19 March 2020

Vegetarian Catering and Less Air Travel at the Department of Psychology


Climate impact takes priority over cost in a new sustainability policy at Department of Psychology. The policy focuses on both the department’s carbon footprint and that made by visiting guests.

"At Copenhagen Business School some departments have a sustainability policies—why don't we?" This was the offset for a group of researchers at the Department of Psychology. Inspired by their colleagues at CBS they started working on a policy of their own. The process was simple and engaging, offering two workshops and a presentation at a staff meeting. In March of this year, the department adopted the new policy in its final form.

"We only had two meetings, one for brainstorming, in September, and one for making a decision on a draft in November," Matthias Gondan explains. After a gentle push from his colleague Ingo Zettler last summer, Matthias has driven the process. From his point of view, it has been essential that the process was short, so it did not steal a lot time from the contributors. When asked what worked well, he says: "I think it was important that we did not have a lot of ineffective meetings that did not lead to any specific decisions. It has been an open process, in which, in principle, everyone's voice has been heard. At the end of the day, climate change deniers will not participate anyway. Of course it has also been important that we have  had support from the Head of The Department and The Deanery."

The Institute of Psychology has adopted a new sustainability policy

The process has worked well. "When I presented the policy at our staff meeting, the feedback from my colleagues was very positive. I think most of us felt it was time. And I think I gained the support of many with Claudia Manzo’s wonderful picture of flooded Venice (link)." Matthias Gondan says.

Less Flying and Demands for Catering

It is an ambitious policy, which affects all employees at the department. One part of the policy concerns catering. From now on vegetarian food is the default at the Department of Psychology. It is also encouraged to opt for organic and local foods as well as minimising the use of single-use bottles and cutlery.

The policy also influences the employees’ travel habits. According to the policy, employees have to consider other options than flying, if the destination can be reached by train within eight hours. Researchers are further encouraged not to participate in more than two international conferences per year. When flying is necessary the carbon footprint should be prioritised over the price of the journey. This could, for instance, mean avoiding unnecessary transfers.

The policy does not only affect researchers at the department, but also guests invited to discuss and asses theses and to the department’s colloquium. Good videoconferencing facilities will be prioritised to enable virtual participation in future events—both for guests and researchers at the department.

The Department of Psychology prioritises initiatives that can lead to a significant reduction in their carbon dioxide emissions. "Air Travel accounts for a significant amount of the carbon footprint of the non-laboratory departments. Reducing carbon emissions from air travel is necessary, if we want a more sustainable university," Tomas Refslund Poulsen, project leader with Green Campus says.

In addition to initiatives at the Department, the policy also encourages UCPH to consider sustainability more broadly. It aims to influence UCPH policies on purchasing, air travel, and waste management.

The entire sustainability policy of the Department of Psychology is available here (internal link).

Green Campus 2020

You can find UCPH's Green Campus 2020 strategy here.

New goals and initiatives for a sustainable UCPH will be decided during 2020.