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Working on solutions for a more sustainable university

Sem02 (2021-2022) Designing Innovations for Sustainability*

The course Designing Innovations for Sustainability intends to give you the chance to come into contact with the (practical) themes of sustainability by searching for innovative solutions.

Besides gaining a sound understanding of sustainability challenges, you will develop crucial professional competences and work together in diverse teams. You will design practical and innovative solutions for sustainability that can be implemented within the university (i.e. VU, UvA, AUC).

The main challenge addressed in this interdisciplinary course is: How to make the university more sustainable?

To answer this main question each group of students will work within a specific sustainability domain related to the university. These domains are:

  • Energy
  • Water
  • Food
  • Waste
  • Mobility

Course details

  • Practical information

    Academic year



    Monday and Tuesday


    Number of meetings

    Dates all meetings

    • 8, 10, 15, 17, 22, 24 February 2022
    • 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 24 March 2022

    Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam


    • Tuesdays (8, 15, 22 February & 1, 8, 15 March): HG-02A16
    • Thursdays (10, 17, 24 February & 3, 10, 17, 24 March): HG-10A41



    • Dr. P.J.H. van Beukering (FALW, dep. Environmental Economics;; lecturer & course coordinator)
    • Erik Verhoef (Spatial Economics, SBE)
    • Julia Blasch (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
    • Harry Aiking (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
    • Ivar Maas (Lead Sustainable VU)
    • Lotte van Oosterhout (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
    • Roos Haasnoot (Institute for Environmental Studies, FALW)
  • Learning objectives

    The ultimate goal of this course is for you to learn to collaborate with experts, stakeholders and peers towards a more sustainable university and develop skills on how to apply the gained knowledge in a practical and professional setting.

  • Working formats & structure

    The course starts with a general introduction on sustainability and transitions. In this first week, you will be asked to choose one of the themes mentioned above (i.e. energy, water, waste, food) and teams will be assembled. The subjects addressed in short guest lectures will specifically address these different domains. Once the main sustainability challenge of the university in one of these domains has been defined and analyzed you will start a comprehensive process of designing possible solutions. 

    The student will receive guidance from a practical coach who is an expert in one of the themes and a theoretical coach who is a researcher within a discipline focused on sustainability. The coaches, lecturers and fellow students will provide feedback on the possible solutions you come up with. You will work towards a final presentation in which you will present an elaborate advice to the universities (i.e. VU, UvA and AUC). These presentations are targeted to relevant people within and outside the VU who are in a position to implement the solutions you provide. By actively designing real solutions for sustainability at the campus, you will learn more about the complex and interdisciplinary nature of sustainability while grasping professional skills such as co- creation, design thinking, communication and team work.

  • Assessment methods

    • Project presentation and report (100%)
    • Online Canvas Quizzes (Pass/Fail)
  • Study materials

    Downloadable journal articles, reports and papers.