Share your experiences on sustainability in NSCN blog!

There are many readers interested in case examples and peer experiences on sustainability in higher education! We invite You to contribute to the NSCN Blog!

Who is able to contribute and what?

You are able to contribute if you have something to do with Nordic universities’ sustainability. Every contribution is welcomed – students, staff members, professors, researchers or even stakeholders influencing universities’ sustainability. If you are uncertain about your eligibility, NSCN coordinator is happy to answer your questions!

Write a short story on your university’s present activities, best practices, courses, innovations, events or suggestions related to sustainable development. If you have a picture or a video concerning the activity, please attach it, too!

How and when to proceed?

If you feel you have  experiences or activities you want to share, write your story shortly and send it to NSCN coordinator by 30.9.2016. The core group of NSCN will then choose the most appropriate texts, which will be published in the NSCN webpages in the following months.

Welcome to the interactive NSCN Blog!

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Nordic Sustainable Universities Conference 2016

Nordic Sustainable Universities Conference “From campus planning to learning outcomes” was held in 27.-28.10.2016 at the University of the Faroe Islands.

  • The report from the conference HERE!
  • Detaled plans on the renovation of Linberg’s hus by Evan Alexander HERE!


Original conference call below:

Save the date for this year’s Nordic conference on sustainability in universities! The University of the Faroe Islands will host the conference. which will concentrate specifically around these two themes:

  1. Creating a new campus area
  2. Student engagement and learning outcomes

The University of the Faroe Islands is in the planning phase of a new big campus building, so the focus will be specifically in learning and sharing about Nordic experiences and exploring the connections between the built environment, teaching and learning outcomes.

Join us to share how to create a new campus that is socially and ecologically sustainable! How to influence students’ learning outcomes on sustainability? What opportunities can be found when universities collaborate with municipalities and companies?


Thursday 27 October 2016 (Venue: University Hall)

  • 08:30 Registration and coffee
  • 09:00 Welcome and introduction to the University of the Faroe Islands, by Sigurð í Jákupsstovu, Rector of the University of the Faroe Islands
  • 09:30 Introduction to the Sustainability Literacy Test (Sulitest), by Meeri Karvinen, Network Coordinator, Aalto University
  • 09.45 Part 1: Lessons from Nordic universities
  • 12.00 Lunch
  • 13.00 Part 2: Workshops
  • 15.30 Plenary: What is a sustainable campus?
  • 16.30 Optional city walk in Tórshavn
  • 19.00 Conference dinner


Friday 28 October 2017 (Venue: The Green Student-House, Tórshavn)

  • 09.00 Part 3: Introduction to the Green Student-House project by Lau Blaxekjær and Martin Mohr Olsen, University of the Faroe Islands
  • 09.30 Presentation and discussion of student projects by students
  • 11.00 New collaboration and future network of Green Student-Houses
  • 13.00 Lunch
  • 14.00 Sulitest project partners’ meeting (by invitation only)


We have booked some rooms from Hotel Torshavn . the hotel is located in downtown, walking distance from the bus terminal. To and from airport taxi costs 200 DKK and a bus 90 DKK (one way).

15 rooms have been reserved, from which 10 in double rooms (if  travelling with a partner) Accommodation period with conference special prizes is 26 – 30 October 2016.

Prices (with discount) are:

  • Small single rooms – 650 DKK/night
  • Medium rooms – single use 795 DKK/night and double use 945 DKK/night.
  • Medium rooms with view of the harbour – single use 945 DKK/night and double use 1095 DKK/night.

All rooms including breakfast and free WIFI.

To book one of these rooms with discount prices, send an email to Jóhanna Rasmussen with this reservation code: “314658 SULITE conference”


Link to registration here.

In the registration form, you’ll find also details on conference fee payment. The conference fee is 1.000,00 DKK, covering two full days, 2 x lunch and official conference dinner.

Further information:

  • Lau Blaxekjær, University of the Faroe Islands: laub(at)
  • Meeri Karvinen, Aalto University: meeri.karvinen(at)
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Student excursion to Banglandesh

Text: Students from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg

In less than two weeks, 15 students from the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg are traveling to the world’s eighth most populated country, Bangladesh. The trip aims to get a better understanding and knowledge of Bangladesh’s textile industry, which accounts for a large percentage of the country’s exports. The purpose is to cover issues regarding economic, social and environmental sustainability within the textile industry.

The student association Handel’s Students for Sustainability, HaSS, is arranging the trip, with support from HRHU, Handels Råd för Hållbar Utveckling. The students  travelling to Bangladesh have different backgrounds and are studying economics, business, law, logistics or environmental studies.

The group of students will arrive in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, the 8th of June. Just a few hours after landing, the first meeting will be conducted, the Embassy of Sweden in Dhaka being the host. During the following two weeks the students will visit Swedish companies’ factories and meet with production offices. A trip to the one of the most polluted areas in the world, Hazaribagh, is also on the agenda, where tanneries and families live together in a small area. In addition, meetings with several NGOs working with women’s rights and working conditions, as well as visit to a university are scheduled.

