Sustainability now!

This year’s symposium is organized around the theme of ‘Sustainability now!’. With this theme, we hope to bring together researchers who contribute to sustainability in the different applied fields of biological sciences. This symposium also takes place within the wider commitment of UGent to sustainable principles. The goal of this sustainability vision is for UGent to become a leading knowledge institute for a future that is ecologically, socially and economically sustainable within a local and global context.

One concrete application of this policy relates to academic gatherings like this symposium. Academic conferences can have a huge environmental impact. The primary cause is the use of airplanes as transportation, as outlined recently by Caset et al. (2018) in their paper "Meet & fly: Sustainable transport academics and the elephant in the room". Since NSABS is a national symposium, its climate impact is limited compared to most international conferences. However, in the context of the main theme, we have committed to making the symposium climate neutral. To achieve this, we will primarily avoid emissions and in addition compensate the emitted amounts of CO2.


Several initiatives exist to compensate CO2 emissions. Some compensate the emitted CO2 by investing in green energy (e.g. or in energy-efficient household equipment such as cooking stoves (e.g. in developing countries. Other initiatives compensate by protecting forests (e.g. or by planting trees (e.g.

For this symposium, we opted for the Belgian initiative Treecological. This initiative of BOS+ and Ecolife compensates CO2 by reforestation in Ecuador. These tropical forests sequester 15 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. Treecological charges 17 euros per ton CO2. At this price, they can plant, conserve and protect an amount of trees that will sequester 1 ton of CO2 over 20 years. Researchers at Ghent University monitor the CO2-sequestering of the planted forests, to guarantee that the expected quantity of CO2 is captured. Local organisations and inhabitants are involved to ensure that the planted forest corresponds to their needs. A biodiverse, healthy forest, often enriched with agroforestry, guarantees an income and added value for the local residents, which in turn enables them to better protect the forest.

Minimising our ecological footprint


Participants are strongly encouraged to travel to the symposium by public transport or under their own power. For those who come by bike, shower facilities will be available (on request at the registration desk). Participants who come by foot or by bike save 172 g CO2 per travelled km compared to travelling by car, while those coming by train will save 130 g CO2 per travelled km.

The amount of CO2 emitted for each vehicle is given below, using the assumptions adopted by De Lijn. “Tank to wheel” refers to the direct emissions during combustion. “Well to tank” refers to the indirect emissions of the fuel, emitted during exploitation, refinement, transportation and distribution. In the final CO2-calculations by Treecological, the indirect emissions for production and maintenance of the vehicle and infrastructure are also accounted for. For the example of a car, these emissions increase its total pollution by 40%. (Source:

CO2-emission tank to wheel (kg/km) Emission including well to tank (TTW * 1.3) (kg/km) Assumptions
Average car 0,13 0,17 Diesel, 6,5 l/100 km (= 172 g CO2/km, 1,35 passengers)
Average bus 0,08 0,10 Diesel, 40 l/100km, 14 passengers
Average tram De Lijn 0,00 0,00 De Lijn bus 100 % green (hydropower) energy (20 g CO2/kWh)
Train NMBS 0,03 0,04
Bike/Foot 0,00 0,00


The coffee breaks, lunch and reception will be provided by Roof Food. These young entrepreneurs cultivate vegetables and spices on the roof of their business in Ghent. With the ingredients directly from the garden, they provide catering that is not only tasty and original, but also organic, seasonal, vegetarian and short-chain. All food and drinks will be transported by bike from their location to the symposium venue. The emissions of the catering (mainly cooking) are estimated at 509 kg CO2 (estimated by Treecological, based on information from

Other sources of pollution

To limit paper use, the conference proceedings will only be provided online. Other sources of CO2 such as the remaining printing (conference program and posters, estimated at 25 kg CO2), as well as the heating and electricity of the buildings (estimated at 44 kg CO2), will be compensated via Treecological.