Tag Archives: Sustainable Development

Leiden: Leading in sharing

Modern problematic

Living in a modern world we, as human beings, have exceeded our potential of connecting to (and sharing with) one another by the means of internet, smartphones and most of all an intensive use of social media. Despite its underlying philosophy of bringing people together and creating a sense of community, people still are feeling lonelier than ever and feel more unsafe than they did in earlier times. Even though the latter might be true looking purely from an environmental perspective, one could say we live in prosperous times in which the world is safer than it ever was before. To kill two birds with one stone, moving towards a sharing economy can contribute to a sustainable future while recovering our sense of community and feelings of safety.

How a sharing city works

Basically, a sharing economy works according to the principle of sharing products or services through the concepts of peer-to-peer or peer-to-business-to-peer sharing or renting (such as Airbnb). In doing so, it can reduce the demand for new products and therefore reduce a populations resource consumption. Furthermore, the sharing or temporarily trading of a product or service with ones close by neighbors would result in more communal solidarity. When implented on a large scale in a city, we can speak of a sharing city. As a leading example, Seoul is currently the front-runner on becoming a sharing city. They have implemented interesting ideas such as:

  • Using “sharing libraries” where people could deposit and borrow tools or books for free.
  • Car Sharing
  • ShareHub: a place to find all that can be shared.

The transition towards a sharing economy isn’t only happening in South Korea, but also here in the Netherlands in both Nijmegen and Amsterdam. One could argue that if Amsterdam could implement innovative ideas towards becoming a sharing city, Leiden could most certainly succeed just as well. As Leiden is a lot smaller and less, the possibilities are endless to make the transition.

Leiden towards becoming a sharing city

To make the transition towards becoming a sharing city one could think of several applications in the city of Leiden. For starters, Leiden has a lot of empty buildings that could function as sharing hubs or as headquarters for startup companies that could work on the transition. For instance, the old V&D building on the Nieuwe Rijn/Breestraat which is now being used for pop-up stores could be the new center of sharing. By dividing this massive building into separate supervised corners which all have an own product category (e.g. tools, clothes, electronics), you create an accessible and fundamental place for sharing.

Another way of making it possible for Leiden to become a sharing city is by developing an overarching website or app which includes all categories of products and services which could possibly be shared among the city’s citizens. By including as much companies and students in the development of this application as possible, and by sharing the service throughout the city’s universities, popular visited locations and through the inhabitants mailboxes, this application might result an a success.

To make the transition towards a sharing economy lot of extra services will need to be implemented to make it a succes. For instance, a workforce that examines the products for any damages to a persons product needs to be implemented. Next to that, people would want to be sure that their product always returns to their rightful owner, meaning that people would have to register to be able to share or borrow a product. Of course the transition towards a sharing economy isn’t something that happens overnight and takes time and effort (meaning job opportunities!) to make it all possible. Nevertheless, a sharing economy is an interesting concept that could change our end of life economy  to a more communal and sustainable way of living.


Smart planning with smart meters

In 2015 the Dutch government decided to install a smart gas meter in all the 7 million households by 2020. This measures gas and electric use and sends it to your provider and also makes it possible to look into your own usage. These new meters were expected to lessen the energy use of every household by an average of 3,5%. A quarter of these households now have one of these meters installed and the results are not as hoped. Installing the new meter decreases the energy use on average by less than 1%. Planbureau voor Leefomgeving(PBL) researched why the new meters did not have the impact they had hoped.

Personally when I thought of a smart meter I was expecting the smart thermostat to be a part of the deal, which would tell you in real time how much you are using and possibly what could be saved. But contrary to my assumptions, it was just a meter in a cupboard in your house that you will not open unless you need your vacuum cleaner. So it was assumed that with installing the smart meter the consumer would use this opportunity to look into their usage and change their behavior accordingly. This assumption was true for the “interested, analytically oriented consumer” which accounts for the decrease of energy consumption that was measured. But I would say it is naive to expect the average consumer, that normally checked their meter once a year and now does not have to at all, to put in the extra effort to save energy. Since the average consumer would have no idea where to start or does not have the incentive to spend time on it.

