The Green Thread

In the years up to 2022/2023, the main impulse for sustainability in education came from GreenTU in the form of the Green Thread. In short, the Green Thread is an initiative by GreenTU and Lijst Bèta which aims to assist interested lecturers in developing sustainable courseware, such as by adapting slides, questions, and materials.

History of the Green Thread

From the research done by GreenTeams in the 2020-2021 academic year, there was a consistent recommendation to teach relevant aspects of sustainability alongside the disciplines students are already instructed in. At the same time, there are obvious hurdles when trying to update education. The curricula are dense, meaning an effort must be made to make room for any additions, while the workload of staff must of course also be taken into account.

To achieve these desired results while managing the restrictions mentioned, Lijst Bèta and GreenTU have developed an initiative based on the value of student participation to empower students, diversify perspectives, and reduce staff workload. The aim of this initiative is to give sustainability an integral place in all educational programmes, thereby making it a common thread between and in curricula. We therefore call our framework for change the Green Thread (de Groene Draad).

The Green Thread operates by reinforcing the activity under the educational portfolio of the existing GreenTeams. Complementing the work they previously accomplished, GreenTeams are now working on sustainability in targeted courses by working with academic staff to replace or extend current teaching materials (case studies, project topics, the tools students are provided, ...) with examples and information centred around environmental sustainability. Academic staff members come up with the outline of the changes they want to see. After refining this with the GreenTeam, one or more student assistants can work on the implementation.

In the second quarter of 2020-2021, a pilot of this plan was started at the AS and CEG faculties, using the budget of GreenTU and the cooperation of the faculties’ GreenTeams. Through this pilot, a template is made to stimulate the integration of sustainability courses. Central to this process is that the course coordinator(s) retain control of their course, but with minimal administrative hassle that is typically associated with change. GreenTU and the GreenTeam help form an actionable plan, followed by the recruitment of the student assistant(s) with the desired skills, while also making sure the appropriate funding is allocated.

For example, the progress made with this pilot means that the course Introduction to Civil Engineering (Civil Engineering BSc) and Financial Engineering (Construction Management & Engineering MSc) will pay special attention to sustainability in the 2021-2022 academic year. Respectively, by paying attention to the challenges contemporary civil engineers face and by looking at sustainable finance.

The positive experiences with the pilots so far can be attributed for a significant part to the enthusiasm of involved staff members and to the qualities and ambitions already present in TU Delft students. Combined with a diligent selection procedure, a good match is made between the desires for the course and the student(s) that will work on it.