Low-key climate change initiative goes international


A popular Flemish event that encourages locals to turn down their heating and don an extra jumper is crossing borders this year

Just a little bit

Each year in February, people in Flanders are encouraged to turn down their heating for the day and put a jumper on instead, for the sake of the environment. The initiative, known as Dikketruiendag, or Thick Jumper Day, was started in 2005 by the Flemish government’s department for environment, nature and energy. But this year, it’s aiming to cross borders.

Participating organisations – be they schools, private companies or government departments – are teaming up with partners around the world on 15 February in an attempt to spread the message and help cut our levels of carbon dioxide emissions.

So, a technical college in Torhout, West Flanders, is joining forces with counterparts in China, while a primary school in Pepingen, Flemish Brabant, is planning to sponsor solar panels at a school in the Philippines.

Jonas Jaques of VTI Torhout explains the collaboration with Longquan Secondary Vocational School in south-eastern China. “For several years, we’ve been organising an exchange between the schools, with visiting delegations made up of management, teachers and pupils, in the hope of exchanging ideas and considering the future together. As a result of this co-operation, we thought we should do something together for Dikketruiendag.”

Students at the college can take part in a range of activities on Dikketruiendag: picking up litter in the area around the school, an environment-themed quiz, a visit to the local recycling park and a screening of The Eleventh Hour, a documentary about climate change.

“The pupils were invited to sign up for the different activities,” Jaques says. “All the events are fully booked, which goes to show that young people today really do want to make an impact and work together towards a better climate.”

Thinking green

In Brussels, meanwhile, engineering consultancy bureau Altran is looking a little closer to home, as it pairs up with its Luxembourg branch to promote an energy-saving mentality among staff at both sites.

“We’ve been doing Dikketruiendag informally for a long time, but this is the first year we’ve taken part officially,” says spokesperson Caroline Nicque. “We have a corporate social responsibility programme, and we want to think green, but we sometimes need a bit of help.”

We’ll reduce the heating at the office by one degree, to decrease our carbon footprint together

- Vanessa Molina

It’s quite popular already, with workers even buying sweaters just for the day. “The staff make the effort, and we like to do our bit for them as a company, so we’ll be giving away hot drinks so they can keep warm. We’ll take pictures and share them on social media to create a link on the day between the two offices. We really want to make people aware of the environment.”

Her colleague in Luxembourg, Vanessa Molina, is looking forward to the occasion. “We’ve invited all our employees to come to work in their favourite sweater. We’ll reduce the heating at the office by one degree, to decrease our carbon footprint together,” she says. “To stay on the clothing topic, we’ve launched a partnership with a local charity and have asked employees to donate clothing in the containers that we’ll place in our offices.”

To thank them, the company has invited staff to gather and eat waffles together after lunch on the 15th. “We really like the idea of Dikketruiendag, and it fits well with our company values,” Molina says. “It’s an opportunity to see all our employees, combined with a beautiful social action.”

Photo: Staff at Altran in Brussels huddled together on a recent Dikketruiendag 
Courtesy Altran