Dirk van den Berg

Your passion for the outdoors can help save it

University Fund 3 min. Melinde Bussemaker

The climate is changing. We can see it in our immediate surroundings and last winter it was painfully obvious in European skiing areas. The annual number of consecutive snow days in the lower valleys continues to decline. And the circumstances are more extreme, ranging from closed skiing areas due to lack of snow to extreme snowfall and danger of avalanches. We can all pitch in to do something about that, Dirk van den Berg believes. Driven by his passion and supported by Tilburg University Fund, he set up the Dutch chapter of the Protect Our Winters nonprofit.

Dirk is a Impact Developer with the Knowledge Transfer Office of Tilburg University. As an outdoor enthusiast, he was inspired by the global Protect Our Winters charity. “Protect Our Winters is a large international community of scientists, athletes, creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and volunteers who want to use their expertise and passion to build awareness of climate change. Being a keen tour skier myself, l also want to actively contribute to this goal.” 

Mountains, no; skiers, yes, lots

In February 2021, he contacted Protect Our Winters Europe to ask whether a Dutch chapter ought to be set up. “While our country is not a winter sports destination, it does boast a large community of about one million skiers. Following a series of interviews, I wrote a strategic plan that I was invited to present to the Board of Protect Our Winters in September 2022. In a mountain lodge near Innsbruck the Board decided that the Netherlands could join as the tenth European chapter. All systems were go.” 

Dirk van de Berg

I am immensely grateful to Tilburg University Fund; its donation was our first and it meant we could really get started!

Dirk van den Berg


Photo: Nathalie Duin

Contributing to broad prosperity

To set up Protect Our Winters Netherlands, Dirk needed funds. Being a staff member of Tilburg University, he applied to Tilburg University Fund. Supporting students, staff, and alumni who seek to improve today’s and tomorrow’s society, the Fund contributes to broad prosperity, especially in the areas of sustainability transition, inclusion, and well-being & health. Dirk: “I am immensely grateful to Tilburg University Fund; its donation was our first and it meant we could really get started! We used the funds to sort out legal, tax, and organizational matters, like setting up the foundation and forming the board.” 

Building awareness

“Our goal is to build awareness and to encourage outdoor lovers to think about their footprint when they are engaging in their sports and what effect it has on the future. Imperfect activism is our motto: no finger-pointing at what’s not good but presenting sustainable alternatives and setting a good example ourselves. Why not take the train to our ski resorts to reduce our footprints?” Protect Our Winters (POW) actively pursues collaboration with organizations to support climate action. For example, POW is engaged in talks with Dutch Railways International to figure out how to make taking the train to winter sports destinations more appealing. It also organizes events, gives presentations, and tries to effect legislative change. “We have launched campaigns like the ‘POW Mobility Month,’ a kind of race in which the various chapters log their CO2-free kilometers. And we have shared our knowledge at a networking evening of the Royal Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Association (NKBV) and outdoor store Bever.” 

We can all do our bit, no matter how big or small it is

Tilburg University 

“Climate change is a fact,” Dirk concludes. “I am convinced behavioral change comes about sooner through external stimuli, like the university’s new mobility policy that discourages car travel. At Protect Our Winters Netherlands we also try to provide such external stimuli, for example by encouraging people to make their sustainable trip a challenge. We can all do our bit, no matter how big or small it is.” 

More information about Protect Our Winters Netherlands can be found at www.protectourwinters.nl. Tilburg University Funds seeks to increase the impact Tilburg University has on society and for that reason supports student, staff, and alumni projects that contribute to broad prosperity. 

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Date of publication: 20 April 2023