Tag Archives: Sustainable Development

‘Green Your City Competition’

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Singapore the ‘Garden City’

Green Your City Competition

Over the past century we witnessed a constant trend, shifting the lives of people increasingly away from rural settings to the urban sphere. Whereas, currently around 54% of the world population lives in cities, this number is expected to rise to a full two-third of the human population (Hawley 2014). In the eyes of the ubiquitous threat that climate change poses not only for the continuation of vital ecosystem services, but for the very livelihood of our cities. It is indispensable prerequisite to adapt our cities in a sustainable fashion in order to be prepared for whatever changes the future might bring. Singapore, also known as the ‘Garden City’ is a prime example of a sustainable city, that has despite its growing population, managed to incorporate various types of biodiversity, such as green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, and many other forms of greenery, into its urban landscape. Singapore sets a benchmark for all cities to strive for, but how can this be achieved if a city has considerably less financial means?

The ‘Green Your City Competition’

The Green Your City Competition brings together citizens, eco-tourism agencies, municipalities, and many other stakeholders in cities all over Europe, in a combined effort to green our cities. How will this be done?

In a close collaboration with an environmentally conscious search machine, such as Ecosia that plants a tree for every search you do, through its ad revenue. By expanding this concept from solely deforested areas to cities, the energetic capacity of our society can be used in a communal effort to restore the biodiversity that has once been lost in our cities.

Implementation:

European Cities that are interested in participating will work in close collaboration with city specific agencies that are willing to put advertisement on the search engine. This could for example been done by eco-tourism agencies that have a high interest in attracting more people to their city. It is then the job of the municipality and environmental agencies to campaign the initiative to its citizens, in order to incorporate a wide-spread use of the ‘green search engine’. Specifically, for this purpose the ‘green search engine’ will be adapted next to its original purpose to a city specific context, in that once the citizens connect to the browser they will have the opportunity to type in the name of their city. This way it will be clear how much of the revenue created in the form of trees, greenwalls, green roofs etc. will be devoted to each city.

Which form will this endeavour take?

The municipality together with its citizens will make a business plan, deciding on the part of the city that need improvement, and in what form this will be done. Thus, depending on the problems the city is facing, they could for example decide to plant more trees in parking spaces, or construct green walls to counter the heat island effect of highly paved areas. Indeed, this can be realized in any way that seems appropriate for the city-specific case. Once enough revenue has been collected the city will receive the money for the assertion of the project. This will be done under close supervision by the ‘Green Your City’ committee to ensure the correct usage of the money. Lastly, the surplus of funds initially aimed on greening related projects ought to be used for the continued maintenance of those newly planted areas.

Benefits

By mobilizing the energetic society through an incentive of a better living environment, facilitated through the little effort of simply using a new search engine, the cities will not only be able to carry out their vision for a sustainable future, but this will set an incentive for cities all over the world to follow their example.

For further information concerning sustainable search engines, look at: https://info.ecosia.org/what

 

Work Cited:

Hawley, Kate. 2014. “Transforming Cities For Sustainability: Facts And Figures”. Scidev.Net. https://www.scidev.net/global/cities/feature/transforming-cities-sustainability-facts-figures.html.

 

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A Climate Adaptation Strategy is not only about the climate

 

 

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”The Empire State Building was lit in green to support as our city sets out to divest from Big Oil” @NYCMayorsOffice

A city is a major centre of innovation, economic development and consumption, which inevitably connects it to the three pillars of sustainable development. Sustainable development and the creation of a liveable city is of great importance, as a city is a complex, but vulnerable system on which the outcomes of the changing climate can have a devastating effect. Especially with the expected growing population and continuing urbanisation.

Although cities may be the major drivers of climate change, consequently they can also be the driving forces of climate adaptation and mitigation. As a response, cities all around the world have developed a climate adaptation strategy, which enables them to prepare for extreme weather and make their city more resilient . Leiden has now joined this ongoing process as it has included climate adaptation in its Sustainability Ambitions. As time is short and the consequences of climate change become clear, Leiden should take advantage of the precedent research that has been done and the possible solutions that have been developed.

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Rotterdam is a delta city, part of the climate adaptation strategy

A first lesson to be learned regarding the climate adaptation strategies from, for example, New York , Londen , Copenhagen and Rotterdam, is that a climate proof city is rather an outcome than a separate goal. It is part of a greater transition towards a liveable and resilient city. ”Preparing for extreme weather and further climate change is about managing risks and increasing [our] resilience to them – it is therefore as much about the economy, quality of life and social equality, as about the environment” (page 12). A strong green-blue grid is part of the solution, but to become a sustainable city, climate adaptation should be incorporated and linked (page 6) to other sectors and projects. Consequently, collective action (page 12) should be taken, incorporating stakeholders from different scale levels. Citizens are one of the most important stakeholders in this process, as they will be greatly affected by any or none action undertaken. However, the political conditions have a great influence on the transition as well. Therefore, the city of Leiden should investigate the possible drivers and barriers for initiatives and action to be taken. By analysing existing projects, the contextual barriers can be addressed. Possible institutional barriers such as the market, the social-cultural context and the political framework should be investigated as well. This analysis would eventually lead to the creation of favourable conditions for the climate adaptation strategy to be successful. Lastly, it should be understood that the transition towards a resilient and liveable city is an ongoing process and that the planning should be open for new insights, theories and measures. The climate is changing and so should the solutions.

