Warm Sweater Day at UM
This year, Maastricht University will again be participating in Warm Sweater Day, a national day dedicated to saving energy. On 2 February, the thermostat will be lowered by one degree in twenty buildings, saving about 23% of CO2 emissions that day. On this day, the sweater is a symbol of what we can do together to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Three UM-ers discuss their opinions about this day, in their warm sweaters.
Better a cardigan than a sweater
Prof. Wouter van Marken-Lichtenbelt, professor of ecological energetics and health
“I think the Warm Sweater Day is a very good initiative, because it increases people’s awareness. One degree less warm is not only better for the environment, but also for your body. I’ve been saying for years that nineteen degrees should be warm enough indoors. I always try to keep it around that temperature in my office. Your body will then work harder to keep itself warm, which increases your metabolism and that’s good for all kinds of things, such as maintaining weight and better insulin sensitivity, so lower chances of diabetes.”
“Temperature variation is even better in that respect. It stimulates your body to take action. Why does your office have to be 21 degrees when you enter in the morning? That also takes extra energy. The 21 degrees that is maintained as a standard within UM is actually also quite high. People can get used to a standard of one degree lower. In the past, 19 degrees was within the norm. It’s a matter of acclimatisation. This also applies to the 24 degrees used in healthcare centres. I think more variation would be better, also for the elderly.”
Phat, that brown fat
“Our research into brown fat in adults that can be activated at colder temperatures, as well as how women and men differ in the way they experience temperatures, received a lot of media attention. I do notice that awareness of this is growing in society, but it’s slow. Our current research further elaborates on the basic physiological mechanisms behind the activation of brown fat. For example, we want to know what the exact contribution is of brown fat to the increase in metabolism, in combination with other metabolically active mechanisms such as muscles. And we’re looking at the practical application of the knowledge, for which we’re increasingly collaborating with engineers, for example, who are interested in the sustainability aspects of a different indoor climate.
This is my favourite sweater; I'm pretty loyal to it. But at the office, I prefer to wear a cardigan. You can take it off a little easier if you get too hot.”
Warm sweater week
Ella Rauth, 2nd year student in Data Science and Knowledge Engineering, and Operations Coordinator at the UM Green Office
“This is the second year I’m involved in Warm Sweater Day on behalf of the Green Office. We always help with organising and promoting the event. Last year, for example, we were available to talk to students at four different faculties on the day itself. We also held a contest for students to show us their favourite sweaters. This year, we’ll be at the Student Services Centre.
Most people we spoke to last year said they didn’t really notice the difference between 21 and 20 degrees. We got a lot of feedback along the lines of: ‘Why don’t we do this every day?’. Of course, there were also one or two people who complained about it being too cold. That’s probably because the heating is regulated differently on Warm Sweater Day, so especially in the morning it might feel a little bit colder than normal.”
Why not one week?
“I really like the idea of Warm Sweater Day, but I think it would be even better to do it for an entire week or at least a few more days. That would not only be better for the environment, but it also takes a lot of time to organise Warm Sweater Day, which in the end is just a one-day event. There are other universities and companies in the Netherlands who already do this and turn the heat down for several days in February. I think this would fit nicely with UM’s ambitions to become more sustainable.”
The UM Green Office
“Here at the Green Office, I’m responsible for the website and the blog. I also recently did a survey among students about UM’s recycling system. We wanted to hear what they think about the information that’s out there about recycling and find out what kinds of items were commonly thrown into the wrong bin. For example, a paper food container that still has some food scraps inside it goes into general waste, not paper. I think the communication about these kinds of items needs to be improved. One thing I really like about my job at the Green Office is that I can actively contribute to Maastricht University. Being both students and employees at the same time, we at the Green Office try to bridge the gap between these two groups at the university, which I personally really enjoy.”
Jacqueline Hendrix, Marketing & Communications Faculty of Law, initiator of Warm Sweater Day at UM
“Three years ago, we had designed a hoodie for our faculty and decided to use Warm Sweater Day for the promotion. ‘Are you cold? Come and get a hoodie.’ The pilot was therefore in this building three years ago, where in the end only two wings were heated to 20 degrees and in the rest of the building the heating was completely out because of a malfunction. In the second year, together with Facility Services and the Green Office, we contacted all of the building managers at UM. Twenty UM buildings will participate this year, mainly in the city centre and at Campus Venlo. In Randwijck, where a bunch of the laboratories are, many rooms have to be kept at a certain constant temperature. But, of course, you could let it be done in all of other rooms. We want to go there personally to talk about the possibilities.”
“For three years now, I’ve been one of the main proponents of Warm Sweater Day at UM. I think it’s important that we take good care of the planet, so my energy is green at home and I neatly separate all of the waste, but I’m certainly not a saint when it comes to sustainability. If something is about to happen in this area within the faculty, such as the separate waste bins, then my colleagues say: ‘You should do it, miss sustainability.’ That’s how it grew and I also feel the social responsibility.”
“I work in a room with nine colleagues, so arranging an indoor climate where everyone feels comfortable is a challenge. I often feel a little colder, so at the office I usually have a sweater on or with me in the winter. This is my favourite sweater, from a Scandinavian brand; they know about warm sweaters there.”