Feel it – Creating sustainable space to be

Almost eight months ago, I moved into my new apartment. I had not really rented my own apartment yet as I most often rented rooms or small studios with furniture in it. So I felt very much pumped and excited. My first thoughts wondered on how I was going to fill the empty space? Long story short; with a couch, a small and larger table in the living room and another foldable table and 2 chairs in the kitchen.

It looks okay..

Though, I was really happy with my apartment, something didn’t link with the kitchen. It felt just like a kitchen and I used my table and one chair with an average of 30-60 minutes a day ( Fast eater? ). Though the table and the plants around it averaged around 6 square meter. 6 square meter that are being heated every day and that were basically not used unless I was eating and was cooking, though my face was not directed towards the table but the cooking utilities.

Besides the space not being used much, I also felt it was empty; though filled with some furniture. Likewise I did not feel connected to the materials and neither had I created a specific feeling other then “needing to have a kitchen table and chairs” in the kitchen. But what else should be there? Are there laws on how space needs to be designed in apartments or can we go wild with it? Can we make our homes our homes, or should we make our homes the homes of interior cataloges? Or could we design homes, based on how we want to feel? Yes!

After liking the idea but having no clue, on how a kitchen space should feel like, I decided to free my mind by giving away my furniture. 4 chairs, which were quite functional could not be-resold, because ?? no interest and possibly minor material demage. Also, the material could for sure not be repaired. So they were happily donated.

The already pre-owned table, which was made of solid wood with a fantastic material quality, could be re-sold for 20 euros (as oppose to the initial price of 40 Euros). I felt it was difficult to re-sell the table, because it did not look as perfectly shiny as when I bought it. Though, unlike the chairs, it was possible to “refurbish it” due to its solid wood quality and if I had done so, I could have probably re-sold it for 30-40 euros. But then again, I would have made some € losses, because of the refurbishing materials needed so.. naaah. Did not.

😦

Though, I sold the table, I still wasn’t sure how I wanted the space to feel like. So for a couple of days cat and I decided to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner on the floor. Eating on the floor, that made me feel connected to Moroccan friends; I liked it, but not too low, because well I like to sit on something. And then I thought about other space I felt very relaxed and comfortable at. And there it was “libraries, lounges a la James Bond, coffee bars, tropics, Jazz “. Though, lounges a la James Bond stuck in my head. Why James Bond though? I guess I like the feeling of mystery, smartness and strenght. So could I create such envirnoment and if yes, what would it need? A cigarre? No , but a fancy chair.

I needed a fancy chair, for sure. I was certain by 100% . But what is a fancy chair? It was defenitly a lounge chair and the very fancy once from the movies are most often made with leather.

waaa , they are expensive!

So I looked up lounge chairs, but well there were a little expensive. That likely is typical for many leather products, because depending on the the desired material quality on the leather, the processing of the cow-hide can become more cost-intensive. [Currently working in a leather project on more sustainable chemistry in the leather supply chains – h_da Hochschule Darmstadt (h-da.de)]

One could now ask: why not a synthetic or vegan leather chair? Simply, because there are no! feelings that I could possibly relate to syntethics only unless the imagination of a chemical wizzard and because I would not be sure how to maintain synthetic leather. Usually, with many synthetic or cheaply produced materials, they are difficult to maintain and last but not least to recycle and most of all to re-sell! They may also break more easily and I really wanted this chair to be the real deal. I wanted it to last a life-time . I wanted to see it age and shape my own James Bond history into that product that I did not have yet….

Dedicated to find the real life-deal – that I could afford- I scanned through a secondhandmarket platform, where consumers re-sell preowned items to others. Its more a local or regional type of site. Well, so there were some leather chairs that looked quite nice, but here I was weighing around 60 kg, doing a little weight lifting without car and there was no way I could have it transported. But there it was. The real deal, waiting for me, for 43 WOW Euros, only 200 km away from me.

And so I took my chance, called the owner, asked to send it via post, realized the many complications with the product, because the leather was not much bendible (how great!) and I decided to pick it up the next day via train. I knew it was worth it. Just when I saw it, I felt this instant connection. I loved how the previous owner maintained it , it was real thick leather, a nice upper cut, nicely aged in time- giving me that instant mystic , luxurious old and fancy feeling. Not only that, but the comfort also outweighted many other chairs I had previously been sitting in.

To be honest, I never had a better train ride, and never before had sitting and waiting been that comfortable. Also never before had I realized what an amazing panorama view one could have, if a chair was placed into the direction of the window in the train. Never had I felt such James Bond, advanterous but likewise luxurious trainride than this one. It was a James Bond (whatever James Bond at that point means) experience in itself. And so I was also congratulated by the train staff for my fancy way of travelling. 😀

And of course, the real deal and I eventually made it home, where it now fits well in my tropical lounge home. Now James Bond chair and I will have a sit and think about the feelings we wanted to create around us and based on that choose new materials that make us happy and according to my favorite interior designer Kelly Wearslter – are at the same time useful 😉

Space and Sustainability?

Besides the fun – much space is often not used efficentily, and we may pay a higher price for rent or houses, to have that extra room or space we do not use much. For instance, in families kitchens are used actively more often then bed rooms. So there is the cost-question on what type of space you need, what for and how you can design it to fit your needs.

On the other hand, a lot of materials are produced cheaply with a short-life. Buying materials that are more durable, last longer, have a higher re-sell value and can also be more easily maintained, provides yourself but also the industry incentives for sustainable production – > Circular Economy : ) . Though there is for instance much debate around leather – leather still remains a waste product and using the material for multiple years, might be more beneficial than the use of synthethics, that likely have to be replaced more often.

