Tag Archives: students

The city as goldmine of both materials and knowledge

What’s wrong?

Today, production and consumption of goods in all corners around the world is more extensive than any time before.1 The problem is that our global economy has always been a linear system. We extract raw materials, transform it into something useable and then, after a relatively short lifetime, turn it into waste. But what if I told you that we no longer have to extract raw materials from Mother Earth and have the opportunity to turn our waste into a resource? Intrigued yet?

That sounds better!

Fortunately, businesses are innovating a new industrial paradigm: closing loops. The driving force behind this? Our economy is approaching a tipping point where the old take-make-waste business model is a dead end. Finished, finito and no longer lucrative. Businesses are forced to rethink their products, as the global population is growing and urbanizing and resources are not infinite.

What do cities have to do with this?

Taking into account that cities accommodate a vast amount of the people that design, create and use these products that are eventually thrown away, I argue that cities cover a great part of the solution to make these products available for reuse. Half a century ago, urbanist Jane Jacobs already exclaimed that “cities are the mines of the future”. This approach of urban mining is seen as a way to recycle metals from city waste like buildings, infrastructure and devices.2 The resource stock that has been mined from underground into the human society now has a chance of circularity. Let’s see what’s in this for Leiden!

“As a city of knowledge and innovation, Leiden should be a frontrunner when it comes to sustainability” – Leiden Duurzaam 2030

Abuse the city’s students!

Life in Leiden is highly influenced by the relatively large number of students, as most of them live and study in de city.3 I have always believed that students can offer great help in society’s contemporary problems when it’s in their field of expertise. Because, as cheesy as it may sound, today’s students are tomorrow’s future. And other than that, it is both cost effective and awesome for municipalities or companies to collaborate with a university or a particular group of students.  When you ask students to get the job done you don’t have to hire an over-priced consultant and you are guaranteed that quality will be delivered, as these students will be advised by the country’s best-educated people: their professors.

Can you get back to the point?

Linking the latter story to urban mining in Leiden, there are a couple of things that can be done. Since students are the future’s leaders, scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and engineers, it’s clever to get them to work together from a systems perspective. We are still counting on technological advancements, pollution-control technologies and public awareness when it comes to determining what forms of urban stocks exist, when these urban stocks will become available for reuse and how these can be reused.

N.B. I would like to remind the municipality and/or companies not to forget to reward these students with an excessive amount of ECTS.

 

1 J. Li (2015) Wastes Could be Resources and Cities Could be Mines. 

2 P. Brunner (2011) Urban Mining A Contribution to Reindustrializing the City.

3 http://www.prospectivestudents.leiden.edu/studying-in-holland/university-town-leiden.html

Advertisements

Accomodating energy neutrality: Living on top of a parking lot!

Leiden: the ‘city of knowledge’ and one of the most densely built cities of the Netherlands. This fact goes hand in hand with many challenges, including a need for parking areas and housing, especially for students who account for at least 10% of the Leiden population! And now Leiden is facing another challenge as well: getting carbon neutral with a 40% energy reduction by 2020, as stated in the Duurzaamheidsagenda. However, it still proves to be a huge task to make this transition to other forms of energy and to establish a society in which saving energy is the norm… Public support is required in order to reach those goals. Therefore it is crucial to create public awareness of the necessity, options, and even advantages of the transition!

Three themes are highlighted here: a lack of space, a necessity for the transition to other forms and ways of using energy, and the need for a public awareness and support for this transition. Would it not be perfect if all those issues could be combined in one single project?

Maybe the ZED Pods  from the Zero Energy Development (ZED) Factory could offer such a multi-functional solution. ZED Pods are literally small sized, pre-fabricated pop up houses with a general gross internal floor area of 22.4 m2. This makes them cheap and easy to erect, as well as to relocate if necessary. In their design they are placed on top of parking lots or other unused spaces, thereby combining different functions. ZED Pods are supposed to be completely energy neutral due to a combination of very good insulation, efficient energy use, and a roof fully covered with solar panels. About 70% of the time the solar panels provide the houses in all the electricity they need, plus that of the charging points for electric vehicles which are located on the parking lot underneath. The lion share of the electricity for necessary heating is used to provide hot water, which gets heated and distributed by a small electric heat pump.

zedpod3
Composition of the insulation

In addition to their huge advantage of being energy neutral, the ZED Pods are cheap and easy to erect as well as to relocate if necessary. This makes them highly suitable for spaces which do not yet have a fixed destination plan. The Pods which are meant for couples have an estimated rent of €750 which makes them suitable for student housing too. Therefore the implementation of those Pods could potentially decrease the shortage of student housing which Leiden is facing at. Additionally, the ZED Pods could be an incentive for people to make the transition towards electric vehicles. At the same time they could raise awareness among the (young) residents and their surroundings. This awareness might spread even further when combined with a more wide-spread promotion of the project.

zedpod2
ZED Pods for students

Altogether this means that the implementation of ZED Pods could provide the city of Leiden with a unique opportunity: creating cheap housing in line with the goals of a carbon neutral Leiden, while responding to the challenges of a limited space capacity of the city, a need for (student) housing, and a need for public support and awareness of the energy transition. Embracing this opportunity would thus enrich the city, its inhabitants, and the environment as a whole!

 

 

 

 

 

From leftover to luscious meal

Leiden: the city of students, which are the future of our planet. Leiden is also a possible frontrunner in sustainability. These two aspects are opportunities to make Leiden a sustainable city, like the municipality wishes for by 2030. In a city with an abundance of students, loads of food is eaten. Because without food, there won’t be any nutrition for the brain to study. And let a diet just be where there is a lot is to gain in sustainability.

 

hpslide2_imagec

 

 

 

 

 

Of all the food produced, the percentage of food that is thrown away is estimated between one-third and one-half. That just makes your stomach turn, right? Certainly when you think of it this way: most of the food that is thrown away is still good and edible. It is lost in production, during transport or in our own houses. A movement towards a circular economy would be a more efficient way to use food. In a circular economy, raw materials are optimally used. Reduce, reuse and recycling are keywords for this system: reduce the amount of needed raw materials; reuse products instead of buying new ones; and recycle as much as possible. A circular economy can for example include the use of leftovers.

In Utrecht, Amsterdam and The Hague special pop-up restaurants have popped up for leftover food, called Instock. Leftover doesn’t sound very delicious, but it really can be. Products with today’s date from supermarkets cannot be sold anymore, but can still be very tasty. Other examples of thrown away food are ‘ugly’ vegetables.

ugly_fruits
‘Ugly’ vegetables

Producers think the products need to look good for the consumers, but when the food is on your plate, you will not taste the difference between a round pepper and one with a bump on it. In the United States of America is even a business in ugly vegetables! And when an apple is beginning to bruise, they can still make apple pie out of it. But, the stores cannot use products out of date, because that’s not in line with the law.

Of course, this is not a fully circular economy. It will not be feasible to create a complete full circle of the food web, because there will always be a percentage of produced food that’s simply not tasty anymore. You also have products that do not expire quickly that always needs to be bought in pop-up stores like these. In Instock, it’s about 20 % of the dinner that must be bought, like oil and dairy. The leftovers of the leftovers – products out of date or bruised – can be used as fuel (bio-gas) or fed to the animals in the petting zoo. In this way, even these leftovers can be used well. It is a good start into sustainability.

For Leiden, a pop-up store like Instock can be an opportunity. As a student, I like to eat out. In this restaurant, you will get a prepared three-course meal for little money. There are enough supermarkets to provide the restaurants in their needs and enough students as customers. I would definitely eat there!