Anyone concerned with sustainable development automatically asks themselves: Where is the journey heading? One possible answer can be found in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations. Every member country is committed to these goals. However, the responsibility to take a path toward the goals cannot be seen only at the political level, but must take place across society. Thus, public institutions such as universities also play key roles. For this reason, the University of Tübingen is also committed to the maxim of sustainable development in its mission statement.
The following list does not claim to be exhaustive, but would like to show examples of how the respective SDGs are addressed at the University of Tübingen.
The university provides assistance to ease the financial burden on students. Thus, support is mainly offered on three levels: Students can apply for the Deutschlandstipendium, which guarantees financial support of €300 per month. In addition, the Studierendenwerk Tübingen-Hohenheim offers a contact point on the subject of BAföG. Here, students can get help with questions and the application process. With the semester ticket, students can travel at reduced rates on the naldo public transport system.
Children of students can eat lunch for free in the university canteens.
The student representatives in the Advisory Board for Sustainable Development and the Competence Center for Sustainable Development (KNE) organize a regular round table / working group on the topic of sustainable nutrition / sustainable cafeterias in Tübingen. The round table networks students and employees of the university who are committed to making the refectories and cafeterias more sustainable.
The comprehensive university sports program is open to all students and employees and provides exercise, stress relief and variety in everyday life. The Psycho-Social Counseling Center for Employees of the University of Tübingen and the Psychotherapeutic Counseling Center for Students provide a framework for obtaining professional support in the event of psychological stress and other problems. To promote health in the workplace, employees can participate in the break express.
Since healthy nutrition also plays a role in maintaining health and well-being, universities, or rather the many university cafeterias and refectories, play a major role in implementing SDG 3. The "Mensa Vital" program puts healthy and regional products on the menu as much as possible and often offers vegan alternatives. The "Sustainable Mensa" initiative has also set up a round table for all stakeholders involved in sustainable development issues in the university's refectories and cafeterias.
The university hospitals are a strong pillar of medical research and public health. With the new clusters of excellence in medicine approved in 2018, medical research is making an important contribution to achieving sub-goal 3.3, which aims to be able to end epidemics and other infectious diseases
In addition, there are also less obvious contributions of the university to SDG 3 such as occupational safety measures, the possibility to borrow massage equipment or the "exercise snack".
Education is one of the central core tasks of a university and the University of Tübingen sees sustainability as an integral part of teaching. In addition, sub-goal 4.7 aims to provide all learners with the knowledge and skills necessary to advance SD.
Probably the greatest contribution to Education for Sustainable Development at the University of Tübingen is made by the Studium Oecologicum. It was initiated by a student initiative and is aimed at students of all disciplines. Here, topics of sustainable development and the SDGs are integrated into the curriculum in a theoretical, practical, critical and varied way. Courses offered change from year to year, with topics such as peace and sustainable development, environmental ethics or sustainable energy supply always on the course schedule due to high demand.
Another well-known institution in Tübingen is the "Week of Links" (nez), an information week with workshops, lectures and seminars, mainly supported by students. The Week of Links serves as a framework for the substantive and practical examination of ecological, social, economic, cultural, political and many other aspects of sustainable development. In this way, the organizers want to contribute to the practical implementation of the SDGs. In the meantime, the Week of Links is not only offered to students, but is also made accessible to the general public in Tübingen a second time each year.
The University of Tübingen has an Equal Opportunities Officer and an Equal Opportunities Office. The office offers advice and information on the topic of gender equality in studies and science. The Equal Opportunity Officer advocates within the university for the concerns of all university members in the area of gender equality.
In addition, the Center for Gender and Diversity Research (ZGD) is located at the University of Tübingen. This interdisciplinary and cross-faculty research center is dedicated to the dialogue between humanities, social, cultural and natural sciences in the field of gender and diversity research.
Many SDGs overlap in their objectives. For example, SDG 5 naturally includes goals that can also be assigned to SDG 10 "Reduce inequalities." These include efforts to introduce gender-sensitive language, an understanding of diversity, and equal opportunities on a larger scale.
SDG 6 aims to improve the supply of clean water and sanitation in order to make the important foodstuff "water" available to all people.
At the University of Tübingen, for example, laboratory wastewater on the morning site is treated in neutralization plants before being disposed of in the sewage system. The pH value is adjusted there and the wastewater is then discharged into the sewer system of the city of Tübingen. Water-polluting substances from the laboratories are collected separately and delivered to the chemical warehouse for hazardous waste disposal.
