On a cold and rainy autumnal evening, a group of friends stands in front of the Inner City Library. They are installing a voting box for students who are on their smoking break. Their goal? To create incentives for students to throw their cigarette butts in the special bin, instead of on the ground. Initially they just hung some awareness-raising posters in front of the Library and the Tapijn spaces. After receiving positive feedback, they decided to take it a step further.
They are Mona, Raphael, Justine and Bruno – or as they call themselves: the Sustainable Students of Maasi. Mona from France, Raphael from Belgium, Justine from Germany (all FASoS students) and Bruno from the Netherlands did not have much activist experience. Just four heads full of ideas. After a couple hours of brainstorming, they decided to make Maastricht a little more sustainable by focusing on three areas. Firstly, reducing the amount of single-use cups that students use at the University’s libraries. Secondly, encouraging students to buy more secondhand and vintage items. The cigarette voting booth is part of their third area of focus: reducing the waste that smoking students generate.
The coffee machines that can be found at the Library produce immense amounts of waste. Thanks to the Sustainable Students of Maasi you can now find information posters and warnings about single-use cups at coffee machines in UM’s libraries. “Some of the coffee machines in the new Tapijn complex and at the Inner city library give plastic cups for the 50 cents coffee. We wanted to make people aware that you can actually also put a cup on the machine and it works as well without giving the plastic cup! For the other machines that give paper cups, we also want to promote the use of mugs instead, because you can reuse your mug several times in the same day and avoid waste in general.”, explains Mona.
Another area of focus for the Students is the promotion of vintage shopping. It all started when Mona realized she had too many clothes in her wardrobe and decided to organize a yard sale. She invited people into her room (two at a time, because of corona restrictions), and it was a huge success! Fifty people visited the sale. For a second edition of the yard sale, around 10 people gathered at Bruno’s house to sell their old clothes and other items they didn’t need. They did not sell all of the clothes, so the ones that were left after the event, the students donated to a charity shop in Belgium.
A platform for sustainability initiatives
The Sustainable Students of Maastricht are very active on instagram, where they serve as a platform for sustainability initiatives. They run a “Sustainable Student of the Week” contest and highlight inspiring stories of other students. We read about Raphael, who furnished his entire room with recycled items – even an old surfboard! Utku, who creates their own merchandise made out of other old items; Joost runs his own food cooperative shop; and Filippo started his own second-hand clothes store in his hometown.
Online and offline, the Sustainable Students of Maasi show everyone how easy it is to take small steps that have a big impact in the world!
Special thanks to Mona Quignaux, who made this story possible.