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Checklist — If you want to lower your climate footprint, you can adjust three parameters, according to a climate analyst. The University Post has spoken to a handful of Copenhagen student residence halls about sustainability and their green initiatives. Be inspired!
»Residence halls are one of the most sustainable types of accommodation there is.«
This is according to Tobias Johan Sørensen, a senior analyst at think tank Concito, where his focus is on green procurement, circular economy, waste and climate planning.
Dorms/residence halls do well because many people are gathered under one roof, he says:
»This uses less energy to keep a building functioning, both in terms of electricity and heating, as in this way there are many people living together. You are living in a small space, so residents often consume less, and they own fewer things. This is all positive for the carbon footprint.«
But the residents’ behaviour also matter in terms of sustainability:
»When you act for the climate together, you help influence each other in a sensible direction,« says the analyst.
He points to three factors that reduce the climate footprint in your daily life, and which can inspire anyone, regardless of whether you live in a shared house or an apartment.
The University Post has gone to a few dorms. We have spoken to residents’ representatives from five residence halls to find out what their sustainable behaviour is.
The dorms differ in size, number of residents, eating habits, and in several other ways. So read on and be inspired, or see if you can sit back because you already live up to all the recommendations.
Laura Degnegaard Knudsen is chairperson of the Regensen students. She has lived in the dorm since October 2020 and is studying for a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at UCPH.
Number of residents: 101 in 15 kitchens
Kitchens: Max. eight people are associated with each kitchen. Some kitchens have three to four people.
»Most kitchens have a food club every Sunday, and the dorm has several associations that also eat together once a week, so there is a common dinner at least twice a week. There are no specific rules on whether the food served at a food club should be vegetarian or anything like that. This is something that the Regensen inhabitants decide themselves in the kitchens. It is my experience, however, that most people eat vegetarian, because it means that everyone can be a part of it, and it is cheap.«
»We have a swap cellar where you can leave clothes if you get tired of them. And then it’s up for grabs. It is used a lot. You often see people walking around Regensen in clothes that you owned two weeks earlier.«
You often see people walking around Regensen in clothes that you owned two weeks earlier
Students’ chairperson Laura Degnegaard Knudsen
»Furniture is reused, so Regensen-inhabitants take over from each other. And when people go study abroad, we lend out furniture to each other. It makes a lot of sense, because even though there is not much space for furniture, it’s great to take over a shelf that fits perfectly with the room’s measurements.«
»We also use our Facebook groups to make people aware of the fact that we have put a dresser or a shelf out in the hallway. This is also where you will find things you need for a costume party or a holiday. It could be anything from a fishing rod, an HDMI cable, a tennis racket to a hairdresser’s scissors.«
»It is actually sustainable that we recycle things and don’t just buy new stuff that we need. But it’s also s convenient because we get easy access to things. So it’s easy for us to turn this into a fad for Regensen inhabitants to avoid the consumer mentality and at the same time make a cheap, or free, find once in a while.«
»some different roles at the Regensen, which we call offices. Those who have our yard as their area of responsibility have applied for funding from various foundations that support biodiversity projects. That’s great!«
»The Regensen is 400 years old in 2023, so the buildings go back a few years. For this reason, there are some optimizations that just cannot be done as the building is protected. But I know there’s talk of switching the radiators in our ceremonial hall. They make noises all winter and could do with an upgrade.«
»There has been a proposal to turn off the dryers in our laundry room during the summer, so you are forced to dry your laundry in the yard. This would result in huge energy savings. And it has been proposed that we pay to use the washing machines, so people are more inclined to fill them up completely. Today it’s free, and I think this means a lot in terms of how often you start a wash cycle.«
Laust Lund Lillebæk is part of the dorm’s inspection, and is responsible for the daily operation. He has lived at the dorm for 13 months and is studying for a master’s in buildings design at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) with a focus on sustainability.
G.A. Hagemann’s Kollegium
Number of residents: 61
Kitchen: Industrial-style kitchen with two chefs who cook three main meals for the residents Monday through Friday.
»We have communal dining morning, midday, and evening. And from a climate perspective, we have decided to have one meat day and one fish day a week. The remaining three weekdays are vegetarian. In the weekend, residents cook their own food, which is usually vegetarian. We have a lot of focus on reducing food waste, so we keep leftovers after mealtimes, so you can eat it as a snack, or if you want to take it with you. And we have lists you write on if you expect to get guests, or if you do not plan on being home for meals, so we can adjust the portions accordingly. We do this both to be more sustainable in terms of the climate, but also to cut costs.«
»We have a lot of focus on recycling and the circulation of furniture. As a rule, people just write in our Facebook group if they have something they don’t use. And so there is a lot of furniture that now belongs to the residence hall because it has been inherited from various residents.«
»a system in which all residents have to earn ten points every six months. This is done by doing ten hours of work on maintenance tasks at the dorm, like painting, repairing things or maintaining stuff. The points cannot be exchanged, as it is just a way of ensuring that everyone contributes.«
»Two-thirds of our residents study engineering, so we have a lot of tech geeks who think in green solutions and how we can optimize. That is why we apply to foundations when we need to make changes to the building. In this way, we have got the windows changed, renovated, and had both the attic and the roof insulated, as well as the basement floor changed. We had automatic doors installed for fire protection, but also to save on energy. We have also switched to LED bulbs in communal areas, and in the rest of the dorm we have a committee that has to make sure lights are turned off.«
»We can still optimize the building to lower our energy consumption. A few years ago, we invested in a large dishwasher system without thinking of energy consumption. When it’s time to change it, it makes sense to switch it to something more climate-friendly.«
Ingrid Freja Sloth Tønnesen is resident representative and has lived in the dorm since February 2022. She has just graduated as a marketing economist at CPH Business.
