RUG limits flying (a little)

RUG employees are no longer allowed to fly for work if their destination can be reached by train within six hours or is less than five hundred kilometres away.
By Rob Siebelink / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The university wants to limit work trips by plane. Employees can only deviate from the new rule if they have good reason.

Between 2016 and 2018, RUG employees racked up a total of 95 million kilometres in the air, at approximately 31 to 32 million per year, according to figures requested by the UKrant.

Every year, approximately 5,500 hundred employees board a plane for research trips, meetings, conferences, and symposiums. Almost 70 percent travel within Europe, but only a few of their destinations are within the limit of five hundred kilometres.

Not feasible

The Green Office, which focuses on sustainability at the university, would have preferred the limit to be seven hundred kilometres rather than five.

As it is, destinations lik Paris, London, and Berlin are exempt from the no-flying rule, says Green Office programme manager Dick Jager. ‘That’s a shame. If we really want to make a difference, we have to change as well.’

One point of discussion is whether Groningen or the employee’s place of residence should be seen as the point of departure. There are researchers connected to the RUG who live in the Randstad rather than in Groningen.

Travel time

The RUG is following the example of the University of Ghent, which instated a similar rule. Ghent employees are prohibited from flying to places that could be reached by bus or train in under six hours, or if the train journey is shorter than a plane trip – including check-in.

In terms of pollution, flying is the worst way to travel. According to the sustainability organisation Milieu Centraal, a plane trip is seven to eleven times as bad for the environment as the same journey would be by train.

In 2018, CO2 exhaust from work trips accounted for 16 percent of the RUG’s total carbon footprint.


RUG employees who need to travel farther will be strongly advised to look for alternative means of communication, such as Skype or videoconferencing. ‘We want everyone to ask themselves whether flying is truly necessary’, says the university.

For the first time ever, the RUG is in the top 10 of the GreenMetric Ranking, which ranks the seven hundred most sustainable universities in the world (coming in at number 7). The top spot went to Wageningen University & Research.

Later this year, the RUG will unveil plans to compensate for their CO2 emissions, in part by planting forests and investing in solar or wind parks.

Next week, UKrant will publish an in-depth article about flying at the RUG.



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