Strict limit values from the Water Resources Act apply to laboratory wastewater. These limits are regularly examined and, if necessary, the local authority (District Office) intervenes to prevent drastic exceedances. However, this has not yet been necessary at the University of Tübingen.
In order to reduce the university's energy consumption, building operations in the central university buildings will be reduced between Christmas and epiphany: Heating and ventilation systems are shut down during this time. Since 01.01.2015, the university has been using 100% green electricity. Thanks to the targeted analyses of the energy consumption of the ventilation systems in the server rooms of a central university building by the energy manager and the resulting actions, it was possible to reduce the energy consumption there by 8%.
In order to generate sustainable economic growth that includes as many people as possible, sufficient jobs and decent working conditions are targeted with SDG 8.
At the University of Tübingen, for example, employees can take educational leave: Employees* are allowed to take up to five days of paid leave per year for further education purposes. In this way, employees can not only continue their professional development, but can also be supported in their individual interests, which can have a positive impact on their daily work....
The university also supports young scientists through various programs. The Graduate Academy links the doctoral programs of the individual faculties and the doctoral networks at the university.
Since good working conditions for employees are just as important as educational and support programs to improve productivity, employees at the university organize themselves through staff councils and staff representatives. These ensure that the interests and welfare of employees are institutionally represented.
Unfortunately, the academic system in Germany currently still relies heavily on short-term employment contracts, fixed-term contracts and employment relationships, which could run counter to the goal of job security, or at least make it more difficult to create such security. Often, however, working hours can be arranged flexibly, home offices are possible, and family and career are compatible. The Studierendenwerk offers childcare explicitly for students and young academics.
The ninth SDG includes a range of goals grouped under the buzzwords of industry, innovation, and infrastructure. In fact, many issues can fall under these buzzwords. Infrastructure can thus mean, on the one hand, the increased development of transport routes in order to promote the economy; on the other hand, considerations for sustainable means of transport or environmentally friendly construction measures are also important.
At the University of Tübingen, students and employees are encouraged to use public transport by introducing the "Job Ticket BW" for employees, or the student ID card, which allows students* to travel free of charge on all means of transport on weekends and after 7 pm during the week.
Since May 2013, all university employees have also been free to use company pedelecs. The electrically assisted bikes are intended to facilitate travel between the Uni Berg and Uni Tal buildings and to encourage students to swap bus or car travel for the use of bicycles. In addition, members of the university can charge their pedelecs free of charge at the university's charging stations.
In order for industry, or innovation in general, to be more responsive to sustainable development, mechanisms that enable (young) people to implement their ideas for a more sustainable world in the first place are helpful. The Competence Center for Sustainable Development Tübingen makes the so-called Innovation Fund available to all students. Students can apply for funding of up to €500 for their project ideas on sustainable development, and between 2013 and 2017 alone, 43 projects were funded that addressed sustainable development in teaching, research and operations.
With the Excellence Initiative 2012, the integration of Industry-on-Campus professorships started at the University of Tübingen. The professorships are located at the interface between industry and basic research and are therefore special because companies do not set up and operate an entire research facility at a university. Instead, scientists from industry are to be integrated into university research processes. However, it is important to ensure that these projects do not stand in the way of other development goals, such as SDG 16 (peace), by disregarding the University of Tübingen's civil clause, for example. Another innovation within the Excellence Initiative is the business coordination of the University of Tübingen. The aim is to supervise cooperation projects with business enterprises in order to inform researchers about the potential economic exploitability of their research results. Even if this platform does not benefit sustainable development per se, there are still theoretical opportunities for researchers to increase the transfer between research and business and, if necessary, to put their heart's desire for "sustainable development" into practice in their field of research. Ultimately, however, the impetus for specifically sustainable development ideas still lies with the researchers.
In order to implement their own innovation ideas, students, scientists and employees or alumni of the university can apply for the start-up support "G.UT - Gründen an der Universität Tübingen" (G.UT - Founding at the University of Tübingen) in order to receive funding for a start-up. In addition, mentors and coaches are available to advise the new founders.
In its mission statement, the university is committed to diversity and equal opportunities, family friendliness and the individual competencies of its members. A barrier-free research and learning environment is to be achieved by reducing physical, but also social, linguistic and cultural barriers. SDG 10 is to be implemented at the University of Tübingen with the help of equal opportunity representatives, staff representatives, the family office or the representative for severely disabled persons, but also the Refugee Program (https://uni-tuebingen.de/de/109858) and the membership in the network "Scholars at Risk" (https://uni-tuebingen.de/de/109861).
SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communitiesSDG 11 aims to ensure that an increasing proportion of the world's population lives in urban areas, i.e. in cities and communities. In order to mitigate negative environmental consequences of global population growth, cities and communities are to be made more sustainable.
From 2016 to 2018, the university-based Energy Lab analyzed the goals and criteria of a sustainable energy supply from an ethical perspective. The participatory project, which was also applied for with the collaboration of the Competence Center for Sustainable Development, investigated how it can be possible to adequately reduce energy consumption on a concrete local level in Tübingen and to increasingly promote renewable energies.
A strong cooperation between the city of Tübingen, the citizens, as well as the university is central in the implementation of this SDG. The work of the Competence Center for Sustainable Development (KNE) and also initiatives of the student representatives in the Advisory Council for Sustainable Development and other university groups start here. Actions such as a clothes swap bazaar, a campus clean-up campaign or regular networking meetings between people committed to sustainability are among the core tasks of the KNE and aim to network, support and motivate committed (young) people to get involved in sustainable development.
Like most of the other SDGs, Sustainable Development Goal 12 - Sustainable Consumption and Production shows that sustainable development is multi-layered and complex and can and must be implemented at many different points. For example, to address greenhouse gas emissions, resource waste and the global waste problem, one can start with the avoidance or production of products, with their packaging and distribution, or even with nutrition.
In 2015, an initiative of the University of Tübingen founded the "Low-Waste Tübingen" action alliance, which launched the "tü go - besser bechern" campaign. To draw attention to the flood of waste caused by disposable packaging, information posters are displayed in many university buildings, and students and employees can purchase a "keep cup," a reusable coffee cup, in all university cafeterias to reduce the consumption of disposable cups. Since 2017, there has also been a round table on the "coffee cup problem" at the university, which is a cooperation between students, StuWe, waste management officers and the KNE to discuss how disposable cups can be replaced most effectively and sustainably in Tübingen's university cafeterias.
Official events of the Competence Center for Sustainable Development, as well as the Studium Oecologicum or the students of the Advisory Board for Sustainable Development are basically organized vegetarian-vegan. The catering is provided by a local organic caterer or a local bakery, no disposable tableware is used, and attention is also paid to correct waste separation. In addition, all three organizers use only organic and fair trade coffee and tea, organic milk and always offer organic plant-based milk alternatives and, when possible, organic and fair trade cookies from the world store. Fruit is also either fair trade certified (bananas) or comes from the Tübingen Unverpacktladen, which cooperates with Solidarische Landwirtschaft, and thus has a regional and seasonal supply.
The University of Tübingen was named a recycling paper-friendly university in 2016, 2017 & 2018. In addition, numerous information campaigns and recycling modules by the waste management officers in all university buildings encourage students to learn about reuse and ways to recycle products. One example of how the reuse of resources is encouraged at the University of Tübingen is the wooden boxes produced by the Papierpilze e.V. association. Next to many photocopiers at the university there is a collection box for badly or incorrectly printed documents that are left here to be used, for example, as scratch paper. The „Papierpilze" also offer college pads made from just these unused documents, so that the paper is not disposed of unused and wasted.
At universities, however, it's not just a lot of paper that is used and often wasted. Refillable pens also often end up in the residual waste and thus in the waste incineration plant. The waste management officer at the University of Tübingen has therefore introduced a recycling program for pens of all kinds in cooperation with the company TerraCycle. All pens that are not made of wood or wax are collected and sent for recycling. The proceeds from the sale are donated to charitable organizations.
Sustainable Development Goal 13 is probably the most intuitive of the 17 goals. Climate protection and adaptation to climatic changes are topics that now concern not only research, but also society at large. At the University of Tübingen, there is a research focus on Climate Change at the Institute for Evolution and Ecology. The research focus addresses questions about the persistence of plant species in times of climate change, questions the impact of droughts and climatic extremes, and addresses the multilateral relationship between biodiversity, climate change, and societal feedback on Social-Ecological Systems (SES).
Between October 2016 and July 2019, the university also ran the Smart Minds for Climate Action campaign. The goal of the campaign was to make climate action more accessible by designing simple energy-saving tips for the workplace to reduce the University's energy consumption. Simple measures include turning off computers, electrical appliances and coffee machines in the office at the end of the workday. This has saved over €40,000.
The protection of the oceans and life under water is targeted by SDG 14. Overfishing, plastic waste and rising CO2 levels due to climate change increasingly threaten life under water. The Environmental Systems Platform at the University of Tübingen was established as part of the Excellence Initiative and as part of the University's Institutional Strategy. Natural science, as well as socio-economic departments on ethics and law are working in an interdisciplinary way on sub-areas on the effect of pollutants in the environment or on sustainability, protection and management of natural resources. The Environmental Systems Platform researches, among other things, the ecotoxicological effects and environmental impacts of substances, as well as the transport of these substances into the soil and groundwater.
