Thursday, February 23, 2023
Students and staff of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), together with several local residents, planted 120 trees this week on Boulevard du Triomphe in Ixelles. The new planting with various native tree species should develop into a green buffer zone between city traffic and the university site. At the same time, the greening contributes to the robustness of the cooling area that forms the campus in the Brussels-Capital Region. The open citizens' collective Bûûmplanters supervised the planting action as part of a long-term collaboration with Colruyt Group.
Great enthusiasm for environmental projects
Several native species such as blackthorn, rowan, hornbeam, hazel and spruce, were planted mixed on the VUB campus. "This increases the chances of them surviving dry summers. We deliberately choose species from here to strengthen local ecosystems. They produce fruits and seeds that can be eaten by a lot of other native species. This is not, or much less the case with non-native species that can sometimes develop into real pests," says VUB biologist Bram Vanschoenwinkel.
The non-profit organisation Bûûmplanters was appointed by the Brussels and Flemish Region, with the support of the Colruyt Group, to increase climate resistance in the capital. The project was set up from Colruyt Group's sustainable savings programme. In that programme, Colruyt Group customers can save points on their Xtra app and use them for more biodiversity. Including, therefore, projects like that of VUB, which are guided by Bûûmplanters. "It's great to see that our sustainable savings programme is producing concrete results," says Veerle Poppe, responsible for Eco-score at Colruyt Group. "The great enthusiasm of the VUB and its community gives us confidence in the future. It is clear that a greener environment is important for students, staff and local residents, something we are only too happy to support."
Soon, another greening action will take place on the VUB campus, again in cooperation with Bûûmplanters and Colruyt Group. "Our existing orchard between buildings T and I on the campus, will receive a dozen new unique half-stemmed fruit trees. Unique because they are part of a project by Bûûmplanters to revive a 19th-century fruit tree collection. They include several pear varieties (Virgouleuse, Fondante des bois, Marquise and Royale d'hiver), apple varieties (Bosdorfer, Reinette grise de champagne, Reinette des carmes, Malingre and Grain d'or) and the plum variety Saint-Cathérine. In this way, we contribute to the preservation of old native varieties and can be surprised by forgotten flavours. For example, these apples taste very different from a typical Jonagold or Pink Lady." continues Vanschoenwinkel.
Open and green
The Free University of Brussels is an urban-engaged university. To build bridges with its community and the city, and to create connectedness, it operates an open campus principle. So the fact that students, staff and local residents rolled up their sleeves together for this project is something VUB rector ad interim Hugo Thienpont welcomes:
"It shows that the community cares about us. That students and staff but also local residents and visitors feel welcome on our green campus. That they want to do all they can to make our university a place where it is pleasant to be, because extra greenery makes the environment healthier, more beautiful and cooler. At the same time, it also shows their commitment to working to future-proof our planet. We are therefore very grateful to everyone who contributed to this".
Green-blue future vision
The VUB campuses have great potential natural value with rare plant and animal species. They enhance the quality of life for everyone who studies, works and lives there. For example, they capture fine dust, act as sound insulation and form a cooling area in the Brussels Capital Region
To protect this ecological habitat from the effects of climate change, the university worked on a green-blue future vision. Smart measures should make greenery on campus more robust and future-proof. Grounds will be mowed in an adapted way, lawns will be transformed into grasslands, and native and fertile plant species will be given preference. Sustainable water management should provide an answer to the problem of recurring droughts, with rainwater being collected in natural water reservoirs such as wadis and marshes for later reuse.
In early 2024, the university plans a similar greening project near the student houses on Nieuwelaan and on its campus in Jette.