Of course, I am not a designer and neither does my space now look like from a James Bond movie, but being connected, a story or a feeling, also motivates us to keep materials longer and it also helps to create homes that reflect us, our feelings – homes that feel like homes.

Linking the Circular Economy to Sustainable Development – an SDG perspective

Over the last years, we have become familiar with the term „sustainability“ and at least those working in the sector are familiar with the „Sustainable Development Goals“. But yet, we face difficulties in measuring these and what sustainability means to begin with. Does sustainability imply to act ecological, to stop buying and moving into a rural house, while maintaining self-sufficiency? And if yes, does that mean we can simply change the system? Likely not, because in some ways we are all connected to the system, whether it is us using renewable energy sources to power our homes (who produces the means to do so ? where can it be bought? and how is energy even transferred? ) or whether we make use of other public services like hospitals, the legal system, medicine, transportation, education and IT services?

At the same time we are aware that consuming and producing -as we do now – has drastic effects on our health and the planet and we therefore need to take into consideration more sustainable approaches. Yet, putting sustainability into practice seems difficult and my favorite way of doing so is by looking at the circular economy.

Why the Circular Economy? The Circular Economy looks at keeping our resources as long as possible in the loop and by changing the way we design, produce, consume and dispose goods and services. The circular economy therefore appears  â€žsustainable“ by design and adds economic incentives for actors to transition instead of „good-will“ only.

How can we link the Circular Economy to Sustainable Development?

Dictionaries define poverty as “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money, means of support or material possessions” (1)(2). Using circular approaches could help to lift people out of poverty by creating new markets. Examples are new jobs that focus on waste-products accross the supply-chain such as transforming agricultural waste into value added products. An example is the transformation of coconut-husk into chips or fiber-boards for the construction industry – instead of burning it. Or the production of paper from agricultural waste.

According to the EllenMacArthurFoundation, 10% of the global population continues to go hungry. In a circular economy, food is designed to cycle, so the by-products from one enterprise provides inputs for the next. Depending on the stage of the supply chain, end of life food waste can be used to produce new foods like pasta made from bread waste. Another example is the opening of restaurants and supermarkets that sell and transform produce that does not meet the typical “beauty and quality standards”.

In a health assessment published by the World Health Organization (WHO), direct and indirect benefits of the Circular Economy can be related to a reduction of environmental impacts of manufacturing processes (by improving air, water and soil quality and by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions). Other positive impacts could deprive from a greater focus on material health of products such as by developing bio-based products, i.e. compostable bags and building materials.

The circular economy makes it easier to observe our constantly changing world comprehensively and offers a good foundation for lifelong learning and the education of new professionals. What better way is there to introduce business models or for the CE/sustainability then at the educational level already? Preparing our current generation to become agents of change for a world with wicked challenges and where creative /entrepreneurial solutions are needed – see Windesheim Honours College NL

Gender equality, besides being a fundamental human right, is essential to achieve peaceful societies, with full human potential and sustainable development (4). Bamboo, for example is a bio-based/cricular material, that can be easily grown and transformed on homesteads and thereby helps women to create an income – frequently responsible for household tasks. In addition, bamboo can be used to create new jobs and materials that feed into other sectors and provide women with an economic opportunity not to return to their abusing (GBV) homes.

Loss of productivity to water- and sanitation-related diseases costs many countries up to 5% of GDP (WHO 2012). Universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene would reduce the global disease burden by 10% (5). One way the Circular Economy can help, is through the development of applications that collect and transform human waste into value; i.e. energy produced through anerobic digestion systems and the promotion of, for instance, compostable toilets.

Modern society depends on reliable and affordable energy services to function smoothly and to develop equitably (5). As the demand for energy is growing, new ways of producing energy need to be found. A fantastic way of creating circular and affordable energy is through the transformation of biomass waste products into energy. Biomass is a renewable energy source to begin with and waste will always exist (6).

According to the EllenMacArthurFoundation it is estimated that, in the sectors of complex medium-lived products (such as mobile phones and washing machines) in the EU, the annual net-material cost savings opportunity amounts up to USD 630 billion. For fast moving consumer goods (such as household cleaning products), there is a material cost-saving potential of up to USD 700 billion globally (7). This does not yet take into consideration the amount of new jobs that could be created i.e. through innovation and new industries.

Infrastructure has a major influence on whether resources can be preserved to use again or whether they are lost forever(8). A few Circular Economy approaches are the building of modular houses, renting of materials, LEGO like buildings or the use of bio-based materials for entire buildings like up-cycled paper brickets, wood and bamboo (reinforced concrete). Did you know that UNMigration uses bamboo for emergency shelter?

Inequalities in income and wealth are severe and have been widening globally. Businesses are engines for economic growth, having the potential to create jobs, foster economic activity through their value chain, and contribute tax revenues for public services and infrastructure (9). The circular economy can be used to create employment opportunities accross the supply-chain and by creating new jobs and markets in producer regions, thereby promoting reduced inequalities across the globe.

 According to the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation, cities consume over 75% of natural resources, produce over 50% of global waste and emit between 60-80% of greenhouse gases. Cities are places, where most challenges are encountered, but they are also the places to find the most suitable solutions. Cities can serve as innovation hubs by experimenting with circular buildings and the integration of animals into cities to feed on grass instead of using machinery as example.

Circular Economy implies developing new business models such as paying for performance, designing products for using them as long as possible, reusing and remanufacturing products at the end of service life, and recovering/recycling a maximum of resources to avoid waste in production, supply, use and disposal (10). Could we rent clothes, furnuniture and other products and return them for a discount or a new product? Yes!

