Sus-DANE-ability Challenge

University of Richmond celebrated International Education Week 2017 by going Danish! Denmark is known globally not only for being one of the happiest nations in the world, but also for its commitment to sustainability. To help participants live like a Dane, we created the Sus-DANE-ability Challenge, powered by the Campus EcoChallenge.

Over the course of this one week challenge, 249 members of the UR Community joined in, adopting a total of 1,339 new eco-actions focused on nature, simplicity, energy, waste, and transportation. Collectively, Challenge participants conserved an impressive amount of energy, diverted hundreds of items from the landfill, and traveled 137 miles without using a car. Overall, 37 teams were created and our two winning teams garnered 7,121 points between 37 participants. Participants shared their experiences throughout the week with the hashtag #URGoesDanish.

The Sus-DANE-ability Challenge was a great opportunity for learning, engagement, and partnership. The Office for Sustainability is very grateful for the participation of so many people across campus and for the chance to collaborate with the Office of International Education.

Challenge Winners

You can get a full picture of our impact and results in the Sus-DANE-ability Challenge Report.

First Place
Cynthia Price
Director of Media and PR
University Communications

Second Place
Natalie Thatcher
Administrative Coordinator for Student Engagement and the Bonner Scholars Program
Bonner Center for Civic Engagement

Third Place
Shani Buchholz
Assistant to the Dean
Office of International Education

First Place Team: Overall Total Points
Delta Gamma
4,665 Points

First Place Team: Points Per-Capita
Stadium East
307 Points Each

Meet Morten & Emma

Throughout the week Morten and Emma, two fictional Danish student ambassadors, joined us to explain how our Sus-DANE-ability Challenge topics influence their everyday lives. Learn more about each day below.

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  • Meet Morten & Emma

    Throughout the Sus-DANE-ability Challenge, we will be joined by two Danish student ambassadors, Morten and Emma. Growing up in Denmark, Morten and Emma adopted a lifestyle consistent with connection to nature, simplicity, waste reduction, greener transportation, and energy efficiency. Their cultural habits will inform our Sus-DANE-ability Challenge experience throughout the week.

    Morten is a 20 year-old computer science major from Copenhagen, the Danish capital. Morten enjoys the small joys of everyday life in his city, like the aroma of roasting beans while sitting at counter of the Coffee Collective or happy hour at Kassen. Morten loves the bustle of the city, but also spends much of his time outdoors in places like Frederiksberg Gardens with friends and family. As a student on a limited budget, Morten invests in only one item of clothing: comfortable socks. Look to the sock icon in our daily emails for Morten’s information and advice.

    Emma, 21, is a business management major who works at Wecycle, a combination coffee and bike shop. Always up for an adventure, Emma regularly heads out of town to places like Hareskoven for mountain biking, Mols Bjerge National Park for breathtaking hiking, or Aarhus for people watching. Throughout our challenge, you’ll notice the icon of Emma’s favorite pair of mittens knitted by her grandmother in our emails each morning.

  • Monday: Nature

    Today the challenge will focus on learning about and experiencing nature.

    You’re invited to attend:

    Sock Walk & Danish Breakfast
    Monday November 13
    10:00 a.m.
    The Forum

    Morten & Emma

    An affinity for the outdoors is prominent in Danish culture. Four major national parks in Denmark and a climate well suited for mountain biking, hiking, and camping leads to plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Spending time in the outdoors has been shown to improve mental health, reduce stress, and increase retention of memory, which might have something to do with Denmark’s common ranking of “Happiest Nation in the World.”

    Emma can hardly remember time she wasn’t outdoors. As a baby, her parents would leave her stroller outside while they ate in a cafe to make sure she had plenty of fresh air. They introduced her to camping at a young age and she’s made exploring the countryside part of her life. When the time pressures of school and work creep up, she still tries to get out for a quick bike ride or walk in one of the city parks.

    Morten wasn’t as aware of the role of nature in his life until he went to University. Growing up, his teachers regularly taught outside and connected course topics to the natural world, a concept known as udeskole. Ever since beginning his degree in computer science, he doesn’t spend nearly as much class time out of the classroom now. He finds himself making trips to eat a meal or study outside as often as the weather allows.

  • Tuesday: Simplicity

    Today our challenges will be centered on maintaining a healthy work-life balance and fostering healthy simplicity.

    You’re invited to attend:

    Learn About OAR
    Tuesday November 14
    Westhampton Lake

    Happiness & Business in Denmark Discussion
    Tuesday November 14
    International Center Commons

    Morten & Emma

    If there’s one theme running through Danish week, it’s the concept of hygge. While there’s no direct translation to English, the feeling conjured by the word is familiar to all of us. Think of the warmth of coming in from the cold to a waiting cup of steaming hot cocoa, the comfort of sitting in a wood-paneled pub playing board games with old friends, or the coziness of reading a novel by a roaring fire. Its prominence in Denmark denotes the nation’s commitment to life balance and a cultural emphasis on simplicity.