In the Netherlands only 15% of the consumers use a smart thermostat. For example: you would have to take a 4 year contract or pay around 275 euro to install it and an additional 3,50 per month to use Toon from Eneco. So consumers will not be triggered to keep an eye on their energy expenditures, without offering a clear monetary benefit to them. It turns out the installment of the smart meter did not come with a display as they do in the UK. The UK has a decreased consumption of energy of 3% since installing the new meter. It would be a fair assumption to expect it to have the same effect in the Netherlands. I just wonder if they could not have come to this conclusion before installing the first 25% of the smart meters.  before spending the 3,3 billion spent so far.

It’s not odd that energy companies are reluctant to give away their smart thermostats for free, as consumers usually have to pay extra fees to have one installed with their energy contract. It is a big money maker for the energy companies, and therefore the thermostats will not be widely and publicly available unless ordered from higher-ups. If the same decrease of energy consumption can be decreased by an additional 2% just by offering a visual aid in the living room, it would be highly beneficial to pursue that avenue. Perhaps, universal smart thermostats can even be developed without the energy suppliers, as a governmental endeavor. In which case society as a whole can benefit from this technology in hopes of a more sustainable planet.

Source: https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2016/11/19/energiebesparing-door-slimme-meter-valt-tegen-a1532652

Pushing technology

By now, almost everyone with an internet connection in the western world must have heard about Tesla’s brilliant electric cars, haven’t you? The amount of Tesla cars sold in the Netherlands has doubled over the past 3 years. Which means that more and more people will have a Tesla, since the older ones are probably still around as well. This will lead to more charging stations as a convenience for the electric drivers… or will more charging stations lead to more cars? I wouldn’t be wrong in saying that electric cars are the future.

blog1Source: Anton Watts, https://goo.gl/E1GulM

This is not a problem if electric cars are the only applicable sustainable option. As Tesla started selling the first electric cars in the Netherlands, the municipalities started giving away free parking spaces with chargers for electric cars. Meanwhile, the government heavily subsidised the electric cars. Together, this led to a significant monetary benefit which boosted position of the electric car industry in the market.

Market share of Tesla Motors in the Netherlands (percentages)

Number of Tesla cars sold in the Netherlands (cars)
Source: https://goo.gl/EmYZwj

The investments of the governmental parties in the electric car practically eliminated the development of other energy sources for cars, like hydrogen or biofuels. We did the same thing in the early 1900s, but the other way around. The development of the electric cars was eliminated by the more efficient and cheaper gas powered cars, because at that time it was believed that fossil fuel powered cars were the superior alternative.

It is debateable whether we made a mistake choosing for the fossil fuel powered cars back in the 20th century, but let’s not make a mistake in the 21st century, and give all technological possibilities a chance! Fortunately, Toyota has released the Toyota Mirai in 2015, which runs on hydrogen and won the ‘World Green Car of the Year Award’ in 2016. Yet, neither have I seen this car in the Netherlands nor have I even heard of hydrogen fuel stations.

Source: Photography by Sean Rice, https://goo.gl/zSx2DY

The amount of hydrogen stations in the Netherlands is a disappointing number of only 2, which explains why I haven’t heard of them. This, while the amount of public electrical charging stations counts towards 25,000 at the time of writing this.

Number of charging stations for electrical cars in the Netherlands from 2010 to 2016, excluding private charging stations
Source: https://goo.gl/CAJZ6d

I’d like to conclude that it is ‘odd’ that electric cars seem to be the prospective future, while there is still at least one other viable possible solution.

We should not repeat history and pick a technology that suits us just for now, but stimulate multiple innovative concurrent solutions to build towards a better future. Toyota is still investing in their hydrogen car, so this technology will not be lost…. for now. And don’t get me wrong, electric cars are great. For the sake of sustainability, technology and the future, please think about these less known innovations, don’t they deserve more publicity and better chances to survive in the market?


