A Green Year at Aarhus University

2020 became the year when Aarhus University adopted its first-ever climate strategy. It was also the year when more climate friendly cars rolled onto campus, the temperature was set to 21°C and four oak trees got a new life. Here is an overview of some of the green initiatives that grew forth in 2020.

Climate strategy and 44 initiatives

When the Aarhus University Board in April 2020 approved the university’s first climate strategy, it became the beginning of a more focused effort to create a greener university.

The climate strategy includes an ambitious goal of reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emission by 35 per cent in 2025 compared to 2018. In order to succeed, AU has launched 44 different initiatives during 2020 that focus on operations.

For example, this year AU began a gradual phase-out of diesel and petrol cars on campus, and before 2025 climate friendly electric cars and low emission hybrid cars will replace them. In addition, AU has imposed a fixed temperature of 21°C in AU’s buildings during the cold months. There is also a focused effort to implement a good waste separation solution on the entire campus.

New initiatives for 2021 will be announced at the beginning of 2021.

Oak trees get a new life

In November, four oak trees were cut down in the University Park as part of the preparation for a new passage under Nørrebrogade which will connect the University Park and the University City. The trees will live on at the university in a different shape, and both staff and students have contributed with many good ideas for how to reuse the trees.

They will partly be used for tables and benches all over campus, and one of the trees is dedicated to AU Garden (AU’s biodiverse garden). In addition, slices from the lower part of the tree trunk will now be analysed and important events – historical as well as climate-related  – will be marked in the growth rings. The idea is to hang these tree trunk parts on campus.

Green Guide on its way to you

During a virtual meeting in AU’s Green Network — where staff and students interested in sustainability met — the first initiative for two green guides was launched; one for staff and one for students.

The guide includes ideas for how staff and students can make climate friendly choices on campus. The final guides will be released at the beginning of the new year. 

Green video relay: What is your colleague saying?

In 2020, it was for the first time possible to be inspired by your colleagues in a green video relay in which a number of employees took turns to share their experience with new green habits during Covid-19 and many months of working from home.

Less food waste, a reduced use of plastic, less printing, less driving, more virtual meetings and tidying up folders and drives on the computer are among the examples given; hopefully the new green habits will continue once Covid-19 loosens its grip.

Greenhouse gas emissions report shows a positive development

In mid-December, the university’s greenhouse gas emissions report for the previous year (2019) was released. This is the second time AU releases a greenhouse gas emissions report and the development is positive. Compared to 2018, there has been a 15 per cent reduction of the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Much of the drop in carbon emissions by the university is linked to electricity and heating purchases which were reduced significantly, in part due to increased production of wind energy in Denmark. There is also a reduction in direct emissions from AU because of more climate-friendly heat production with biogas and wood pellets rather than oil and gas.