For the sake of consistency, UCLouvain incorporates social and environmental criteria in its consumption choices. Its leitmotifs: consume less, consume better, throw away better. To move towards more sustainability, the University is gradually breaking free from non-eco-responsible sectors, subscribing to the principles of the circular economy, developing responsible digital behaviour, and moving towards zero waste. These are all steps that require a deep awareness-raising across the entire University community in order to create a new social standard for consumption.
Repair and reuse
Helping citizens and students find repair solutions for their electrical and electronic equipment is Sharepair’s goal. This ambitious project is supported by the European Union, the Walloon Region, and several towns – including Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve – hosting pilot projects. Its budget: nearly eight million euros. The aim of this transnational arrangement is to develop a digital support infrastructure for all those involved in the repair economy and to encourage others to join the process. Sharepair offers:
- a map of local repair services;
- an application to help users make their own repairs;
- an open-source database of 3D-printable spare parts;
- a catalogue of best practices generated through the creation of wikis.
UCLouvain is joining the project with the city of Ottignies-Louvain-la-Neuve, notably involving the Louvain School of Engineering (EPL), which is competent in the field of electronic eco-design and reparability. The University’s Openhub shares know-how and equipment via Makilab, the digital manufacturing laboratory where anyone can seek the advice of volunteer technical experts.
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Solidarity computer workshop
In the Sustainable Development House (MDD) Maison du développement durable, the solidarity computer workshop shares with RepairStudio the goal of rehabilitating objects so they don’t become landfill, instead using them to fill the digital divide. The organisation collects used IT devices (computers, tablets, smartphones, etc.) and with the help of Cyréo, a social enterprise, repackages them so that people in need can benefit from them free of charge. The initiative is notably supported by the Help Service so that each student can benefit from functional computer equipment. In the case of an unrecoverable device, useful parts are naturally kept for use by the RepairStudio.
A reduced digital footprint
UCLouvain is dedicated to prolonging device lifetimes. Given that our digital footprint stems mainly from production-related emissions, extending the life of computers, printers, smartphones, etc., makes sense.
In the case of a computer: after its five-year warranty, it often leaves its initial service. This sets in motion the second-life policy, placing the device in a classroom, with a researcher whose budgets are tighter. It could also be given to the Help Service to support more vulnerable students. After this second use, the computer can still do a third job. The University frequently donates devices to schools or to various associations working locally or in the cooperation sector. On average, a computer operates for eight years at UCLouvain before moving to other users.
More sustainable office automation
Given the size of UCLouvain’s central administration, decisions taken by the Purchasing Department have a significant influence. From 2009 to 2019, paper use fell 40%, from twenty million sheets per year to sixteen million. While digital technology played a part, in particular via the switch to virtual invoices, choices were also made concerning the weight of the paper stock and the certification of origin from more sustainably managed forests. Simple gestures build up, such as two-sided and black-and-white as the default mode for printers. UCLouvain now only has seventy individual printers left, moving instead to networked models. The result: fewer ink cartridges used.
Increase use of certified products
Office automation requires supplies; most can be bought from certified sources. These are always recommended, and 45% of items purchased in 2019 were certified. That number is constantly increasing, and our aim is to use 100% certified products. Around one hundred out of seventeen thousand products have also been completely phased out, such as single-use plastic items.
More circular student housing
Each year, students furnish their accommodations in September, then empty them in June or August, sometimes leaving still usable objects on the sidewalk. To make the most of these valuable resources, Kot Oasis in 2013 launched the “Give it forward” initiative with the support of the students support service. Now called « Troc de kot », , the concept remains the same. The system has two phases. At the end of June and at the start of the academic year material is collected from students as well as from housing service, staff, and locals. This “booty” is then made available on the first two days of the academic year. Each year around a hundred student come to the event, held in the heart of Salmigondis, to peruse the collection of fridges, mixers, chairs, beds, and kitchen utensils of all kinds. A blow struck in the fight against waste and overconsumption that also encourages solidarity.
The zero-waste movement is gradually sweeping UCLouvain. A particular concern for university restaurants or even Louvain House, it is also an objective for students. It was students who led the successful call for digital dissertations, which became the default university-wide format in 2012. Staff workshops on zero waste were launched in 2017 at the Modern Language Institute (ILV). The goal: to breathe sustainability into the workplace. Shared libraries, recycled equipment, reusable cups, selective sorting...The first workshops each attracted around twenty colleagues, they also travelled to other departments in Louvain-la-Neuve, Woluwe, and Mons. Around fifteen staff workshops are given each year.
2 500 000
This is the number of disposable cups used each year in student centres before 2007. At the initiative of Kot Planète Terre and with the help of motivated students and UCLouvain representatives, these single-use containers have been replaced by reusable and returnable cups.
Inclusion of environmental and social clauses
The Purchasing Department integrates social and environmental criteria into all public contracts as long as this does not reduce bidders to fewer than three and is permitted by regulations.
Selective bins system
Each year the University produces several thousand tons of waste, much of which could be recycled or even injected into the circular economy. UCLouvain aims, as a first step, to systematise the installation of selective bins in all of its buildings.
Collective compost initiative
A collective compost site was established in March 2018 near Place Croix du Sud in Louvain-la-Neuve. Bio-waste buckets were then made available to twenty partners; these supply eight compost bins, for a total of 26 m3. Compostable materials from greenhouses in Louvain-la-Neuve help maintain the carbon-nitrogen balance of the compost. This collaborative project initiated by the Association of Researchers of the Earth and Life Institute (ACELI) benefits from student and institutional logistical support. About forty users, academics and students alike, take part.