Source Featured Image: https://goo.gl/SFTRZk

The Future of Energy Generation: Sustainable Architecture

When considering utilization of wind or solar energy, the image that most often comes to peoples mind is that of conventional solar panels and wind turbines. Consequently raising the question of assessing the required space for the installation and operation of these solutions.

However, time has moved on and along with it new ways and form-factors have been developed for the implementation of these sustainable energy sources within urban areas. Taking both of these technologies into a new direction, by rethinking the way we build and live. Combining the concept of architecture and sustainable energy, has led to the design of amazing new buildings that generate a significant sur-plus amount of electricity while providing increased living comfort.

On a global scale, several projects have been developed within this philosophy. A prime example of which, is the joint development project between Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and Norway’s research centre on zero emission buildings. Designing and building a house which produces three times the amount the energy it consumes. It even incudes its own sauna and swimming pool. The designer also states that the addition of an electric car is also ideal by charging the car with the sur-plus produced energy.

Building-Schematics, showcasing the utilized sustainable technologies
Outside view of the house

With the current prognosis that by 2050 66% of world population will be living in urban areas, and the fact that 75% of the current carbon footprint is related to city’s1, concepts like these are no longer to be considered a niche, but actual feasible solutions that we should embrace in order to create a healthier and more sustainable living environment for the future. By integrating sustainable energy production with the concept of housing, cities in contrast have the ability to become inter-connected energy producing hubs.

Related projects on a more grand scale have also been undertaken. Showcasing the extent to which these sustainable solutions are applicable. The Bahrain World-Trade Centre, which was build in 2008 for example, consists of two seperate towers built in aerodynamic accordance  with the regional Persian gulf winds. The design which was inspired by ancient Arabian wind towers, helps to funnel strong winds allong three wind turbines. Annually providing the equivalent amount of energy to sustain 300 households.

By looking at regional conditions and circumstances, specific structural designs can be employed, while implementing matching sustainable solutions to achieve the most energy efficient outcome. Current, alongside new sustainable energy generating technologies will enable the construction of complete city’s which are able to provide in our ever-increasing global energy demand. Thereby not only solving spatial issues regarding the implementation of conventional sustainable energy solutions, but also freeing up an substantial ammount of public space, which in turn can be used for recreational purposes alongside the production of food. Thus also contributing to the improvement of urban living conditions.

By taking on a different view on how a city can function, we can create an environment that works in accordance with our modern day needs. Furthermore, by revaluating the combined concepts of form and function, we have to ability of shaping an enviroment that facilitates in overcoming planetery boundaries and meet in our future energy demands.



More pages on the subject:

Norwegian Ecological House

Insights in the minds behind sustainable City Projects – Interview

Examples Around the World – Modern day development

1. United Nations – World Urbanisation Prospects  https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.Pdf

Towards sustainable energy consumption – 5 creative ways to recycle heat

In Leiden, like in most European cities, the heating of buildings can amount to as much as half of the total energy consumption. From creating centralized heating systems, installing solar panels to heat up water to improving the insulation of your house or cutting showers short a couple of minutes – there are many options to more effectively consume energy, save on heating costs and reduce your impact on the environment.

This is nothing new to you? But, have you ever wondered what happens to all the heat lost in industrial processes, or produced when heating your home, showering, cooking, and driving? There is still huge potential in using and recycling this excess heat.