As several cities have already taken action, there are many examples of possible strategies and solutions. Portland, for example, is a pioneer regarding sustainability and the development of Smart Growth Strategies . London has used the concept of heat stress as an important parameter for spatial planning, which resulted in the East London Green Grid Master Plan.

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East London Green Grid

Rotterdam has taken great initiatives and could be a source of inspiration for Leiden and so do other initiatives in the Netherlands. There are many collaborations between cities or communities that help and (financially) support each other. The urban green-blue grid is one example, but the European Climate Adaptation Platform can be of great use for Leiden as well. Moreover, they have already stated that they will join this platform and make use of the financial and technical support. I would suggest that more collaborations are created and that a global platform of knowledge, initiatives and funding is created to which all cities can contribute. The solutions for climate change might be unique for each location, it is still a global challenge with many cities facing the same problems.

Homemade green energy. Do It Yourself?

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Being environmentally conscious has never been more popular these days. One look at my facebook and YouTube page and I’m overload by tags such as  #govegan #lovetheearth #Greenpower. It’s nice to know that people are more aware about their impact makes on our earth with their choices and actions. And some of then want to make an actual change on their ecological footprint.

Easiest way people can do this is to do an energy transition. They transfer from their current energy supply company to a more green company who do invest in creating actual green energy not just with the Guarantee of Origin certificates. But even those companies has to deal with energy peaks. Sometimes they are unable to meet the energy demand.

So this is why Universities around the world are seeking for the best and greenest way of creating, saving and use energy. To earn most honorable status of greenest university innovation. These days we have a lot of green options to choose from thanks to their unlimited curiosity and to science. These options are wind energy, geothermal energy, solar power panels etc.  But the biggest problem is how to save the energy and distribute evenly over an certain spatial area. This question comes with many challenges and questions. It  provide us new opportunities to explore beyond our limits of knowledges. But those prototypes  takes very long time before entering the mainstream market.

Good job universities! Keep looking for this superpower to convert all of the green energy into a saving buffer  for later use like a powerful battery or whatever this product  may be. I’m really looking forward to all your genius works!

So what can we do as individual as long this solution isn’t available. But still can get green energy in the cheapest and greenest way at the moment. Why not build your own windmill and its generator? I personally do not have experience nor the expertise to build my own. But I do think this is a fun way to make your very own green energy. Imagine this when it’s a windy day you get your renewable energy  from your roof to your wall socket. Without any energy supply company in between whose may not even be that green!

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put this outside? No way,  not this beautiful work of art!

I’m inspired by my dear husband who studied applied physics . In colleges for one of his major subjects he has built with his classmates a windmill and generators. If you are interested how this looks like.. I will link this short video of his project  below. But I asked him about his experiences. Can anybody create this on their own? He replies with that anybody with an technical skills and willpower can create this. But at first you have to understand how magnetic induction and aerodynamics works.  And be to at least a bit handy. See the websites down below for a more detailed information on this topic.

According to engineering websites on making our own  windmill  can be a bit disappointment when comes to payback period. It usually takes longer than a conventional windmill on land. But when you love  technical DIY projects at home than this might me a good option to spend your money and spare time on this. And at the same time you’re creating green credits when charging your phone. And while you type down  #greenenergy #LoveEarth # Greenpower you are  being 100% truthfully then! Imagine this..

Link to Arno’s self-made windmill generator https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJ8snVQTq2c&feature=youtu.be

Step by step how to make windmill (in Dutch)

https://houhetwarm.nl/hoe-bouw-ik-zelf-een-kleine-windmolen/

http://www.lowtechmagazine.be/2007/10/bouw-je-eigen-1.html

video how to build your own windmill https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=64&v=xQgObKnwMco

Info about Guarentee of Orgin: https://www.aib-net.org/certification/c_faq/reliability

Two ways to find out how sustainable you live in your house

On 12 December 2015, 171 political leader signed an international climate policy in Paris, the Paris Agreement. This agreement also meant a reversion for Leiden in the field of CO2- emissions: a reduction of 49% in 2030 compared to 1990. In order to achieve this, the trias energetica was included in the policy plan of the municipality. The trias energetica is based on the following: ‘First, we need to reduce the demand for energy. Second, we need to use sustainable sources in stead of fossil fuels. Third, we need to produce and use fossil energy as efficient as possible.’ Despite the fact that the trias energetica is included in the policy plan, there are two issues, which make the target more difficult to achieve:

  1. The mandatory energy label (Dutch: Energielabel plicht)
  2. The green certificates from abroad (GOs = Guarantees of Origin)

1. The mandatory energy label 

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An energy label is a label that indicates how many measures for energy- savings have been applied to a house. Houses can no longer be sold without a label because of the mandatory energy label. This measure aims to reduce the demand for energy. With this measure, the government has set a step in the right direction. However, this obligation does not apply to all houses. Protected monuments* do not need to have a label, while protected monuments form a significant share in the housing market in Leiden. It is possible that Leiden is not going to achieve its target for 2030 because of this legislation. If you do not live in a protected monument, see if your house contributes to achieving the climate agreement. Below, you can find out what your label is. Label A is the best and G the worst.

