How green is FHWS?

From used tyre recycling, creative educational work and clothes swap parties

 © Simone Friese

Some people might answer the question of “how green is FHWS?” with: it’s orange. In actual fact, there are a wide range of projects at FHWS which have shifted the ecological sustainability. In addition to official FHWS projects in the various faculties, there is also a student initiative.

Sustainability is important, of course! But the question is often asked: where to start? Best to start at home? Prof. Dr. Christoph Bördlein teaches psychology and behavioural management theory in the Faculty of Applied Social Sciences. In 2017, he noticed that many of his students were getting involved on a voluntary basis. He therefore established the “world improvement project” seminar focusing on the question of: how can students change people's behaviour in an effective manner? Bördlein is convinced: “If we want to behave in a more environmentally friendly manner, it is not sustainable to judge people and point a moral finger. On the contrary, it is about designing our environment so that we put the desired behaviour into practice ourselves.”

Quote by Prof. Dr. Christoph Bördlein: “If we want to behave in a more environmentally friendly manner, it is not sustainable to judge people and point a moral finger. On the contrary, it is about designing our environment so that we put the desired behaviour into practice ourselves.”

One possibility, for example, is getting a broken bicycle repaired if you want to leave the car at home more often. In Bördlein’s world improvement seminar, the students have to find a topic for themselves within the field of so-called behavioural community interventions which can be used to positively influence the behaviour of people in the public arena. So, for example, there was a project focusing on “Intervention for appropriate disposal of cigarettes in front of FHWS buildings”. The actual situation was first analysed in order to then take measures, through visual cues such as posters and stickers, for example. It was possible to reduce the number of cigarette butts lying on the ground by around 50% as a result.

Another project dealt with the use of disposable cups in the cafeteria on Münzstraße. The number of paper cups used was 375 cups on some days and only 90 on others – depending on the number of classes on a weekday. For this project, the intervention was also done with posters, as well as with a so-called shock box. For this, used coffee cups were collected and the average number used in a day was put on show in the cafeteria. The sale of reusable cups was also suggested.

Another option for getting involved sustainably is the voluntary commitment which Bördlein offers. Here, you draw up and sign a contract with yourself. In the document, it says that the person will not use disposable cups in the future, for example. “The topics and ideas in the field of sustainability came from the students themselves,” says Bördlein.

Creative educational work

In the Faculty of Visual Design too, the drive on the topic of sustainability often comes from the students. The design possibilities are many and varied: from real-time infographics and CO₂ measuring points through educational posters to entire systems. By now, Prof Erich Schöls has been teaching interactive media at FHWS for 20 years. Since October 2019, he is also the Dean of the Faculty of Visual Design. “The change must be presented as a gain and not as a loss,” says Schöls, and sees it as a communication task. Creative work is also seeing a development during studies: students first work conceptually with a specific topic, which then results in content development after detailed scientific research. A graphical interpretation then follows. Interactive and digital, photographed, drawn or whatever else creativity offers, depending on the subject. “Design is educational work,” Schöls believes. Good ideas, including on the topic of ecology, are the key to long-term success.

Dying Corals - a project by Don Hoang
“Dying Corals”: the project by Don Hoang deals with global warming of the oceans and the associated danger for coral reefs. (© Don Hoang)
Quote by Prof. Erich Schöls: Design is educational work

Used tyre recycling and “Smart Polymer Pipes Solution”

There are also original ideas in the Faculty of Plastics Engineering and Surveying. “Sadly, plastic has been unfairly judged to some extent,” Prof. Dr. Volker Herrmann from the Faculty of Plastics Engineering and Surveying is clear. Since 2013, he has been supervising projects around the topic of rubber and used tyre recycling. Used tyres make up the majority of the rubber market: in Germany, there are approx. 6,000 tonnes of used tyres every year which are difficult to recycle. This has resulted in numerous semester projects, bachelor's and master's theses on this problem. The aim is for the tyres to be milled, used in new tyres and for a closed materials cycle to thus be created. “For me, starting the project was a logical conclusion because I worked in the tyre industry for many years and was aware of the practice there,” says Herrmann. A lecture on a global ecosocial market economy and responsibility as a family man and lecturer was then the crucial element for continuing research in the field of recycling. The project is funded annually by the German Rubber Society.