Gothenburg_BlogPost2016_BangadeshReady to go!

In order to get a holistic view and include all the academia at the School of Business, Economics and Law, the group of students have together been in contact with companies and organizations working within the textile industry. The preparations were launched early this spring, with the workshop Change Your Shoes, referring to the shoe industry in Bangladesh. Lectures and seminars regarding sustainable supply chains, as well as Bangladesh economy and politics, have been a part of the preparations. The last part was an introduction to Bengali culture, including a basic language course.

We are now packing our bags for the big adventure, which will be a trip that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Bangladesh is one of the most exposed countries in the world, suffering from poverty and climate change. Bangladesh is only a few meters above sea level and a continuing rising sea level would be disastrous for the country. We will visit the country in an interesting period; June is usually the beginning of the rainy season and this year Ramadan starts in beginning of June. We are all looking forward to gaining new knowledge to share with other students back in Sweden.



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Strengthening sustainability in Finnish Universities

Text: Saana Raatikainen, University of Tampere

The higher education institutions in Tampere have started a process that aims merging the universities into one university in the beginning of 2018. Promoting sustainability is an important value in these universities and cooperation in sustainability has already started. Nevertheless, sustainability work needs more weight and coverage. Therefore, Tampere University of Technology (TUT), Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and the University of Tampere (UTA) decided to organize a meeting for the Finnish Sustainable Development Forum in Higher Education. On 6th April about 30 participants from Finnish higher education institutions participated in the Forum that was organized in Kampusareena (TUT), the new university building built according to the BREEAM certificate.

Implementation of sustainable development in national level

The Forum started with the presentation by Annika Lindblom who is Secretary General in the Finnish National Commission of Sustainable Development. The Commission is responsible for coordinating the implementation of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Finland. Annika Lindblom presented the Agenda 2030 implementation process in Finland, which includes Finnish innovation called Society´s Commitment to Sustainable Development. It is a tool for the whole society – organizations, companies and individuals – to commit to promote sustainable development. Today from the universities of Tampere only TAMK has made commitment to efficiently use energy and resources and educate professionals who commit to promote sustainability.

Senior Officer Riina Vuorento from the Ministry of Education opened up the higher education steering mechanisms and the sustainability aspects they could include. The funding mechanism of the higher education in Finland will be renewed in 2017 and the new mechanism will include some indicators evaluating the societal impacts of universities. The indicators for sustainability and social responsibility were discussed in more detail in the workshop. Participants agreed that finding indicators that demonstrate societal impacts is not easy. Besides, knowing university´s energy consumption or waste amounts is not enough, but there is a need for goals and targets as well as comparing results with other universities. TAMK is testing an indicator that compares energy consumption per year against finished credits per year.

SD_Forum_2016Annika Lindblom, the Secretary General in the Finnish National Commission of Sustainable Development presentting the Agenda 2030 implementation process in Finland.

Case examples from Tampere and the Nordic countries

In the afternoon session, three cases from the universities of Tampere were presented. University Researcher Tapio Katko from the Tampere University of Technology told about capacity development in water and environment services. The research has long history in the university and in the cooperation with developing countries in Africa. Clean water and sanitation are necessities that have links to many of the seventeen sustainable development goals.

Lecturer Pirkko Pihlajamaa from TAMK presented a project that combined energy management of university buildings and education. In the special course, students looked for the most cost-effective solutions to save energy and use more renewables at the campus. During the course students learned energy management and the university got information to fulfill its obligations of the National Energy Saving Program.

Professor Anneli Milén from UTA raised up the challenges in global health and development as the world now moves from Millenium Goals to Sustainable Development Goals. Important questions concern for example health marketing and antimicrobial resistance. According to research, the good news is that countries with low economic status can still get improved social development and health.

NSCN coordinator Meeri Karvinen presented the key results from the Rio +20 project: In the Nordic HEIs, 1) sustainable development is integrated better in campus development than in teaching, 2) cooperation and student projects support promoting sustainability, 3) economic drivers from the ministry or from outside stakeholders would support universities to allocate resources to sustainability work. In Sweden legislation and management systems have resulted in systematic sustainability work in the universities.

SD_Forum_WorkshopSustainability in the Finnish higher education institutions was discussed in more detail in small groups.

All the presentations were discussed more deeply in the workshops in the afternoon. The workshops resulted in the following conclusions:

  1. Role of the Finnish Sustainable Development Forum in Higher Education needs to be strengthened which could be supported by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN).
  2. Universities need relevant sustainable development and social responsibility indicators and the University Properties of Finland can support universities in the work concerning the campus development and buildings.
  3. More effort is needed to raise up the research that promotes sustainability and especially SD Goals. A joint list of key words could help universities in the follow-up.
  4. A question was raised about the universities role in integrating the asylum seekers and immigrants into the society as well as in development cooperation.



