University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Sustainable student project includes plants powering Christmas lights

Sustainability — Project run by students to get university closer to sustainable development goals.

Thinking of doing your bit for sustainability? And if there was a hub where you can start your own sustainable project, would you give it a try?

For many University of Copenhagen (UCPH) students like Martina Viti, who studies nature management, sustainability is not just a scientific term. Martina is currently involved in a project called Sustainable City in the Studenterhuset café as a project manager. She is trying to help students in Copenhagen devote an effort to sustainability.

“Younger generations feel a lot about sustainable issues and they just need to be pushed and offered a place to develop their ideas. We have 20 volunteers so far in Sustainable City, and they are as young as me. We all want to leave an impact as students. Everyone is passionate and willing to do something for sustainability,” says Martina.

“We are trying to touch on different aspects of living sustainably. Sustainability does not necessarily have to link to great scientific achievements. I used to be reminded that sustainability is a concept that needs to be interdisciplinary. It needs to be global. Now it feels amazing to know how easy it is to take actions on aspects of daily life as well.”

“Students can come up with brilliant ideas and I can see that sustainability is such a deeply-felt subject that they don’t want to ignore it.”

There are five ongoing sub-projects in Sustainable City. Three of them focus on actions in university canteens to reduce food waste, thereby achieving a reduction of meat consumption and replacing plastic/paper single-use cups with several-use biodegradable ones. In addition to these, Fair Fashion targets the issues and waste of the clothing industry by encouraging people to recycle old clothes. The Plantricity team is demonstrating the potential for plant-produced electricity.


“My initial plan was to add more greens to urban concrete and to help the city adapt to more livable future. But since we also have electricity problems nowadays, I googled plants and electricity together and I was surprised to find out that plants can actually produce electricity.”

“Plants produce sugar as growth material through photosynthesis. However, it turns out that 70 per cent of sugar is excreted via the roots to the soil. Bacteria around the roots break down the organic materials and release electrons during the degradation. If we collect the electrons by using a certain method, we are able to power the lights.”

“When we think of plants, we feel happy. Plants not only generate oxygen but also to help build a good biosystem. Now I am more than excited to demonstrate its new role by setting up two plants during Christmas time. I cannot wait to see the plants powering the Christmas lights by themselves in Studenterhuset. This technology does not harm the plants and we do indeed produce the green energy basis for it. I find it super cool because this is exactly what sustainability looks like. We are using something that is already there without leaving any by-products.”

Valdemar Stenberdt from Plantricity. Bachelor’s student in psychology.

Meatless Monday

“The concept of Meatless Monday is to bring one day a week to UCPH where students are encouraged to either eat less meat or go completely meat-free. We are not trying to push vegetarianism or veganism on anyone. Instead, we hope to raise students’ awareness of sustainability issues by reducing meat consumption in canteens to show how small changes can have a big impact.”

“If we had coined it Sustainable Monday, it would have sounded a bit scary since sustainability is such a large concept. I’ve been made more aware of sustainability and what it is about. More and more we hear news like ‘Trump wants to pull out of the Paris Agreement,’ ‘Scientists say we only have 12 years to make drastic changes’ and ‘The polar ice caps are melting’ and its scary. Sustainability does not have to be about changing the world on your own. It is about taking small steps in your daily life and switching your mindset; and that is the basis of Meatless Monday. We hope that Meatless Monday will be a part of the sustainable culture at UCPH.”

“Living in Copenhagen has really opened my eyes. This international city offers an environment which helps you achieve your own idea of sustainability. Every little bit helps, even if you just want to take small steps. Being in this culture has really inspired me.”

Bianca Lomeli from Meatless Monday, master’s student in information science and cultural communication

Fair Fashion

“The three of us are interested in fashion. And the fact that the clothing industry is actually the second biggest polluter in the world came as a shock to us. Teenagers pursue a ‘fast’ fashion and are more into cheap clothes. They go through their entire clothing every single season. At the end of the season, they just throw away the clothes and buy completely new ones. They really lack an awareness about clothing production which is often the cause of a huge waste of energy, labour and resources. We wonder how many people around the world are actually doing the same unsustainable thing. It is not fair to our environment and to the people who cannot afford the clothes.”

“We decided to have a one-day event with the main purpose of encouraging people to recycle their old clothes, especially raising the awareness about the sustainability issues associated with the fashion industry. We offer a second-hand market and swap-shop to raise funds, which will be donated to Fashion Revolution, a global campaign that also strives for making a positive change in a more sustainable way.”

“As a student, we have some useful tips to share. Try to fix your old clothes and donate them or exchange with your friends. Keep your clothes on as long as possible and try to reduce consumption. Find clothing banks nearby and go there often. Spend more money on better quality clothes and wear them longer.”

Antonie Wagner from Fair Fashion, master’s student in pharmaceutical sciences
Polly Protheroe from Fair Fashion, bachelor’s student in history
Amelia Parsonage from Fair Fashion, bachelor’s student in psychology

“Inspired by [the app for fighting food waste, ed.] Too Good to Go, we are mainly focusing on the canteen where a buffet is served. Certain food will be removed based on three-hour limits. We hope by implementing discounts on these kinds of food, we are able to reduce food waste. We know that as a student, we are happy with the low price and willing to take care of the leftovers. But it is not always that easy to implement a discount. We talked to the canteen manager at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS). They have been actually implementing the same idea. We were told that sometimes students are not satisfied with the same food at different prices.”

“Of course, there will be some obstacles during the process. We get motivated by the other teams at Sustainable City. When you see everyone working together towards sustainability, you get more passionate about it.”

“If you have an idea, don’t afraid to bring it to the table. People are always just walking around instead of speaking their mind. Just doing a little tiny thing and is better than nothing. It still has impacts on sustainability. A piece of advice is to share your idea with your friends. Many suggest reducing the use of plastic bags. But sometimes it is more acceptable to hear it from your friends. Get inspiration from your friends and I think it can truly contribute to sustainability.”

Nele Paulsen from Sustainable Uni, bachelor’s student in geography and geoinformatics
Lovisa Hörnell from Sustainable Uni, Bachelor’s student in political science

Green Cup Solution

“Our project has been going on since last spring. At the beginning, we planned to find a replacement for coffee cups, which create tons of waste. Also, normal cups have wax or plastic lining which is not good for the environment. We started our project by trying to find the right cups for coffee. At the same time, we noticed that there is a huge consumption of disposable beer glasses. We mailed to lots of companies and it took lots of time for us to get a reply. There is a company from the UK which uses rice husk to produce cups. Those cups are really good quality. They look green and are perfect for coffee. Now, we are trying is to implement our cup solution in the university canteens. We want to encourage students to use the right cups which should be reusable and decomposable. Because it needs to be sustainable.”

“I have learnt a lot from the different workshops held by Sustainable City. We learnt how to develop and polish our ideas, how to collaborate with different stakeholders, and more importantly, how to nudge people into a sustainable direction. This is exactly what we want to achieve with our project. It does not need to be something extraordinary. It could be something you do every day and that you are not even conscious about.”

“For students who have an interest in sustainability, there are guidelines available which can help make your life more sustainable. Do not hesitate to give it a try.”

Michal Pawlicki from Green Cup Solution, bachelor’s student in web development