Compared to before corona, Nikhef employees fly less. That’s what a new 2022 footprint study by the institute shows.
The new study was made by environmental consulting firm Arcadis, for the fourth year in a row. The results fit in with Nikhef’s intention as an institute to operate CO2 neutral by 2030.
Travel is almost inevitable for an international research institute with a large number of experiments outside the Netherlands. Flying is by far the most polluting way to travel. For Nikhef, it is the main source of CO2 emissions. However, the figures show that people are now flying more economically.
Travel behavior has clearly become more choosy. Meetings are attended remotely more often than before. The two corona years have made online meetings more normal.
In 2019, Nikhef employees still traveled frequently by plane, causing 758 tons of CO2 equivalent. The corona years 2020 and 2021 saw much less travel due to lockdowns and travel restrictions. By 2022, the restrictions had been largely lifted, but CO2 emissions were still only 263 tons, a third of the emissions from flying in 2019.
The question remains whether this decrease will continue in the coming years, as air travel still remains the main source of CO2 emissions for Nikhef.
The institute in Amsterdam, which includes a large data center, already runs on green electricity from the Netherlands. Gas consumption for heating the building at Amsterdam Science Park is the largest remaining source of emissions.
In the coming years, gas consumption will become virtually zero if heat from the expanded data center can be used. Heat from Nikhef has been used for years in student housing in and around Amsterdam Science Park.
An international sustainability study of scientists from particle physics and other fields (HECAP+) identifies Nikhef as an institute with below-average CO2 emissions per researcher: about 4.5 tons per year, compared to 6 tons on average. In their “reflection paper,” the authors advocate paying much more attention to environmental aspects of new experiments and laboratories.