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Minimising laboratory energy use and environmental impact in practise

NSCN_blog_greener_labs_2016Text: Tomas R. Poulsen, University of Copenhagen

Laboratories are extremely energy-consuming and responsible for most of the university’s climate and environmental footprint, specifically in institutions concentrating on laboratory-based research. 42 engaged lab coordinators, researchers, sustainability professionals and health and safety coordinators from the Nordic countries gathered to a workshop at the University of Copenhagen to discuss the key issues in managing labs. The workshop was arranged jointly by the Green Campus UCPH, S-lab and Nordic Sustainable Campus Network on March the 3rd 2016.

Going from -80 to -70 degrees

There is no documentation on why lab freezers should run at -80 °C. Maybe it was just because freezers are able go down to -80 °C that this setting turned in to a common practise? Nobody really knows. But what we know is that running the freezer at -70 °C instead of -80 degrees can save 20-30% of the electricity consumption – and reducing the need for cooling as well.

60 of the labs at University of Colorado, Boulder, are now running their Ultra Low Temperature freezers at -70 degrees without jeopardizing their precious stored samples. That was just one of the success stories for efficient cold storage presented by US green laboratory champion, Kathy Ramirez-Aguilar coordinating the universities green labs program.

Making energy efficient purchasing a win-win situation

At most universities researchers purchase ULT freezers with their own limited research budgets and with the faculty or another central body paying for the electricity. Thus, there is not much an incentive for researchers to select the energy-efficient one, if it is more expensive. However, in 2014 the University of Copenhagen has  managed to establish a win-win situation getting the most energy efficient models with 40-50 % listed retail prices via a central purchasing agreement. Energy consumption of the freezers is 30% below other models. “Savings of 15-25 million Danish kroner is expected over 4 years due to the purchasing agreement”, explained Line Colle and Caroline Wolf from the UCPH purchasing department. In addition, Peter James, the director of S-lab, presented some of the great resources available on safe, sustainable and successful laboratories available for everybody. Particularly the Laboratory Assessment Framework was emphasized as a good approach, which can involve also student engagement.NSCN_blog_greener_labs5_2016

The workshop also focused on ways to improve chemicals and waste management in laboratories with presentations from University of Colorado, Boulder and Gothenburg University.

University of Copenhagen has in collaboration with Egnaton another interesting conference on sustainable laboratories coming up May 31 – June 1. Find more info here.

The presentations from the workshop can be found here:

Read more about:

Green Campus, University of Copenhagen:


NSCN_blog_greener_labs2_2016                                  NSCN_blog_greener_labs3_2016                              NSCN_blog_greener_labs4_2016



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New benchmark report on Sustainability and Responsibility education

NSCN_blog_turku2016_reviewOnSust_studiesText: Katariina Heikkilä and Maria Höyssä, University of Turku, Finland

A new report on the status of Sustainability and Responsibility Study programs and modules has been published by Finland Futures Research Centre (eBooks series). The underlying benchmarking study was conducted in 2014 to support the development of Sustainability Studies in the University of Turku, but it has recently been edited and published so that also other sustainability educators can benefit from the overview that it provides to Finnish and Nordic sustainability education, supported by additional best practice examples from elsewhere in Europe.

The report finds that education in sustainability and responsibility is given in many formats. Different combinations of distance online learning and on campus studies are becoming more frequent. At the same time, cooperation and dialogue between students and teaching staff and even stakeholders outside the university are seen important. The multifaceted and open ended character of sustainability issues is emphasized to go beyond disciplinary boundaries and to make this concrete many modules include some interdisciplinary team work. Benchmarking process showed that students’ active role both in the planning phase and implementing courses may strengthen in the near future. Typical to Finnish minor study modules is that students choose their courses from a large variety of courses offered by different disciplines.

Whether to integrate sustainability and responsibility into curricula at all levels or to develop separate study programs is up to the university’s strategies and decisions. Information retrieval, however, shows that in any case timely informing and visibility of the offerings of teaching and research is of great importance and universities have adopted different solutions. Gothenburg University for instance adds a certain sustainability label to all courses that with varying degrees include the elements of sustainable development in their curriculum and so helps students to seek and find that type of courses.

From among these many issues and trends recognized in the report, the development efforts in Turku have focused especially on further developing the existing strength of the study module, the combining of multiple dimensions of sustainability. Rather than to expand Sustainability Studies in the University of Turku into a new Master’s Program, the decision was to develop it as a unique Minor that students from any faculty can take to deepen their understanding of sustainability from ecological, social, economic and cultural perspectives. The compulsory core course (10 cr.) has been further developed to train the students’ cross- and interdisciplinary communication, research and leadership competences—essential working life skills for all academic graduates.

Heikkilä, Katariina 2015. Sustainability Studies in Universities – Review on Study Modules of Sustainable Development and Responsible Business in Finnish and some European Universities. FFRC eBOOK 13/2015. Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku.



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Improving the recycling system at the University of Iceland

At The University of Iceland, recycling has since 2009 played an important role in greening the university. The University of Iceland has recently made some changes to its recycling system in order to conform with the City of Reykjavik. The changes mainly affect plastic and paper products. The following video shows how the recycling system works at the University of Iceland and the table shows the proportion of recycled waste.




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