by Lindsey Wuisan, policymaker at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment
The Dutch government aims to stimulate the transition towards a circular economy. That is why the Ministry of Environment was one of the partners of the Nudge Circular Cities Tour. I joined the group on its trip to gain insights on how policies can support circular initiatives in society. It was truly inspiring to visit all those projects and organizations, whether they were small start-ups or multinationals, focusing on low tech or high tech solutions. Everywhere we encountered highly motivated people who put circular economy into practice in different ways. This is a short recount of the very last day in Brussels where a new generation of entrepreneurs are in the forefront of circular economy.
After another short night, the alarm went off at six o´clock in Paris and approximately 2,5 hours later we arrived in Brussels. We were welcomed by our local guide for that day, Thibaud Godet (27) of Future of Waste, the first global collaborative platform for creative reuse of waste. Godet, an energetic Bruxellois who works as a business consultant at Accenture found a new calling after reading Cradle to Cradle and the Upcycle. Now he spends most of his spare time to showcase and support circular projects.
Firstly, we visited the MCB-atelier of Julien, a young craftsman who designed a modular set of (sustainable) wood which can easily be reused for sets, stages and other temporary constructions. He recently acquired a patent for these so-called ´mods´ and in the near future he will lease them to events, once he has built enough stock through crowdfunding. This system is not only economically profitable, but also resource-efficient.
Next stop : the new head office of ENGIE (formerly known as GDF Suez). This ultramodern office building is the company´s flagship to demonstrate that it does not only invest in fossil fuels, but also in sustainability. The building is HQE and BREEAM certified, makes use of geothermal and solar power, superefficient lighting and climate control. They also invested in sustainable water and waste management and stimulate employees to cycle or use public transport. State-of-the art technique in combination with behavioural change.
For lunch we headed to the centre for a visit to Yeti. This cosy ´cantine moderne´ serves healthy, mostly vegetarian dishes made from local/organic products, some straight from the farm of the owner Maxime. We not only appreciated his delicious cooking but also his vision about good and fair food. Also sitting at our table was Joris Depouillon of the Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network. After studying business economics, Joris embarked on a Green Sense Tour through Europe, the Middle-East and Africa, to meet social entrepreneurs and share knowledge about corporate social responsibility. With the FSE network he aims to connect and stimulate initiatives to combat food waste. Clearly, a sustainable food system is at the heart of a circular economy.
After this reinvigorating lunch we visited the office of Tale Me, a (online) company that leases sustainable clothes for babies and pregnant women. This business model makes a lot of sense because these types of clothes are generally used only for a short period of time. Another example of sustainable fashion is Wear a Story by Lauriane Milis who designs trendy clothes of secondhand materials: old dresses, skirts and shirts with a history and a story to tell. Slow fashion as a sustainable alternative for the fast fashion industry.
Of course we could not leave Brussels without enjoying some artisanal beers. Microbreweries are becoming more popular, but the Brussels Beer Brewery adds a social dimension by involving local communities. They invited the people of Brussels to choose between 4 prototypes. The winner was put into production for market sales through the #BeerForLife crowdfunding project. Now they are working on new projects like ‘Babylone’ made from discarded (but edible) bread from supermarkets.
So even though we were utterly exhausted after 10 days of travelling, we were nevertheless energized and activated by all the people we met that sunny day in Brussels. And that was what inspired me the most during the whole trip across Europe : the commitment of people who are not respond apathically to the current social and ecological crisis, but are creative and resolute to make a change, starting on a local scale but with potential to scale up. For sure, passion is the main ingredient for social innovation and the driving force behind a circular economy.
Lindsey Wuisan is a policymaker at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, joining the Circular Cities Tour with a wildcard, to bridge the gap between policy and practice.