Scientists at the Tübingen chairs conduct research in the fields of geo- and microbiology, and environmental systems analysis. For example, research is being conducted in the areas of hydropower and toxicological water analysis. Building on SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation, Infrastructure), key topics in these areas are how hydropower development and dam construction can (negatively) impact the environment, as the ecological consequences are often not considered when developing infrastructure.
However, since life under water is also threatened by problematic consumer behavior (especially in the Global North), among other things, students from the Advisory Board for Sustainable Development 2018 looked at the consumption and waste behavior of students in Tübingen. As part of a Campus Clean Up campaign with an upcycling exhibition and information posters on Tübingen's research status on plastic, waste and water bodies, students spent several days addressing the local and global trend towards reducing (plastic) waste. However, plastic bottles continue to be sold at the University of Tübingen, disposable cutlery is provided and the waste officer has noticed that the volume of waste at the university is steadily increasing despite recycling efforts.
Sub-aspects of SDG 9 "Industry, innovation and infrastructure" or SDG 11 "Cities and communities" are also reflected in Goal 15: Make life on land more sustainable. SDG 15 therefore includes efforts to preserve land as a habitat by preventing desertification, land degradation and biodiversity loss. This development goal clearly illustrates how branched and interdependent the SDGs are. For example, considerations of more sustainable living on land would naturally have to take into account infrastructure and urban planning, as well as waste disposal and consumption patterns.
Although the departments of biology and geoecology traditionally deal with topics such as biodiversity, research on ethical-philosophical aspects of the biodiversity concept also takes place at the University of Tübingen. Prof. Dr. Thomas Potthast or Prof. (em.) Dr. Eve-Marie Engels therefore deal with topics such as agriculture and nutrition, bioecology and nature conservation from an ethical point of view.
Sustainable development is not conceivable without peace and stable institutions. A university is, of course, also such an institution.
In its basic regulations, the university commits itself with the so-called civil clause to conducting "teaching, research and studies" only for "peaceful purposes".
On an institutional level, the Student Council (StuRa) also plays an important role in representing the interests of the student body. It is democratically elected and consists of representatives of various university groups.
The study of conflict and peace also plays a role at the University of Tübingen. The Master's program in Peace Research and International Politics offers space to deal with problems of violence and cooperation and, in some cases, to test this knowledge in practice. Worth mentioning here are, among others, the cooperation with the Tübingen Berghof Foundation on the topic of peace education or excursions on the topic of institutions, security and peace.
The faculty-independent Studium Generale offers a further framework for further education through lecture series and public evening events on topics such as right-wing populism, technological development or peace. It is an important link that not only brings members of the university and the urban population closer together, but also addresses many different areas of the SDGs.
In the Refugee Law Clinic, students offer free legal advice to student refugees. In addition, the University of Tübingen has established an advisory commission "Conflict Mediation", which seeks to make safe and non-violent contributions to everyday university life, to prevent conflicts and to de-escalate existing conflicts.
SDG 17 aims to strengthen means of implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as to revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.
The competence center sees one of its central tasks in promoting the strengthening and rebuilding of networks in order to achieve exchange and synergy effects. The competence center is to support all university members in establishing contacts and providing partners or expertise within and outside the university. This is not only ensured within the framework of the sustainability networking days, but also by the fact that the competence center is available as an active contact person, which mediates contacts and thus actively promotes (B)NE - between students and employees locally and through their work also on a regional level.
In addition, there are various formats for international scientific exchange at the University of Tübingen. One example is the Interdisciplinary Centre for Global South Studies. The platform was established with the aim of strengthening the dialogue between researchers, students and doctoral candidates from the Latin American, African, Asia-Pacific and European regions who are exploring new concepts and ideas to address problems of the Global South. The interdisciplinary center has not only introduced an MA "Cultures of the Global South", but also a PhD program in Global South Studies. Furthermore, the network facilitates exchanges with partner universities in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific region.
Another format through which staff and students strengthen their networking among each other are, for example, round tables, such as the Round Table for a More Sustainable Cafeteria, which was initiated by the KNE and the student representatives on the Advisory Board for Sustainable Development. Sporadic activities on different topics, such as upcycling and waste avoidance, enable local actors, such as BUND, local schools and the student body to engage in (practical) exchange.