*According to the Heritage act (Dutch: Erfgoedwet) or in the provincial or municipal regulation (Dutch: verordening)

Step 1. The website: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/energielabel-woningen-en-gebouwen/vraag-en-antwoord/hoe-kom-ik-aan-een-energielabel-voor-mijn-woning

2. The green certificates from abroad 

The next step requires an explanation about green certificates from abroad. What are green certificates anyway? The video below gives a good explanation. A green certificate  proofs that 1 MWh of renewable energy has been generated from sources such as solar panels and windmills. The green certificate is sold to the energy provider and therefore  the energy provider can provide the consumer with green energy. This is done, because it ensures the consumer that he or she contributes to the production of green energy on the general energy network.  Since the general energy network also contains energy from fossil fuels, such as coal-fired plants. There is often no direct connection between the source of the renewable energy and the consumer, for example between a windmill and a specific building. This direct connection is only made on paper because of the green certificates. The purpose of the certificates is to use more and more renewable energy and less fossil fuels.

It is therefore regrettable that some energy providers have found a way to use green certificates, but on the other hand do not contribute to the energy transition. This is due to purchased green certificates from abroad, for example from Norway and Iceland. Inhabitants of Norway and Iceland are sure that they receive green energy from the hydropower plants. They do not necessary need a green certificate to believe that they are receiving energy from renewable resources. On top of that, these countries can sell  green certificates to other countries, because they have enough certificates to reach the climate targets. Therefore, the green certificates from Norway and Iceland can be sold to countries such as the Netherlands. Inhabitants of the Netherlands also want to contribute to a more sustainable world, but because we do not automatically purchase electricity from renewable resources, we buy green energy with the green certificates. The behavior of some energy providers is misleading. It is cheaper for them to buy green certificates from abroad than actually produce renewable energy themselves. The hydropower plants in Norway have been running there for decades. Unfortunately, this does therefore not contribute to the energy transition. So see if your energy provider also participates in this. You can see this below.

Step 2. The website: https://wisenederland.nl/energievergelijker

 

Tackling an ancient threat with modern means

The Netherlands is renowned for its capabilities in the field of water management. Without the constant effort of combating the advancement of water, a significant part of the Netherlands would be under water. This can be seen in figure 1. oppermann

Figure 1: Indicating what parts of the Netherlands is under the sea level (source: Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Leiden is currently working towards a sustainable future. They do so by following their ‘Duurzaamheidsagenda’. In it they explain how they will follow six pathways towards a sustainable Leiden. The final pathway is the Climate Adaptability capacity of Leiden. It involves becoming resilient towards both heat islands and excessive water. This means that Leiden has to deal with water on two fronts at the same time. Both form living under the sea level as well as the water coming down from the skies in cloudbursts. Especially these cloudbursts and how to deal with them will become evermore important in the urbanizing Leiden.

Though a vast amount of knowledge on water management is present in the Netherlands, we can expand our options by taking a look on how others deal with similar problems. The highly urbanized Copenhagen has a similar problem. Both cities need to find a way to deal with heavy rainfall in an already established urban setting. Researchers have looked into doing so for Copenhagen through the means of synergies between infrastructure and greenery. It involves altering specified areas of the city to allow water to spread between the buildings to alleviated the pressure the cloudbursts create on the rest of the town. Not only would this allow for increased water management during extreme rainfalls, it would also support the creation of green recreative zones within Leiden.

The plan is based on the idea of working with water as a tool. In doing so Leiden would transform an enemy into an ally by making the water work for the betterment of Leiden. It would have to adapt the existing infrastructure into a more suitable setting for the changing climate. Of course this is not an easy said and done solution. But all effort that is invested now will prevent larger problems and urges in the future. The alteration could be a solution for both short and long-term problems. First of all could the plan help to combat the increasing problem of both the excessive rainfall and the danger of heat islands in Leiden. Both of these problems have a short and long term nature and can be combated by ‘greening’ Leiden. A long term problem that is faced by this solution is the continuing emissions in Leiden. The addition of more green would support the reduction of pollutants in the air and further the cause of becoming a healthier city.

The Netherlands might be an international figure-head in terms of water management but we could definitely learn something by looking beyond our national boarders. The problems within Leiden are not rare which means that by creating partnerships we could shorten the time needed to solve problems that cannot be avoided. We need to create synergies, not only within Leiden but also outside of it.

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