As populations, economies and standards of living grow, so does the cumulative level of greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions (11). By focusing on renewable resources and replacing the use of finite materials we can avoid an increase in GHGs emissions. An example is the building with bio-digradable or recycable materials that return to the manufacturer at the end of the life – This could be particular relevant for the hotel industry, which tends to refurbish the interior i.e. tiles at an average of five years.

The world’s oceans – their temperature, chemistry, currents and life â€“ drive global systems that make the Earth habitable for humankind (14) The Circular Economy supports to keep our waters clean and profitable such as by using treated waste water for factory cooling towers instead of freshwaster. This helps the environment and keeps factory costs down as treated waste water is 50% cheaper than freshwater (15). Other examples are the replacement of plastics with bio-degradable materials.

A flourishing life on land is the foundation for our life on this planet. We have caused severe damage to it through deforestation, loss of natural habitats and land degradation (16). We can halter deforestation and still create profit. An example is IKEA in Australia that provides customer with a discount for returning their old furniture. The furniture is up-cycled and/or resold at a discounted rate. In addition, green designs i.e. rooftops bring nature back to cities and help to cycle air at a discounted rate. (Imagine the cost of treating respiratory infections due to pollution and the cost saved).

We cannot hope for sustainable development without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law. However, lack of employment and economic growth opportunities, often seem to play a barrier for sustainable development and peace and thus, leads more likely to corrupted behaviours. With the CEs huge job market potential and slower resource consumption, it could be expected that corrupted behaviours decrease and more financing for good governance was made available.

Circular Economy is one of the 14 themes for the Urban Agenda for the EU partnerships established as part of the Pact of Amsterdam. Several of the partnerships have developed actions to reduce barriers for a transition towards a circular economy in cities (17). Nowadays, where challanges are complex and unstructured, and supply-chains connected more than ever, partnerships are essential. An example is the complex construction industry in which different glues, different types of materials and building ownerships play a huge role in the circular potential of a building.

Of course, the Circular Economy is extremely complex, but what I like most about it is, that it has multiple solutions for complex problems. We just need to look at it from different perspectives and view our global economy as an interactive and creative system. We don’t necessarily have to eradicate the system, but we can work with it and begin with circular changes step by step, consume a little less, produce a little better, cycle materials as long as possible and think in systems [and ideally bio-based].

Erase your face – a social dimension on sustainability

I am almost 30 years old and when I look into the mirrow, I recognize those small and yet growing wrinkles on my face. They were always there, just very small, but lately I feel they appear in greater depth. And so there are other bodily changes that manifest themselves on my skin. Those are some changes in my hair structure, some hair gets frizzier and thicker then it used to be and eventually my teeth aren’t as shiny bright white as they used to be before my mornings began with a cup of coffee routine. [My teeth appear whiter on the image below, because I assume that thats an integrated function of my and nowadays everyones phone…]

I love smiling and yet in the past I was asked not too smile too much, because the wrinkles next to my eyes would not look good; they would make me look older. Well here, super smile.

While I am usually very happy with myself and any wonderful changes my body undergoes as I age, I felt that I needed a boost last week. Suprisingly that appears to be the result of me researching sustainable and circular business models for the fashion industry and hence, scanning fashion magazines, social media posts and anything related to beauty and fashion for weeks. Though I feel I am quite robust against these type of “influences”, somehow they began tickling my interest for a wardrope change and beauty tuning.

I initially goodled eye-brow trends for fun. Apparently its a serious thing!

I hadn’t been very curious about the paradox of modern beauty in a while and yet I felt it was time to rekindle with that type of interest that I happily persued as a teen. However, this interest quickly stopped as I went through the beautyshelves in one store. What caught my interest was the advertisement of a make-up remover titled with ” Erase your face”.

Earsing… when I think about erasing I thought of school or any other moment in my life, when I wrote something that later was not important or something that I wrote by mistake or something that needed to be erased to be corrected, or just was not supposed to be there at all. My face.. when I think about my face I think about my identity, those natural eyebrows I have, any unique facial feature that turns me into that woman I am today, any interaction I have and any interpretation that others associate to me , when they see my face. But erasing my face? NO WAY!!!

Of course, the commercial does not mean for anyone to truly erase their face, but this type of advertisement can give people the feeling that their current look is not enough; that the way they truly are is not enough. And in doing so, it removes that sort of identity that makes you – you and me-me.

The advertisment made me skip then more through other shelves and my desire to tune my face a little bit, turned into a social-cultural dilemma. It made me realize how heavily beauty industries are pushing new beauty standards and norms to sell their product, that the product in itself, becomes a burden and supports a crisis of identity – the ability that the self is not enough; that you need to smell a certain way, that you need to look a certain way, that you need to be a certain way to be accepted.

Wouldn’t it be more fun, if companies would promote products that promote that natural you? And what responsiblities have beauty companies to begin with? Should they tell you how to look or should you tell them how you want to feel like and thus, how products could help you? Should they promote creams and products that help your skin to be protected such as from the cold and heat, soaps and shampoos that support your hygiene instead of “sparkly, wrinklesless perfect skin ” ?

Sustainability is not just about the ecology

Sustainability is not just about ecological products, it is about sustainable production and consumption patterns, it is about a system change that crosses the interface of social, ecological and economic dimensions. If our own identity was promoted more, we would not feel like we needed to consume so much and so often and likewise, companies could possibly produce less, with higher quality and higher standards. There would be more happiness, less waste and ideally fairer environmental and social conditions to which goods and services are being produced.

And besides all, isn’t individuallity what makes us truly unique and human? And thinking about it, so far I was not rejected for a job because my eyebrows weren’t trendy enough.. I think I want to keep it that way and you should too!

