The University's detailed report shows the University of Freiburg's greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, waste, water management. And more!
University buildings are all over Freiburg; they encapsulate the spirit of the city. One of the newest and most eye-catching one among these is the University Library (UB). According to a recent article on the University's public relations department's online magazine (on which this piece is based), "the 750 photovoltaic modules cover an area of 2,000 square meters – about the size of three tennis courts" on the roof top of this building. "In 2019, they produced more than 200,000-kilowatt hours of electricity, supplying roughly 10% of the electricity used by the University Library." These panels were installed in 2015 and are already benefitting the University.
Also, exactly one year ago, the environmental protection and a greener investment policy report of the University was published. The University has pledged its commitment to "ensure sustainable operations and to expand its efforts to protect the climate significantly". Of course, this commitment entails considering various aspects additionally mentioned in the report for the first time last year. These aspects are vehicles that belong to the University, business travel (though there is currently not enough data to estimate the emission these create), printing paper, uses of laboratory equipment and computer hardware solutions. As one can see, running a big institution like this requires multi-faceted thinking and even further commitment toward net zero-emission goals.
However, Dr. Matthias Schenk, Head of Administration, says that "nineteen years are not much time to reduce the University's carbon footprint to zero, but the University is committed to setting an example not only for research and academics, but also for a responsible institution by contributing to combating climate change through taking practical steps in its operations." Additionally, it should be not forgotten that as Dr. Jürgen Steck, Head of the Office of Safety, Environment, and Sustainability, points out, "the University of Freiburg does not own its campus buildings; it rents them from the State of Baden-Württemberg. It means that the University must follow the climate strategy of the State of Baden-Württemberg." Well, it is a good thing that BaWü and University's work toward net-zero emissions aligns. Activist groups, ever so rightfully, in my opinion, press for faster elimination of carbon emissions, considering that we are already experiencing the effects of climate change.
There is a strong student and academy involvement in the research and activism in Freiburg. Research, of course, provides the scientific foundation and shows the urgency of the action. You can follow the "Working Group Sustainable University" to learn more about the sustainable projects at the University of Freiburg. It is also possible to reach the recently published working paper on "Industrial Ecology Freiburg" (available in German). The Industrial Ecology paper provides a clear picture of the energy use situation at the University. If you are interested in reading the 2019/2020 Environmental report, which is published thanks to the support of the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources and several master's theses, you can go here.
The University of Freiburg made its zero-emissions vision clear. It tries to show it by conducting concrete research, taking action and keeping transparent about its processes. Though everyone admits that it is hard and urgent work, the University of Freiburg is on the right track and in a good place compared to many institutions, as we can deduce from the reports. Let's work to keep our University sustainable together!
Roeschmann, Dietrich. "Toward a Climate Neutral University", 22.06.2021, https://www.pr.uni-freiburg.de/pm-en/online-magazine/connect-and-create/toward-a-climate-neutral-university.
Steck, Jürgen.Dr., "Regular Environmental Reports, Green Investment", 29.06.2020, https://www.pr.uni-freiburg.de/pm-en/press-releases-2020/regular-environmental-reports-green-investment.