(video article available at the end)
In September, on a rainy Sunday, I went in search of the most inspiring examples of circularity in the Netherlands, leaving for the North of Amsterdam. The destination was “De Ceuvel”, which is known as a “playground for innovation and creativity, to make sustainability tangible, accessible and fun”. And after taking the tour, I can assure you, that this description fits like a glove, in what is probably one of the most circular places in Amsterdam.
De Ceuvel is an initiative that started in 2013, developed in cooperation between various entities, including engineers, architects, creatives and social entrepreneurs. This was the winning project of a competition launched by the Municipality of Amsterdam, which intended to find a solution for the space where De Ceuvel is currently located, and that at the time was abandoned. Since they were the award-winning of this initiative, this group of changemakers was entitled to access, transformation and dynamization of the land, during a 10-year lease.
I crossed the ferry to the North of Amsterdam and from there I walked to this incredible space. Upon arriving at Café do De Ceuvel, a place with a super good vibe, eco-friendly and very desirable for good conversations between a few drinks and snacks, I was received by Milly (Emily Warner), who was responsible for conducting the tour by the remaining participants.
The beginning of the tour left us all pleasantly surprised. The site that today is De Ceuvel, was once a shipyard. Its old activity left a highly polluted soil as a legacy. In order to reverse this situation, species of plants that have the ability to absorb soil pollution, such as willows and elephant grass, were planted all across the area. For that reason, from time to time, plants have to be removed and treated as dangerous waste. Thus, this space contributes to soil regeneration and decontamination and positively impacts the social, environmental and economic levels. These plants follow the walkway, which meanders along with the space and allows us to dazzle with a magnificent view over the IJ river, giving us access to the offices of the several entrepreneurs that are based here.
It’s easy to conclude that Reuse, Repair and Restore are the keywords in De Ceuvel. The vast majority of offices are made from old boats. This was a choice that brought benefits to everyone involved. When former boat owners want to “dispose” of their old boats, they have to pay a fee (about € 300). For this reason, when this project became available to receive these boas, its former owners willingly gave them away, as they thus avoided the cost associated with their end of life. Also, the founders of De Ceuvel were able to save costs, as they had access to the basic structures to build the offices, at a very low cost.
Today these offices are full of life, being the headquarters for several artists and circular entrepreneurs, such as The Dutch Weed Burger, De Workship, The Metabolic Lab, The Hotel Asile Flottant, The Studio Valkenier and many others. De Ceuvel is a constantly evolving infrastructure and the interventions that have been carried out over the years, to make this space increasingly sustainable, have counted with the participation of volunteers, including people from resident companies and outside volunteers. The engagement of the various members of this space leads to a greater sense of belonging and greater understanding and participation in the various measures that exist to promote the sustainability of the place.
The office boats are equipped with solar panels, which are responsible for producing around 25% of the energy consumed in this space. On the other side of the river, we can see a set of floating houses, which form what was considered the most sustainable neighbourhood in Europe. It is called Schoonschip and is composed of 46 houses, which are equipped to be almost entirely self-sufficient. The waste is used to produce biogas, the roofs have gardens where food is produced and are equipped with about 500 solar panels. Another interesting curiosity is that the toilets have a vacuum system, which allows very sharp savings in water consumption.
It’s a space that develops pioneering and unconventional initiatives which sometimes even led to the existence of situations where the current legal framework ended up preventing the continuity of certain projects. This is a clear example that proves the importance of, as we test and promote the circular transition, ensuring that the legislation is being updated, in order to be in line with this same evolution.
On the side of the coffee area, there is a greenhouse where, using the aquaponics system, different types of foods are produced such as aromatic herbs and vegetables. During this process, the water is pulled through pumps and is always circulating through tubes, then passing through an aquarium with specific species of fishes, which purify the water again. This process allows for substantial water savings. The Café De Ceuvel is also a living laboratory, being pioneers in the implementation of measures that promote the sustainability and circularity of the space.
Throughout the year, different initiatives related to circularity, sustainability and social impact are organized, such as the exhibition of films and documentaries, workshops, talks, markets and festivals.
Watch the video article:
Autor: Mariana Pinto e Costa
o Information made available during the face-to-face tour, conducted by Emily Warner (September 2020)
o De Ceuvel official website (2020) available at: https://deceuvel.nl/
o Metabolic official website (2020) available at: https://www.metabolic.nl/projects/schoonschip/
o Schoonschip official website (2020) available at: https://schoonschipamsterdam.org/#site_header