The latest project is the Smart Polymer Pipes Solution technology centre. “We are particularly proud of it and it is a fantastic flagship for the entirety of FHWS,” says Herrmann. In Haßberge county, there is a density of plastics manufacturers which is one of a kind. The centre has therefore been planned since September 2019 on the initiative of local politicians and county commissioner Wilhelm Schneider. In February 2020, the Free State of Bavaria decided to finance the facility in Haßfurt to the tune of six million euros. The plan is for it to be possible to place the first machines in the pre-existing and then renovated buildings in October 2021. Specifically, it is about plastic pipes which are used in supply and disposal, for example, to guarantee hygiene standards. “The dream would be a pipe which seals itself in the event of a leak,” says Herrmann. 

Recycling, a longer service life and the use of sustainable raw materials: the centre will also deal with these aspects. Herrmann urges people not to demonise plastic by default. He is very aware of the magnitude of the problem and the fact that there is a lot of packaging material floating in the oceans. However, recycling is the ideal solution in his opinion. Plastics are also an opportunity to save energy: For lightweight construction in electromobility or for wind turbines during the course of the energy revolution, for example. Herrmann is certain: “We need plastics engineers now more than ever! Because it is all about handling plastics wisely.”

Everyday tips, clothing swap parties and social media

The student initiative for nature and sustainability (S.I.N.N.) is also striving for practical, sustainable advancement. “For us, it's about showing how sustainability can come to life at FHWS,” says Mattis Isenmann from S.I.N.N. The initiative wants to promote exchange, carry out education work and provide suggestions for everyday life. One tip from the initiative is to start with the topic which interests you the most. Whether that's cooking, fashion, cosmetics or plastic-free shopping – the possibilities are abundant. The important thing is to proceed step by step, which prevents you becoming overwhelmed..

Quote by Mattis Isenmann: “For us, it's about showing how sustainability can come to life at FHWS.”

The 20 students in S.I.N.N. organise various events such as clothing swap parties or film evenings. They also provide tips on Instagram and Facebook for everyday life and exchange ideas with FHWS. “It’s great fun organising campaigns. In the end, we were all pretty proud of what we got up and running last semester,” says Tamara Mühlberger. Exchanging ideas with people also inspires and provides food for thought. The initiative has existed since 2015 and has been seeing a renewed surge since summer semester 2020. New campaigners are always wanted and welcome. Anyone who is interested is welcome to get in touch with S.I.N.N. on Instagram or Facebook.

Landscape scene with a barrel bearing the sign for radioactivity.
Design is often also simultaneously education work: Benjamin Schwarz’ photo reporting deals with nuclear waste disposal facilities. (© Benjamin Schwarz)
Photo of a climate protest group
The “Aktionsname: Grünkern” project by Jana Braun deals with issues surrounding climate protest groups and demonstrations. (© Jana Braun)

Electromobility and energy savings in industrial plants

The Technology Transfer Centre for E-mobility (TTZ-EMO) in Bad Neustadt an der Saale also deals with sustainability. Since 2017, 35 employees have been conducting research on the topics of electrical engineering, drive technology and electromobility. In Schweinfurt, work on battery systems is also being carried out in laboratories and institutes. Industry and FHWS are building networks here in close collaboration.

The eDlan project under Prof. Dr. Stefan Knoblach at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering is working on the question of how energy can be saved and CO₂ can be prevented in industrial plants. Industrial plants have enormous potential to become more sustainable. The potential for savings should be determined through automated thermographic and geometric surveying.

A green and orange mosaic

Faculties, lecturers, employees and students – the sustainable commitment at FHWS has shown itself to be diverse. By signing the memorandum of understanding for collaboration between higher education institutions within the context of the Bavarian Network for Sustainability in Higher Education, FHWS takes a step towards sustainability. A total of 25 presidents of Bavarian higher education institutions signed this document in 2019. Sustainability should thus be supported in a wide variety of aspects: from research and teaching through to student initiatives. The aim is to create a network which raises awareness, activates, networks, creates transparency and advises. Many things are possible together. This is also clear at FHWS. A wide variety of topics, engagement from a whole range of people and innovative ideas create a green and orange mosaic of sustainability And perhaps in the future we will be able to say: Orange is the new green!

Photo of Svenja Kordmann

An article by 
Svenja Kordmann