Partying, learning, and saving the climate | Global Ideas | DW | 16.03.2010
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Global Ideas

Partying, learning, and saving the climate

What do nightclubs and universities have in common? They can both be managed in an environmentally friendly way, while raising awareness among young people about responsible energy use.

A woman blowing on a windmill

Climate protection is not only important, it's cool, too

In September 2008, the first eco-disco opened its doors. Not to worry: in Rotterdam's Club Watt, there's no requirement to wear Birkenstocks or eat muesli. It's all about partying, drinking, and dancing - even more so than in any other club.

Beneath the dancers' feet, the electromechanical dance floor is able to give a few millimeters, thanks to some very strong springs. The pressure-sensitive floor is able to turn the energy from the movement into electricity. Thanks to its sustainable concept, Club Watt consumes 30 percent less external energy than a conventional disco, and has cut its CO2 emissions by about a third.

Sustainable dance floor in Club Watt, the Netherlands

In Club Watt, guests create much more than a hangover: each dancer generates up to 10 watts

In order for people to be able to see what they're doing, light bulbs light up the panels that make up the dance floor. The faster people dance, the brighter it becomes. It has an educational effect, say those behind the club's concept: People who see themselves generating energy are more likely to reconsider how they use it.

"Climate protection should be fun"

In Berlin, the techno club Tresor has also jumped on the carbon-neutral bandwagon. Last January, it held its third sustainable "High Voltage Party." The organizers calculated that the entire amount of CO2 emissions produced in the evening, and donated that value to a climate protection project that will save the same amount of emissions generated by the party.

"Climate protection should be fun," said Jaap van den Braak of the Dutch company Sustainable Dance Club (SDC). His company was involved in creating the concept for Club Watt. But the approach of Berlin's Tresor club - climate protection through emissions trading - wouldn't meet SDC's sustainability criteria.

"As far as I know, Club Watt is still the only discotheque in all of Europe that truly qualifies as sustainable," said van den Braak.

First carbon neutral university

Young people installing solar panels on a rooftop

This end up: young Greenpeace members install a panel of solar cells

SDC developed its plan for environmentally-friendly clubbing together with the technical colleges in Eindhoven and Delft. In addition to clubs, where students go to have fun on weekends, colleges and universities are other places that feature greatly in the lives of young people. There too, people are discovering that when it comes to climate change, it's best to act locally.

Germany's Leuphana University in Lueneburg is aiming to be the world's first carbon neutral university by 2012. Photovoltaic panels have already been installed on the roofs of the campus buildings to produce power, and a natural gas power plant helps heat the campus, as well as the nearby village. Courses in environmental studies have been offered at the university since 1996. But climate protection is also a topic in between lectures.

"We've installed projectors in the cafeteria that show how much energy is currently being consumed in various buildings," said Wolfgang Ruck, professor of environmental chemistry at Leuphana University.

Africa's first eco-university

Valley View University in Accra, Ghana, has set itself an equally ambitious goal: it wants to become the first ecological university in Africa. Solar panels are already providing energy to the entire campus, and a rain water collection system for flushing toilets is in the planning stages. Some of the toilets even work without any water at all.

"Firstly, that solves the problem of water shortages, and secondly, fecal material can be composted and used as soil conditioner on farms," explained Emmanuel Kwandahor of Valley View.

"Awareness has increased"

Kenyan students typing on a laptop computer

'We hope you can': Kenyan students send an e-mail request to Barack Obama, asking him to do more for the climate

"In the third world, climate protection is often linked to practical development aid," said Richard Brand. He coordinates the German department of Solar Generation, an international youth project run by Greenpeace. In Kogelo, Kenya, Solar Generation has installed solar cells on the roof of a school, thus providing power for the school's laptops.

The computers allowed the students, who are from the same village as Barack Obama's grandmother, to send an e-mail to the US president a few days before the start of the climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. In their mail, they asked him to do more to protect the climate.

Solar Generation doesn't just aim to communicate its disapproval of how people in power deal with the environment to politicians; it also wants other young people to be more conscious of how they consume energy.

"The awareness that something has to be done to stop climate change has increased greatly among young people in the last few years," said Brand.

Maybe in part, because on the weekends, they dance until the lights come on.

Author: Nele Jensch (dc)
Editor: Mark Mattox

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