AUC Revolutionises Its Sustainability Strategy: “I Am Tired of Frozen Fingers when Biking to the AB”

By Levin Stamm


Collage by Thea Bladt Hansen

As the harrowing winter weather keeps the Netherlands firmly in its grip, AUC employees have had enough of near-zero temperatures and icy winds. AUC’s Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) Marieke Harmelingh, speaking on behalf of AUC staff, states, “I’m tired of frozen fingers in the mornings when biking to the AB.”

Harmelingh, who has made substantial contributions to reducing the total amount of AUC’s used resources in the past, has decided to revolutionise the university’s sustainability strategy. “I’m only 30 now and still have 41 years of work left in the Netherlands. The idea of having to keep living in this climate gives me nightmares,” she says.

CSO Harmelingh’s ambitious goal: to get global warming up by at least five degrees Celsius in the next 20 years. She is focused on maximising the institution’s CO2 emissions, believing that it is not the individuals’ efforts that make a difference, but the grand collective of AUC.

Illustration by Sabine Besson

Harmelingh hopes that other people and institutions in the global north will follow AUC’s example. “I can already picture us all taking a swim and tanning in the sun during the January intensive.”

As a first step, Harmelingh has suggested an amendment to AUC’s academic standards and procedures: From now on, every course now must include a field trip outside of Europe, of which the duration is decided upon by the responsible lecturer. Making use of an emergency clause, the amendment was approved by the Board of Studies last Friday.

AUC has made a sponsorship agreement with KLM to finance the increase in travel costs. The first field trips have already been planned. Students taking Discrete Mathematics and Algebra will be writing their final exam in the popular Dominican holiday destination of Punta Cana.

Lecturer Renske Huis admits that she had “no clue” where to take her students for the course. “So I thought we might as well have a good time in the Caribbean while I grade their exams,” she says. Second-year Science major Mart Bom fully supports Huis’s chosen location: “Failing a course at the beaches of a Caribbean island will hopefully cheer me up a bit. I heard they have great cocktails.”

Recent data shows that AUC’s use of resources would require an equivalent of three worlds to be sustainable. “However, we are confident that we can bump this value up to ten worlds,” Harmelingh says. With her visionary strategy, she hopes that AUC will surpass Stanford University as the world’s most CO2-emitting university within the next five years.

AUC’s first Christmas barbecue celebration in Flevopark is scheduled to take place in 2040.

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