Being myself, also gives you the opportunity to see me for who I am.

Untapping the value of bio-based waste in Asia

Article featured in : 5th Edition Circular Asia Magazine

South-East-Asia (SEA) is noted for several plantation cash crops, of which the most important are tea, rubber, palm oil, coconuts, and sugarcane. Besides these, SEA is also home to many fruit trees and fruit bearing shrubs that are productive throughout the year. Some of the fruits most familiar to us and available for direct consumption are jackfruit, dragon fruit, banana and mango

We quickly notice that many of these fruits are covered with a protective layer such as the peal of a banana or the hard shell of coconuts. Once the flash is consumed, the protective layer is often disposed, accummulates in a landfill-mix or is being burned. The consequene is that the burning and the accumulation of bio-waste contributes to an increase of GHGs emissions either in the form of methane through organic breakdown or carbon dioxide through burning.

Bio-based waste can be profitable

Many of us, including farmers and consumers, are used to this type of linear production, consumption and disposal. But, with the circular economy, we can go one step further by creating value from organic waste. In doing so, we can provide environmental benefits, but most of all create multiple employment opportunities with carbon friendly products. The uses of these products are versatile and with this issue, we would like to begin with providing entrepreneurial incentives for two organic waste products.

Banana

Banana is counted as one of the most important global food crop and is currently cultivated in around 129 different countries, with India contributing approximately 15% of the total fruit production worldwide. Banana fibre is produced from the ‘pseudo stem’ of the banana plant, which would usually be burnt or left to rot (apart from a small amount that is fed to cattle) (Mavulo, 2018).

Turning banana waste into profit

Instead of letting it rot, one one oft the world’s strongest natural fibres known as musa fibre (banana fibres) can be produced from it. The natural fibre is made from the stem of the banana tree and consists of thick-walled cell tissue, bonded together by natural gums and mainly composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. Banana fibre can be used to make a number of different textiles with different weights and thicknesses, based on what part of the banana stem the fibre was extracted from (Hendriskz, 2017). Of course, other products can be produced from it as well such as paper and rope.

Dragon-Fruit

Although dragon fruit is not included in the most consumed fruits or the highest produced  fruit,  the  cultivation of dragon fruit  is increasing. As people consume largely the flesh of the fruit, the amount of dragon fruit peel waste increases likewise. In Indonesia dragon fruit peel waste contributes to the 40% organic waste out of 200 tonnes of annual waste (Putri et al. 2018).

Turning dragon-fruit waste into profit

One of the most beautiful things about the dragon fruit is its color. Dragon fruit peel provides natural red color produced by pigment called anthocyanin which can be used as a subtituent from synthetic dyes to natural dyes (Sudarmi, Subagyo, Susanti and Wahyuningsih, 2015).  Because of that it has been identified as a potential source of red-purple colour with a moderate antioxidant activity for food and cosmetic decorations. Its ecological origin is meeting an economical perspective and consumers’ preference for green products as well.

Why natural dye?

  • They have a minimal environmental Impact – Because they come    from natural sources, natural dyes are not harmful to the environment, which makes it so appealing for consumers.
  • Renewable – Natural dyes are obtained from renewable sources that can be harnessed without imposing harm to the environment or simply our foods, clothes and hair 😊 (Keycolors, 2020)

Bio-waste can help us untap full environmental and economic potential in Asia.

With a growing population and more people to feed, the demand for food increases rapidly, but so does waste. Each plant and each organic material has unique featurest hat can be used and tranformed into value. In doing so, we do not only provide  enivronmental benefits, but we can also create circular employment starting on  the farmer level and rural regions.

                                               We are looking for you!

Are you an entrepreneur who already engages or produces products from bio-waste? Then, we would love to hear from you and feature you in our next magazine!

References

Hendriskz, V. (2017). Sustainable Textile Innovations: Banana Fibres. FashionUnited. Retrieved from: https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/sustainable-textile-innovations-banana-fibre/2017082825623/amp

KEYCOLORS (2020). Advantages and Disadvantages of Natural DYES. Retrieved from: http://www.keycolour.net/blog/advantages-disadvantages-natural-dyes/

Mavolu (2018). From Waste to Value: Banana Fibre for Fashion and Textiles. Retrieved from: https://mavolu.com/blogs/news/from-waste-to-value-banana-fibre-for-fashion-and-textiles

Putri, C. H., Janica, L., Jannah, M., Ariana, P. P., Tansy, R. V., & Wardhana, Y. R. (2018). Utilization of Dragon Fruit Peel Waste as Microbial Growth Media. The 10th Conference of Indonesian Student Association in South Korea, At University of Science and Technology, Daejeon

Sudarmi, S., Subagyo, P., Susanti, A., & Wahyuningsih, A. S. (2015). Simple Extraction of Dragon Fruit (Hylocereus polyrhizus) Peel as Natural Dye Colorant. Eksergi12(1), 05-07.

Could the future of paper be cow-dung? An experiment to turn cow and horse dung into paper.

Background (Initially posted in April, 2020)

Since toiletpaper has become an important topic over the last weeks, I became dedicated in learning about its production process. I quickly learned that to extract fibers from wood ligning (acts as natural glue) for (toilet)paper but also textile, a lot of chemicals are needed.  Because I had no machinery to produce toiletpaper, I experimented with producing paper only with naturally abundant resources mechanically.

To begin with, I started producing paper made of grass, as the fibers are very long and stick well without having to use any glue.

Because I was drying and then processing the freshly cut grass, it appeared rather time-consuming; This made me remember the role animals play in digesting only parts of their food and dispersing seeds and other residues for further use. To avoid the processing of fiberous grass or hay mechanically, I came up with the idea to experiment with my neighbors’ cow and another neighbors horse dung.

