On the 29th July this year, we saw the earliest Earth Overshoot day on record, meaning we’re exceeding Earth’s natural resources 1.75% faster than we are able to regenerate them. In a society overrun with excess production and consumption, the need to change our habits is crucial – but how do we get there? Can design be part of the solution? In preparation for WDCD’s next Climate Action Challenge, the Radical Collaboration Lab No Waste will explore how design can reframe solutions to waste and consumerism. In accordance to the city’s goals for the next 5 years, there are three key points on waste reduction to take into account: preventing food waste, reduction and sustainability of consumer goods, and construction waste.
30% of food in Amsterdam is wasted, same goes for the agricultural harvest. 40% of energy consumption is used by the built environment, which is also responsible for 25% of the CO2 emissions produced in the Netherlands. A 2019 EU report found that only half of used clothes are recycled, and only 1% of those are upcycled into something new. If we were to use our clothes for an extra 3 months, we’d reduce our carbon footprint from 5 to 10%. With this in mind, asking the question ‘what is being done to tackle these issues, today?’ becomes vital. Although a surge in no-waste trends such as paper straws and reusable water bottles have taken hold, the figures show we’ve still got a long way to go. If Amsterdam wants to be completely circular by 2050, what can we do to get there?
For each goal, we’ve compiled a shortlist of global examples where design and creativity can play a vital role in no-waste initiatives.
PREVENTING FOOD WASTE:
The Clean Energy Challenge winner Solar Freeze provides a unique solution to food waste, by means of solar energy they offer food preservation services that combat one of Kenya’s most pressing issues; Post-harvest food loss. Small farmers in developing countries lose an average of 15% income due to food waste. Solar Freeze reduces the chance of spoilage with their solar-powered cooling rooms, which farmers can use for as little as $0.1 cents per day.
Ecoplaso, another Clean Energy Challenge winner, puts food waste to good use by creating 100% biodegradable and compostable bioplastics and leather alternatives. The products can replace petroleum-based plastics, and animal-based leathers into products like disposable plates, straws, bags, furniture, shoes, accessories and interior designs.
TOO GOOD TO GO
Too Good to Go, an app that connects otherwise wasted food from shops and restaurants to its community, has gained popularity across 13 different countries. So far, the simple initiative has saved 23 million meals, and 57.4 tonnes of CO2. Users simply download the app to see what leftovers local businesses are selling, resulting in delicious food at a much lower price. This way, businesses still make revenue while users benefit from reduced-cost meals and groceries!
TASTE BEFORE YOU WASTE
Taste Before You Waste is tackling Amsterdam’s food waste through their bi-weekly community meals cooked entirely from salvaged supermarket groceries, donations to local charities, and educational workshops. Every monday and wednesday evening, join Taste Before You Waste at Dokhuis Galerie for a healthy, pay as you feel vegetarian dinner, and see how delicious society’s waste can be!
In a similar vein, InStock turns otherwise wasted supermarket food into quality dining at their Amsterdam restaurant. While serving delicious meals to their customers, InStock also raises awareness of this wastage.
REDUCTION AND SUSTAINABILITY OF CONSUMER GOODS
FASHION FOR GOOD
Fashion museum ‘Fashion For Good’ recently opened Amsterdam’s city centre, it looks directly at the impact the fashion industry has on the world’s climate. In addition to a collection of sustainable and future-proof fashion solutions and ideas, the museum also takes you through the history of clothing and consumption; from the industrial revolution’s production boom, to the paper dresses of the 60s, to today’s destructive fast-fashion industry.
For Days has created a completely closed-loop clothing company. When you buy one of their organic cotton items, it comes with a life-long membership. When you are ready to swap, you return the shirt for a small fee of $8 which is then recycled, and in return receive a new, recycled shirt in the post. For Days challenges how we buy and dispose of clothes; creating a completely zero-waste, circular system in place of a typically throwaway culture.
FEMKE VAN GEMERT
WDCD speaker Femke Van Gemert creates precious art objects from textiles and clothes that have been previously produced, owned, or otherwise. By up-cycling these materials, Femke’s work embodies the story and beauty of each fabric, evoking a nostalgic and emotive celebration of objects and materials that are preowned, in lieu of the novelty of the new.
Mud Jeans are trying to make ethical jeans available to everyone. If you love denim, Mud Jeans aims to inspire more sustainable choices; each manufacturing process has been carefully chosen, from the elimination of toxic chemicals, to reducing water usage to save over 300 million litres of water in the past 3 years. In 2020 they hope to have the first sample for 100% recycled denim, which would close the loop for good.
When it comes to our smartphones, the way we currently consume is incredibly wasteful. Approximately 350,000 mobile phones are disposed of each day, and the working conditions across the production line are damaging and exploitative – both socially and ecologically. Bas Van Abel, founder of Fairphone and speaker on the WDCD Live stage took a stance against the mainstream by creating a recycled, modular and ethically sourced phone. The company recently launched its latest version; Fairphone 3 – read more about it here:
Agrocrete, another Clean Energy Challenge winner, re-purposes agricultural waste to create carbon-neutral building material. Each unit is lightweight while being adequately strong, providing thermal insulation. The burning of agricultural waste in surrounding states causes lots of air pollution to the city of Delhi – Agrocrete seeks to reduce this pollution by putting the waste to good use, providing an affordable and practical solution to both pollution, energy and housing.
Stone Cycling creates sustainable building material from waste, in a similar way to that of Agrocrete. Architects and construction companies are already using the innovative material to create unique and beautiful buildings and structures across the world. The material meet industry standards, and can therefore be applied to high-end residential and commercial projects. Each brick is composed of at least 60% waste material, and comes in a range of colours and textures, from ‘nougat’ to ‘truffle’.
WDCD speaker Dave Hakkins is pretty passionate about plastic, that’s why he founded Precious Plastic; A worldwide community invested in tackling plastic pollution head-on, through upcycling, creation and invention. Through common waste-products such as plastic bottles, the possibility of production is huge. The open-source machines, of which can be built or bought via their website, break down and re-shape waste plastic and can be used to make a multitude of objects, including construction materials such as beams or bricks.
At this year’s Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, the exhibition RE-SOURCE aims to reveal how design interventions could help develop resources from residual waste. It maps out flows of residual urban materials, and presents a vision of what a circular city could look like. It presents five designers who’ve each sought to explore a new approach to a different material, from concrete street paving to plant material.
In regards to the goals of Amsterdam, there’s certainly a lot that can be said about creative approaches to waste, consumer habits, and sustainability. In the No Waste Lab, we hope to explore in further depth what questions we need to ask the design community to help push these innovations forward, create new solutions that challenge our collective behaviour. This list is just a couple of examples from a huge number worldwide, but we want to know more! What initiatives are we missing? If you have thoughts, interests or expertise on this subject and want to get involved in radical collaboration labs, go ahead and apply for a spot at this year’s No Waste Lab held December 6th in Amsterdam.