Here are 5 new ideas on how to not lose the heat you produce, of which you might not have heard of until now:

  1. Don’t let your warm water go down the drain – By recycling heat from your warm water off your sinks, dishwasher, washing machine and shower you can already preheat the water for the next usage. Companies, such as Canadian-based Renewability, already apply this concept for residential housing as well as company buildings.  The following video explains how Renewability’s system works:      http://www.renewability.com/video.html[1]
  1. Blow off some kitchen steam – Whenever you cook or bake or even simply when a refrigerator is running in your kitchen, vast amounts of excess heat are created that could be used to heat up your water or warm the dishwasher. An existing concept is South African’s Whirlpool’s eco kitchen, which redirects heat streams to where they are needed and is designed after natural ecosystem cycles. It can help create 70% more efficient kitchens than current the standard forms. ecokitchen[2]
  1. Suck that heat out of the pavement – Heat can be extracted almost everywhere, including sun-lit pavements. By building water pipelines beneath pavement surfaces, researchers are currently testing how excess heat can best be collected. But there is much more to streets than just the pavements. Heat from friction caused by traffic could in the future be used for energy creation, too. asphalt-collector-spoorviaduct-905x677[3]
  2. Get more from your supermarket than just groceries – Supermarkets, and many other companies create heat through cooling processes or from industrial processes, which altogether equals millions of oil barrels wasted every year. New projects aim at connecting centralized city heating systems with industries to heat entire cities with waste heat.[4] For instance Leiden, in cooperation with Heinken, will use waste heat from Rotterdam harbour’s industrial processes in the future. leidenwarmthFor a video of the process, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLHDx9dlWU4

Also, do you have a supermarket underneath your apartment or nearby your house? Local solutions might allow you to link your heating system to a supermarket’s cooling system generating a local supply of (up to now mostly unused) heat.[5]

  1. Last but not least, use your body heat – The human body radiates about 100W of excess heat when resting and even more while rushing around. Imagine capturing the heat of hundreds of thousands of people to heat buildings. This is what is done in a 13-floor high office building next to Stockholm’s Central Station. The excess heat of 200.000 commuters is collected by ventilators and used to produce hot water with the help of heat exchangers. The host water is then transported to the office building. This system reduced energy costs of the office by 20%. Similar initiatives exist in Paris where body heat collected at metro stations is used to heat 17 nearby office buildings.[6]thinkerbw [7] Surprisingly, using body heat for heating rooms has not yet been tested in fitness studios.

Unconventional ideas, such as the examples presented, might play a key role for efficient future management of energy usage. Do you have your own ideas or projects on how to recycle heat? Comment below and share your experience to help Leiden and other cities around the globe recycle heat and become sustainable.

Interested in the topic? Find out more by following these links:

[1] http://www.renewability.com/power_pipe/how_works.html

[2] http://gizmodo.com/368565/whirlpool-kitchen-is-eco-friendly-recycles-heat-water

[3] https://www.cyclifier.org/

Dawson et al. (2014) Energy Harvesting from Pavements. In: Gopalakrishnan et al. (eds.) Climate Change, Energy, Sustainability and Pavements. Heidelberg: Springer, 481-517.

[4] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160330174617.htm

[5] Fricke, Brian A. (2011) Final Report. Waste Heat Recapture from Supermarket Refrigeration Systems. http://info.ornl.gov/sites/publications/files/pub31294.pdf

[6] http://www.eurocities.eu/eurocities/news/Body-heat-new-green-energy-source-WSPO-9HLBUY


[7] http://www.drcruzan.com/Images/Physics/Thermodynamics/HeatTransfer/HeatTransferModes.png

Sustainable Leiden – Jan 2017

A new year, new chances! The students of this year’s final course of the Minor Sustainable Development, provided by the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University, will again be working with the Leiden City Council to help them develop their Sustainability plans. This collaboration was started last year, and we look forward to building upon its success.

Image result for innovative ideas from waste
Plastic bottles to create a vertical garden (pic credit: Maria Rose)

As part of this course, students will be investigating the opportunities for the city of Leiden with respect to energy generation, energy transition, circular economy and climate adaptation. In groups, they will address specific questions of the council regarding these topics, and present them at the end of January. In preparation for this exercise, the students will be writing posts to this blog detailing ideas and initiatives from elsewhere as inspiration for what may be done in Leiden.

We look forward to presenting some exciting ideas appear over the next few weeks!