And hurray!  the processing of it into paper was much simpler. Because the residues were rather short, I mixed it with grass fibers to hold the paper together. Ta-daa; I created different types of paper using only organic (waste) materials.

The Process

Extracting Grass Fibers as dung chip paper binder

Step 1

  • Cutting wildely growing grass
  • Drying it (i.e window or on top of a heater)
  • Because grass has long fibers, I recommend cutting it into smaller pieces
  • Cooking it between 1 and 2 hours

Step 2

  • After cooking, rinse the fibers. To do so, I used a simple noodle strainer.
  • Feel free to pour more water over the strainer and wash the grass more often with your hands.

Step 3

  • Because grass is very fiberous, I recommend using a small portion, fill it in a bucket with water (rather use more water then too less) and mix it. To do so, I used a simple blender with two blades.
  • It is likely that the fibers will quickly tweeze around the blades and knot together.
  • Unplug the blender from the socket and add the blend back into the bucket and rins it out.
  • Repeat this process multiple times until you do not see a lot of greens around the fiber mix anymore (This could take between 10 to 20 minutes)
  • Your fibers are ready and can be put aside.

Extracting dung-chips for paper

Step 4

  • Find a horse or cow dung supplier (for paper I recommend using horse dung, because the diet is less mixed. The horse dung I used came from a horse that is mainly fet with natural grass, so the residue, I would call it dung chips is available in high quantity and quality)

Step 5

  • If you try it at home, please cover the area around the sink, because you don’t want the dung splashing around
  • Fill the bucket with water and mix it with a spoon until the dung dissolves into one liquid mass. It goes very quick with horse dung in oppose to cow dung.

Step 6

  • Rinse and wash it multiple times.
  • The water will become gradually lighter

Step 7

  • Here is now the part where I am washing the horse chips with laundry detergant.
  • I followed the same processing of washing and rinsing it out. The laundry detergant (used it 1 time) really helps in cleaning the chips as you can see on the lighter water.

Step 8

  • Cook the chips (I added 5 tablets of soda) for around 20 minutes to remove the bacteria.
  • Rinse it out again for two more times to have pure and clean horse/cow chips/dissolvant.

Step 9

  • We are ready to mix horse dung chips with grass fibers.

Step 10

  • Now we can follow a simple paper making process using the grass fibers and the horse chips.
  • I recommend watching the video below, because it nicely illustrates the entire paper making process

Here are a few photos of my paper making process for which I used an old picture frame and a mosquito net.

Step 11

  • Ready!

Congrautlations – We made paper from farm waste and wild fibers!

  • Amazingly as gift 🙂
  • The paper smells very natural (not like dung)
  • The chips can be used for many more products (creating a truly circular bio-based economy), i.e. pallet parts and pellets.
  • Nature (fauna and flora) has many interacting solutions towards a more sustainable world. By using animal chips, we skip the process of wood chipping and simply create value from waste.
  • Could animal could play a solution for deforestation?
  • A mind shift may be needed to move our thoughts away from “stinky dung” to value dung.

Special Thanks to

  • Amazing YouTubers
  • Friends and family
  • My former teacher in ecology at TU Dresden for teaching me about seed digestion and dispersal
  • My former university Windesheim Honours College that engaged us students in a human waste challenge
  • My last university (Maastricht University) for reaching out to alumnis and asking how we spend our time in the face of covid-19 and motivating to write a blog on that topic
  • Maastricht Sustainability Institute, who taught us students to think in systems and about innovation for sustainability
  • My enthusiastic cowfarm neighbor
  • The wonderful owner of a horse
  • Very much, the innovative farm I get to stay and help out at 🙂

Interested to learn more about it or curious to think about new bio-based innovations? Please feel free to reach out.

Biobased materials are the solution for mitigating Scope 3 emissions

One of the many reasons that make me support bio-based materials, is their untapped potential as circular material. There is no sand or mineral that can transform itself as a result of anerobic digestion processes as ecological and energy efficient then bio-based materials.

Transforming bio-based resources has multiple benefits. One of them is the fact that we use re-growing organic matter that (quickly) captures carbon, we then move it or simply transform it and at the end of the materials’ life-cycle it can become [ideally] one with nature again- dead organic matter.

In addition, using, re-using, up-cycling and recycling bio-based materials will be one of the key components in tackling the climate crisis and accounting for environmental responsibilty as well. The reason is that bio-based materials can be transformed into other by-products along the value chain and therefore aid in reducing scope 3 emissions (nex tto scope 1 and 2 emissions).

Scope 3 emissions are those emissions that occcur outside of control of the company such as transport and waste disposal. They constitute up to seventy-five percent of a company’s emission footprint and therefore inhibits a firm’s ability to pursue the most cost-effective carbon mitigation strategies (Downie and Stubbs, 2013). Another disadvantage is that scope 3 emissions are not accounted for in the National Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Our current GHG inventories are therefore incomplete, or misleading.

Yesterday, I watched an excellent Webinar by UNDP on the Circular Economy and a New Generation of NDCs. It was highlighted that a country could be well on track to achieve its NDCs as most of the production, where emissions are occuring, have been outsourced. But if we would look at emissions from a “consumption” perspective”, countries would be much less likely to meet their NDCs. This particular relates to the fact that only scope 1 and 2 emissions are accounted but not scope 3 emissions.

Type 3 emissions can be largely reduced if we look at bio-based materials

When we look at the bio-based model of the circular economy, lets say for housing, it is relatively easy to point out that organic waste can be used for multiple purposes. On the image below, waste water is used and transformed into energy, which is again used to supply energy for the household and other applications.