»We have food clubs Monday through Thursday, where we use the website spismed.nu, which has been developed by one of our former residents. Here you state whether you are joining dinner and what your eating habits are. The person who is responsible for it then takes their cue from this. It is therefore different what people eat in the different kitchens, and we are not consistent in eating vegetarian or vegan. There should be space for people to live the way they like – also to eat meat. Otherwise, it would negatively affect the community with so many food clubs all weekdays. We take particular dietary needs into consideration by serving food to the person that matches their preference.«
4. Maj Kollegiet
Number of residents: 73 people
»We have four large parties every year where we eat vegetarian, because it is both cheaper, easier, and more inclusive when we can all eat together. After each food club, we put the surplus food in a communal fridge so people can eat the leftovers. It works well, and we minimise food waste in this way.«
»We have a swap shelf that is not very big for fire-safety reasons. It is relatively new, but works quite well, and it has set off a good circulation of books, clothes and other paraphernalia. But people are also good at putting their furniture and big stuff out into the corridor, then posting on our Facebook group and informing people that you can either take it for free, or buy it cheaply. And people act fast.«
There should be space for people to live the way they like – also to eat meat.
Residents’ representative Ingrid Freja Sloth Tønnesen
»I’m responsible for cleaning the washing cellar, and when I started, there were five big bags of forgotten clothes. We have a system down there that works like this: Forgotten clothes are put in one box after 14 days, where it is left for a month. After this it is put in a new box for 14 days, so after approximately six weeks it ends up in bags where people can take it for free. Then it is passed on to recycling. In the past, clothes were not looked at. But I have introduced that everything is put out in the communal hall, so everyone can take a final look at the clothes before it is sent off to recycling. It works so well that I think some people have started to put the clothes they have grown tired of into the boxes.«
»had the dorm’s heating system regulated so that the building uses the least possible heating. Everyone is encouraged to turn off the lights, be considerate in their use of water and heating, and to keep doors and windows closed during the winter, so that unnecessary energy is not being used. Our building is protected, so it has not been possible for us to optimize energy use by replacing the old windows with double glazing or insulating the parapets.«
»We have a gigantic garden where a committee has been responsible for planting potatoes, carrots, and other vegetables. This is a good supplement to the food clubs.«
»We could be better at introducing initiatives that are more climate-friendly. Definitely. It makes a lot of sense, especially when you’re a lot of young people together.«
Noah Reinert Sturis is chair of Sofiegården and has lived in the dorm since 2019. He is studying human-centred artificial intelligence at DTU.
Number of residents: 210 Adults and 30 children
»Sofiegården is different than most of the residence halls, as we do not have a communal dining culture. But when we hold residents’ meetings, parties or other joint events, we serve vegetarian and vegan food.«
»We have had a recycling room for many years. It is something that the residents are very happy with, but it is also a struggle to ensure that it does not turn into a garbage room where people just dump their trash. In general, however, it is used as intended, and we are all benefiting from this. I have found a lot of clothes there myself. In general, we are good at sharing with each other and lending furniture out if, for example, you go to study abroad. When people vacate, most of them hold a kind of auction where they give away their belongings or sell it cheaply.«
Residents are currently putting towels in the window openings, because the heat otherwise seeps out.
Chairperson Noah Reinert Sturis
»Biggest focus right now is on an ongoing renovation case. It has great potential in reducing our climate footprint. The actual housing stock is constructed well, but it is a bit shoddy at the edges because no improvements have been made to the buildings for many years. So we need to make the building more energy-efficient by insulating and renovating the façade in sustainable materials. And we need to change the windows and doors. Residents are currently putting towels in the window openings, because the heat otherwise seeps out.«
Lasse Ørsted Christensen is chair of the the college council, is studying economics at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), and has lived at the dorm since November 2022.
»The different kitchens of the Tietgenkollegiet can organise themselves however they want, both in terms of the number of days they eat together, and the menu. In my kitchen we eat together twice a week, and we only eat vegetarian. The majority takes the minority into consideration. We do it because it is climate-friendly and inexpensive. In my experience the Tietgen residents are generally very aware of climate issues.«
THE TIETGEN KOLLEGIET
Number of residents: 390. 330 of them live in single rooms, 60 live in doubles.
»We have a combined large-scale rubbish room and a swap room, which is called Alibaba. Residents put their discarded things there, which can include everything from paintings, clothes, books to furniture. And then we have a Facebook group called Tietgen Trade, where we swap things internally, and this is used diligently.«
»Facilities for fixing things. We have a bike workshop with equipment to fix punctures, and tools to adjust gears and fix pedals. And we have a sewing workshop where you can patch up your clothes and a carpentry workshop to work in wood. The furniture from the swap room is sometimes repaired and upgraded so it is not thrown out.«
»Tietgen has been built with the intention of creating a sustainable residence hall with durable solutions, so we can not, for example, drill into the walls. We hang our pictures on rails instead. In this way, we take care of the building so that it can last for a long time.«
»And all the rooms are equipped with LED bulbs, the showers have reduced water use, and there are sensors on the bathroom faucets to reduce water consumption.«
»Our residents are in general very much aware of how to support a sustainable operation of the student residence hall. When there are changes to the interior of the dorm, we have a brainstorm on how we, or others, can reuse the old materials.«
»We do a lot of partying, and here we should be thinking more sustainably. Some kitchens have already limited plastic consumption by not using straws at parties and writing names on cups, so that you do not use more than necessary. But we could still do better.«