Explore 23 Green Offices case studies
A Green Office is a sustainability hub that informs, connects and supports students and staff to act on sustainability. Unlike volunteer-led initiatives, the university supports it through funding, a mandate and office space.
The first one was established at Maastricht University in 2010. Since then, the model has been replicated by universities across Europe and won the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development.
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In 2010, the first ever Green Office was established at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Since the higher education sector is very international, the operating language of most teams is English. In addition, Green Offices often enjoy high budgets allocated to them from the comparatively wealthy universities that host them.
Above all, the high level of responsibility given to students is an important characteristic: Several teams are entirely student-led with support from staff. Dutch Green Offices can become members of Studenten voor Morgen (SvM), the umbrella organisation of Dutch student sustainability initiatives.
While the model was invented in the Netherlands, the movement was born at the first European Green Office Summit in Berlin in 2014. German Green Offices share many commonalities with their Dutch counterparts.
However, Green Offices in Germany are often slightly smaller and less well resourced. Many offices engage in sustainability reporting and are part of the nation-wide sustainability network netzwerk n.
After the model became a success in the Netherlands, students and staff in Belgium got inspired to start Green Offices. Initially, the model was established at Flemish universities, but now also includes the Walloon universities.
Green Offices are integrated into existing sustainability governance structures, rather than operating as independent units. Teams also have less stringent internal structures, often dividing up projects as they come.
The United Kingdom was the second country to host Green Offices. Many universities in the UK already have sustainability departments or positions within the university. Therefore, the Green Office Model is mainly used as a way to set-up student-led sustainability hubs. Those work alongside staff-led sustainability teams.
Since UK universities have active Student Unions, two out of three Green Offices were part of their Student Union. Two have initially been funded through the Students’ Green Fund of the National Union of Students.
Belarus hosts the first Green Office in Eastern Europe, at the Belarusian State Pedagogical University (BSPU). It was originally inspired by Green Office Hildesheim in Germany. While the financial and organisational constraints made it challenging to set up and run the Green Office, it is now well established within the institution.
Being hosted by a pedagogical university, the Green Office not only works with university students and staff, but also with school pupils. A particular focus is to implement education for sustainable development.
Initially, an active group of volunteers adapted the model to the Italian context and translated rootAbility’s open-source materials. Then, Turin University established the first Green Office.
Turin kick-started the movement and spread the model in Southern Europe. Now, Italy has become a breeding ground for many initiatives.
Sweden was one of the first countries to show interest in the model. However, it took a while for the first initiative to be successful. The set-up of the first Swedish Green Office in Gothenburg is similar to those in Belgium: Students work alongside other members of the sustainability team.
Still, the structure in Gothenburg is quite unique. The students are regular team members of the sustainability team and at the same time members of the student group Gothenburg Students for Sustainability.