This model can also be applied to entire cities such as on the image below. This model also runs on the integration of renewable energy and bio-based waste to generate energy and add value to the urban setting as well. The model would not function, if it would not incorporate organic waste.

The bio-based economy is more efficient then the non-bio based economy

Of course, circularity also works with other non-biobased materials, but there are limits to their re-utilization and their potential in mitigating scope 3 emissions. In the webinar an excellent example of a “smartcrusher”, which breaks concrete back into its homogenous ingredients was pointed out. I like that it is possible to reutilize these ingriedients, but there are emission limits towards their reutilization and value additon.

Bio-based materials are the answer to carbon neutrality

On the opposite, if we were to adapt more bio-based materials, we could use less finite materials, create value from organic waste products and meanwhile, add value throughout the production. An excellent example for me is bamboo, because of its versatile industrial applications and alternative to steel.

If we look at the production of bamboo boards, each waste component can be used and transformed again either in the form of energy [i.e. gas, electricity] or products [i.e. pellets, charcoal, bio-char]. I like the image of a wood production process below, because it illustrates the versatility of timber waste products. This also applies to bamboo, besides that bamboo grows much quicker and drives well in degraded soils.

Bio-based materials help our planet thrive

A few months ago my former thesis -supervisor introduced me to the concept “ThriveAbility”. ThriveAbility reframes sustainability by focusing on the positive benefits of collectively living within our means ( operating within the carrying capacities of capitals). ThriveAbility does this by weaving two additional dimensions into the sustainability equation that remedy the Social and Governance weak spots, while catalysing context-based environmental performance. It basically looks at adding value to our environment instead of exploiting it (Baue, 2016).

With bio-based products we can do so. An example is bio-char that can be produced as waste product and be fet back into farms. Biochar can be used as soil enhancer as it holds carbon, boosts food security, and increases soil biodiversity, and discourage deforestation. The process creates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water. Biochar is found in soils around the world as a result of vegetation fires and historic soil management practices. Intensive study of biochar-rich dark earths in the Amazon (terra preta), has led to a wider appreciation of biochar’s unique properties as a soil enhancer (InternationalBiocharInitative, 2019)

Mitigating scope 3 emissions works well on the local level

Since our supply chains are connected across the globe, it is more difficult to achieve carbon neutrality during transportation. But if we would overall , in each region and city of the supply chain focus more on bio-based materials [and renewables], we could feed more energy into our transportation system and therefore ensure that we are meeting our global target under Paris.

My ideal supply-chain would be an integrated bio-based supply chain, which integrates circularity on each stage of it. Since there are growth-limits for bio-based materials, I would emphasize circular business models for end consumers and producers; 1. To capture product value and 2. To have sufficient time for circular systems to regenerate within out planetary boundaries.

My ideal and over simplified global circular supply-chain . On factory level, we can drive on bio-waste products and feed some components back into the farm level, such as bio-char as soil amendment

On a global level, there are of course more barriers and I recommend reading the article on “Bio-based Materials Within the Circular Economy: Opportunities and Challenges” by Brundklaus and Riise (2018) to receive a greater insight into that topic.

Have you become intersted to calculate your Scope3 emissions? I found an excellent technical guideline by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, which provides standards, guidance, tools and training for business and government to measure and manage climate-warming emissions. You can access it here.

For questions and comments, feel free to contact me below.

References

Baue, B. (2016). An Intro to ThiveAbility: The Next Stage of Development for Sustainability. Retrieved from: https://sustainablebrands.com/read/new-metrics/an-intro-to-thriveability-the-next-stage-of-development-for-sustainability

Brunklaus B., Riise E. (2018) Bio-based Materials Within the Circular Economy: Opportunities and Challenges. In: Benetto E., Gericke K., Guiton M. (eds) Designing Sustainable Technologies, Products and Policies. Springer, Cham

CarbonTrust (2019). What are Scope 3 emissions?. Retrieved from: https://www.carbontrust.com/resources/what-are-scope-3-emissions

Downie, J., & Stubbs, W. (2013). Evaluation of Australian companies’ scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions assessments. Journal of Cleaner Production56, 156-163.

GreenhouseGasProtocol (2020). Scope3 Calculation Guidance. Retrieved from: https://ghgprotocol.org/scope-3-technical-calculation-guidance

InternationalBiocharInitiative (2020). Biochar is a Valuable Soil Amendment. Retrieved from: https://biochar-international.org/biochar/

Soezer, A. (2019). Circular Economy and a New Generation of NDCs. UNDP Webinar. Retrieved from: https://www.ndcs.undp.org/content/ndc-support-programme/en/home/impact-and-learning/ideas-and-insights/20190/circular-economy-new-ndc-generation-.html

Limits to growth for the bio-based economy, why circularity is the way to go in 2020

A few weeks ago I watched a Netflix documentary on healthy diets, which highlighted the versatile and healthy diets of hunter gathrers. Hunter-gatherer culture was the way of life for early humans until around 11 to 12,000 years ago. The lifestyle of hunter-gatherers was based on hunting animals and foraging for food.

What I liked most about the documentary was to see a balancing interaction between humans and their ecosystem. Whatever they used to hunt, to wear and to cook was bio-based and once an item fullfilled its purpose such as food, a used spear or old clothes, they could be thrown away and turned one with nature again. Life focused on necessities, instead of likeabilities; whatever had been thrown away, needed to be thrown away.

Our way of interacting with the “real word” drastically changed and we started to become adjusted to as well as to desire materials that are non-organic. These are materials that at the end of their life-cycle accumulate in the environment somewhere, rather then becoming part of it. These are also materials that can be produced very quick!

