Technical University of Munich: Pioneering sustainability initiatives in Lower Bavaria

Bringing greenery to offices, setting up a recycling center or installing water fountains: Jonathan Bauer and Adrian Heider have a lot of ideas on ways to integrate ecological and social sustainability into campus life. For the past four years, the two students have led the Green Office at Campus Straubing – the first of its kind at any TUM location.

Perched atop a small cart are two white ceramic pots filled with a variety of living plants: from a peace lily to a coffee plant to a polka dot begonia. Jonathan Bauer (24) cautiously pushes the vehicle along a hushed corridor at TUM Campus Straubing (TUMCS). There’s always a risk that a minor slipup could send a pot crashing to the floor. Bauer’s fellow student Adrian Heider (24) lifts out a potted plant and presents it to Dr. Dominik Grimm.

After accepting the thanks of the professor of bioinformatics, they continue on their way, distributing dozens of plants to TUMCS staff. Their efforts are part of flora@labora – a project launched by Green Office (GO), an institution they founded themselves. The office greenery not only creates a pleasant atmosphere and a healthy indoor climate. It also promotes a relaxing work environment.

Sustainable transformation
The student-led Green Office is a hub for all initiatives related to sustainability and conservation. The shared objective of Bauer and Heider: raising awareness among staff and employees for these future issues and promoting the gradual transformation of TUM Straubing into a sustainable campus.

Over the past four years, Bauer and Heider have implemented many ideas that go far beyond the flora@labora office greenery project. For example, Green Office runs an on-campus recycling site, where TUMCS students can drop off their plastic waste.

Social media guides
Green Office was also a driving force behind the purchase of water fountains as a means of reducing the flood of plastic bottles. On the group’s social media channels, the two students post do-it-yourself (DIY) videos, for example showing how to make deodorant at home, wrap presents in newspaper or use beeswax food wraps in the fridge instead of plastic.

Since its inception more than 10 years ago at the University of Maastricht, the Green Office sustainability organization has grown into a global network.

Trailblazer among German universities
Unlike conventional student initiatives, Green Offices are provided with both funding and office space by the university. This was also the case in the spring of 2018 when Jonathan Bauer and Adrian Heider teamed up to establish the TUMCS Green Office with the support of the campus administration. “It was one of the first Green Offices at a German university,” they recall.

Jonathan Bauer is studying Renewable Resources in Straubing – for now, at least. He is finishing up his masters thesis and will soon leave the campus and the Green Office. Discussing his impending departure from Straubing, he sounds wistful. “We started small on this campus a few years ago, with just a handful of students,” says Bauer.

Shaping sustainability – and living it
At present, around 800 young men and women are studying and conducting research in Straubing – and the numbers are growing. But Bauer (24), who hails from Würzburg, adds that it was especially his work with the Green Office that made his time in Lower Bavaria “a ton of fun”. As he prepares for his first steps on the career ladder, he can look back at many achievements during his four years with the TUMCS Green Office alongside Adrian Heider. But his biggest source of pride is the establishment of the second TUM-wide Green Office at Campus Weihenstephan. “Our goal right from the start was to spread awareness of sustainability issues to other TUM locations,” says Bauer.

When he leaves the Green Office, Heider, who is studying for a bachelors degree, and his new team will carry on. Initiatives in the near future include an on-campus mobile blood donor unit. And there is no shortage of other ideas. Around 15 potential projects are lined up on Post-It notes on a board in the Green Office – where Jonathan Bauer and Adrian Heider not only promote sustainability and climate protection, but also shape and live by these important priorities.

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