m2 of forest area and about 140,000 m2 of other vegetation (more than 40% of the total area). We would like to keep it that way. To this end, a plan for greening the campus was developed in 2021, in cooperation with urban ecologists from the municipality of Tilburg. It will include strengthening biodiversity (e.g., by providing more opportunities for insects, artificial nesting sites for bats and bird species, attention to restoration measures for red-list species, and the increase of medium height vegetation).

My goal is to make the campus a beautiful, green, and safe haven for many people.” Bram Groothuis (photograph on the right) is a contract-management employee for cleaning and grounds maintenance, and he has been working at Tilburg University for nearly 40 years.

Read the story of Bram

Tilburg University aspires to use no fossil fuels as a source of energy by 2027. All energy that is used for buildings and land is to be carbon-neutral by 2045. The sustainability ambitions of Tilburg University have been integrated into an accommodations policy in the form of visible and invisible solutions. For existing buildings, the economical use of space (fewer m² with more quality) will contribute significantly to the sustainability goals. The basic principle for completely new buildings will be to obtain BREAMM sustainability certification of Excellent or Outstanding, to meet the BENG (nearly energy-neutral buildings) standard, and to achieve a Fresh Schools ambition level of Class A. In addition, circular construction will play an increasingly important role in our projects, both new construction and renovation.

The Prisma building was demolished in 2021. In the process, 22% of the materials released were put to a new use (e.g., 1,600 m2 of ceiling components). Parts that could not be re-used were recycled. The majority (77%) of the materials were recycled, including nearly two million kilograms (4.4 million pounds) of metal and more than seven million kilograms (15.4 million pounds) of concrete. To make this possible, the project was carried out in two phases. The work during the first phase consisted primarily of dismantling, so that as much material as possible could be re-used. The heavy, load-bearing construction was not addressed until the second phase. We will be expanding this construction method in the coming years, and it will become a pillar of our new strategy for buildings and land.

Two examples of projects on campus from 2021 in which sustainability played a role were the renovation of the Library and the relocation into Meerkoldreef. When the flooring in the library was renovated, carpet was used with minor defects that would otherwise have been discarded. Existing furnishings were used whenever possible. The latter also applies to the new Meerkoldreef education building. Some of the furnishings could be re-used to make this location suitable for teaching. For example, classroom desks from other education buildings were made appropriate for this location.