Some of these materials include synthetically produced textiles, or the processing and use of sand and metals for construction. Others include plastic to wrap goods, or fossil fuels to supply us with heat. Hunter gatherers instead would have hunted for food and would have used all parts of their pray such as the skin for leather. They would have collected wood from the sourroundings to serve as a source of heat and fire wood. Whatever waste they had created in their different tribes, turned one with nature again.

Nowadays we are driving on quick consumption, the rush it evokes in us, the happiness it brings and the quick accessibilty for it. One click on Amazon and we can buy the new shirt of our favorite Instagram feet or those that Tom and Jaz are wearing. Another click and we can buy new shoes and a few years later, we finally can buy that interior decor we always wanted. The industry knows that and they are more then dedicated to supply new products and innovations on a rapid basis.

The industry also knows that our resources are running short, environmenal regulations are turning stronger and therefore increasing research to develop and re-apply bio-based materials. Suddenly the way of living with our environment such as of the hunter-gatherers appeals.

!Biobased materials do not equal sustainability

As an individual, I believe that you can think of various bio materials i.e. grass to produce paper or sheep woll for textile. But my favorite industrial bio-based “sustainable” material is bamboo, because it matures within 3-5 years and it can be processed into almost everything. It is also my favorite ecological resource, because it stores water year round, regenerates degraded lands and can serve as an alternative to tropical timber.

While I truly support bamboo as an alternative to other materials, I also acknowledge that its growth rate of 3-5 years is limited. Let’s say if we had 16.000 hectars of bamboo and needed all that bamboo to supply sufficient fibre in one year, then it is likely not as “renewable at the end”. I also acknowledge that certain processing methods such as the chemical once for fibre production, make it less ecological and biodegradable. This is the opposite for mechanically produced fibres, but the processing is lenghty and labour intensive. This currently makes it less desirable by the industry.

To continue promoting or developing ecological, fair or lets say “slow” materials within the current consumption model, the only way to go forward is the Circular Economy. I would say that the Circular Economy aligns well with the principles of the hunter gatherers, as waste turns into value again.

Why is that important?

Because if we want to continue promoting sustainable materials (let’s say ecological, not causing deforestation, no pollutions entering the environment), then we have to acknowledge that there are limits to growth for “bio-based materials.” Yet, to maintain that current economic model, we simply capture the value of products at the end of their lifecycle. In doing so , businesses keep the value in the company and consumers can maintain similiar consumption models.

We can achieve this by promoting business models for the circular economy that capture the value, of products and materials at the end, but also throughout the production of a product.

Would you like to know more about business models for the circular (bio-based) economy and receive help with identifying integrated models that are most suitable for your business?

Please feel free to contact me any time.

Bamboos’ fit in the construction industry – A micro material comparison

To date construction projects are following the linear economy in which man-made resources such as brickets, metals, cement and clay are used and disposed at the end of a buildings’ life cycle. In 2017, buildings and constructions together consumed 36% of the final energy produced globally while being responsible for 39% of the global energy related CO2 emissions (Gobal Status Report, 2017). Another problem is the accumulating waste and the environmental impact of the resources extracted. In Europe, each year nearly 500 million tonnes of construction waste are created.

Besides these negative effects, it also has negative effects on the “sustainability” of the building industry itself. As we consume more, and re-use less materials, we are facing resource scarcity. Coupled with a growing population and increasing urbanization, new ways of producing buildings and building components with new materials or existing once are crucial for the survival of the building industry but also our planet. One of the many material-solutions towards a sustainable building industry is bamboo.

Throuhgout the last years, bamboo has been engineered into various products. Due to its fast growth and its tensile strenght, I frame engineered bambo as a niche product that directly competes with timber. With my Master thesis, I even concluded that bamboo boards outweight timber products made from oak, maple, walnut, birch and cherry in terms of its strength properties and durability. I also concluded that missing design choices of bamboo boards turn it into a less favorable resource for timber producers and consumers. Likewise, engineered bamboo outweights timber in terms of its properties and is perceived as excellent building material, if it is less visible or more available with greater design variance.

Bamboo OSB Board

While I am not an engineer, I kept the latter in mind and compared the most used construction materials with existing or new bamboo innovations and materials.

My aim was to identify the versatile role of bamboo as sustainable construction material

As mentioned above cement, concrete, aggregates, metals, bricks, clay are the most common type of man-made building materials used in construction. Next to these natural materials, wood is also used frequently (Wang, 2018).

Cement, is a binder, a substance used for construction that sets, hardens, and adheres to other materials to bind them together. There is no present bamboo cement replacement.

Bamboo reinforced concrete

Concrete and cement are often used interchangeably, cement is actually an ingredient of concreteConcrete is a mixture of aggregates and paste. The aggregates are sand and gravel or crushed stone; the paste is water and  cement. While it is not possible to fully replace concrete with bamboo, it is possible to produce bamboo reinforced concrete (Karthik et al., 2008)

Currently  steel reinforcement is used frequently to provide additional tensile strength and energy absorption capacity to concrete members. But conventional M.S. (Mild steel) or HYSD (High Yielding Strength Deformed) bars are heavy in weight, costly, nonrenewable and un-ecofriendly material. To mitigate this concern a sustainable, renewable, ecofriendly material like bamboo can be used as steel substitute. Using bamboo reinforcement even improves the flexural performance of slab panels (Mali and Datta, 2018).

However Archila, Kaminski, Trujilo, Escamilla and Harries (2018) describe that “the poor durability and bond characteristics of bamboo require through-thickness treatment and additional surface treatment of bamboo reinforcement, respectively. Such treatments, as described in the literature, are labour intensive, costly, and often utilise materials of known toxicity .”