    For Emma, hygge is all about the homemade and the handcrafted. She recently joined a knitting club and finds the time spent with other people makes learning so much easier. She has a growing collection of candles, which she lights to create the perfect relaxation space at home. Emma’s most recent lifestyle goal is to unplug at night. She finds it challenging to put her phone away at night, but the rest she’s been getting is worth it.

    Morten believes that hygge is a major contributor to the high levels of reported happiness in Denmark. During a recent, demanding semester, he adopted a mindfulness practice in an attempt to bring his focus back to small joys, like a perfect cup of coffee in the morning. He’s learned that spending time with friends and family, especially when he’s having a busy week, is the key to feeling happier.

  • Wednesday: Waste

    Today is America Recycles Day. We’ll celebrate with challenges focused on recycling and reducing waste.

    You’re invited to attend:

    Discussion with the Danish Ambassador
    November 15
    International Center Commons
    Register here

    Candle-Lit Walk & Danish Dinner
    Wednesday November 15
    From the International Center to the Forum

    Morten & Emma

    Denmark is longtime leader in waste-to-energy, and the country recently committed to achieving recycling rates that will put it on par with the best in the world. In 2013, Denmark set a goal to recycle 50% of household waste by 2022. Today, most Danish citizens separate glass, metal, plastic, paper, cardboard, electronic waste, from incinerator waste. By separating at the point of generation, more materials can be captured for reuse.

    To Morten, single stream recycling like we have at University of Richmond would never work at home. He separates items in six bins in his apartment, returns items with a deposit to the store, and composts his food scraps, too. He can remember learning how to do this in grade school, so it all feels natural to him today.

    Emma thinks it’s wiser not to create trash in the first place. She carries a water bottle and a utensil set wherever she goes. Her bike is equipped with a cup-holder, where she places her mug every morning on her ride to work or school. When she shops, she always has her own bags, like everyone else. She has faint memories of plastic bags in stores from when she was a child, but hasn’t used one in years.

  • Thursday: Transportation

    Danes are known for biking, walking, and other environmentally-friendly transportation. Today’s challenges will help you explore campus without a car.

    Morten & Emma

    Denmark’s transportation network is truly multi-modal. In addition to cars, citizens rely heavily on other forms of transportation. Copenhagen’s Metro system is used by a million people each week and will soon be expanded. Buses connecting the capital with cities like Odense, Aarhus, and Aalbord are quite popular. The most popular form of transportation is cycling. Denmark has more than 4 million cyclists who use 10,000 kilometers of bike-friendly routes through the country.

    Emma jokes that she cannot remember whether she learned to bike or walk first. Cycling has always been a staple of her existence. From the time she rode in a bike seat on the front of her mother’s Bianchi to the mountain biking competitions that punctuated her teen years, she’s always been in the saddle. Working at Wecycle, the bike-coffee shop, was a natural progression.

    Morten takes a lot of pride in his ride. His bike is modeled after the old city commuters, but it’s a truly modern machine with an internal hub, fenders, rear and front lights, a rear rack, and disc brakes. Unlike many young people in the U.S. who save up for a car, this bike was Morten’s dream for years. It is as reliable as it is indispensable as he zips through town to class, hackathons, work, or friends’ homes.

  • Friday: Energy

    On the final day of our Challenge, you’ll have the opportunity to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint.

    You’re invited to attend:

    Film Screening: The Infinite Happiness
    Friday November 17
    3:00 & 7:30
    Ukrop Auditorium, Robins School of Business

    Morten & Emma

    Like much of the world, the oil crisis of the early 1970s prompted Denmark to seek alternative energy sources. The country diversified its portfolio to stabilize the economy and has increasingly looked toward renewables. In 2012, the Energy Act laid out a bold vision for Denmark: 50 percent of the energy supply will come from wind power by 2020 and the country will be independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

    Whenever the topic of energy comes up, Morten thinks back to last February when headlines throughout Copenhagen touted Denmark’s success in powering the country entirely through wind energy. He was inspired to do his part and installed a smart thermostat that keeps his comfortable when he is there while conserving energy when he is away. He likes to play with the energy dashboard feature and is interested in learning more about the technology that makes conservation easier.

    One of Emma’s favorite thing about biking along the coast is the sight of the offshore turbines that dot the horizon. These silent white propellers spinning out at sea make up half her country’s energy. While somewhat controversial when first installed, these turbines are now a point of pride to Emma and her friends.