Metals are commonly used in the construction industry due to their durability and strength to form structural components, pipework, cladding materials and other components.

Bamboo is stronger than the metal steel, in regards to the tensile strength. Overall, the ratio of tensile strength between the weight of bamboo is six times greater than of steel. If treated and processed well, buildings can be fully engineered with bamboo. As highlighted above, bamboo can be used as concrete reinforcement and steel alternative.

Construction aggregate, or simply “aggregate”, is a broad category of coarse to medium grained particulate material used in construction, including sand, gravel, crushed stone, slag, recycled concrete and geosynthetic aggregates. Aggregates such as sand are the most mined materials in the world. According to the World Economic Forum (2019), between 32 and 50 billion tonnes of aggregate (sand and gravel) are extracted from the Earth each year. Excessive sand mining of river deltas, such as the Yangtze and Mekong, is increasing the risk of climate-related disasters, because there’s not enough sediment to protect against flooding.

Direct and indirect impacts of aggregates dredging on the marine environment (UNEP).

I found one study, in which concrete samples were produced with 1% and 3% bamboo fibers as additives. It was concluded that the addition of bamboo fiber increases the compressive strength of concrete. Substituting coarse aggregates with certain percentage of bamboo fiber produced a decreasing trend on its flexual strength, though it increased as the bamboo fiber composition/materials increased (Manlapas , Cardenas, Anacta, 2018).

Another study incoroporated bamboo ash into fly ash geopolymer concrete. It concluded that bamboo ash can be one of the alternatives to geopolymer concrete when it faces exposure to high temperatures.

Bricks are still in common use today for the construction of walls and paving and for more complex features such as columnsarchesfireplaces and chimneys. They remain popular because they are relatively small and easy to handle, can be extremely strong in compression, are durable and low maintenance, they can be built up into complex shapes and can be visually attractive.

I found only one website that sells” bamboo bricks” , but it does not describe the content of the bricks. Another study applied bamboo waste material (charcoal) on ecobricks.

What does the future hold for bamboo bricks?

Different types of wood and wood materials are also used for the construction of buildings. The company SwissKrono, produces prefabricated timber construction and uses a mix of timber and non timber material on project base. Solid timber constructions involve prefabricated sturby but relatively lightweight walls, ceilings and roof modules that are assemblied on the construction site. Other materials include the construction frames which are stabilised with OSB panels. There are also penalised constructions, in which walls and ceilings are largely prefabricated.

These type of constructions can also be produced from bamboo and likely outweight timber due to its lightweight, strength and hardwood characteristics. In addition, bamboo already matures within three to five years and could therefore serve as an alternative resource next to controversial produced timber , particular from the tropics.

A barrier for a fully ecological bamboo utilzation is the type and the amount of chemicals used for the production of engineered bamboo products. If bamboo products are produced in closed loop systems or if bio-based resins are used, bamboo could serve as a truly sustainable and circular building opportunity. Another option would be to produce modular bamboo buildings or components, that can be re-used at the end of the buildings life cycle.

Conclusion

The future of the bamboo building industry looks promosing, particular as a result of bamboo being a strong and lightweight material. However, at the moment, it seems difficult to replace conventional building materials such as cement, concrete and aggregates with bamboo. The main potential of bamboo remains in being an alternative to steel as bamboo composite material and as major structural support for buildings. Bamboo also holds huge technical potential as “background matrial” (i.e. MDF/OSB plates/ foundation). A new option seems to integrate bamboo ash into fly ash geopolymer concrete. A study suggested that bamboo ash can be one of the alternatives to geopolymer concrete.

Overall I believe that bamboo serves as a valuable “green opportunity” for the building industry that is interested in new designs, innovation and the mechanical characteristics of bamboo. With bamboo naturally degrading in the forest after at least 10 years, we can promote the use of this resoruce and the concept of “No building is meant to last forever”.

[There is one promising bamboo innovation that I did not highlight in the article. I am looking for a serious team to explore this innovation and bring it on the construtction market. Please e-mail me if you are interested] And also e-mail me for any other questions or comments.

References

Archila, H., Kaminski, S., Trujillo, D., Escamilla, E. Z., & Harries, K. A. (2018). Bamboo reinforced concrete: a critical review. Materials and Structures51(4), 102.

Global Status Report (2017). World Green Building Council. Retrieved from:  http://www.worldgbc.org.

Jöst, A. (2019). Bamboo in German Manufacturing Practices. Master Thesis. Maastricht University

Hutt, R. (2020). This is the environmental catastrophy, you probably never heard of. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/global-demand-for-sand-is-wreaking-havoc-on-rivers/

Karthik, S., Rao, R. M., Awoyera, P., Akinwumi, I., Karthikeyan, T., Revathi, A., … & Saravanan, S. (2018). Beneficiated pozzolans as cement replacement in bamboo-reinforced concrete: the intrinsic characteristics. Innovative Infrastructure Solutions3(1), 50.

Mali, P. R., & Datta, D. (2018). Experimental evaluation of bamboo reinforced concrete slab panels. Construction and Building Materials188, 1092-1100.

Manlapas, G. O., Cardenas, L.E., Anacta, E.T. (2018). Utilization of Babmoo Fiber as a Component Material in Concrete. Indian Journal of Science and Technology. 11(47).

Wang, T. (2018). Construction Materials Industry. Retrieved from: https://www.statista.com/topics/2983/construction-materials-industry/

Bamboo a green building material and trade opportunity for Europe and Indonesia

Shopping Mall Milano, built with engineered bamboo

Bamboo provides a unique opportunity to meet European building and consumer demands as steel and timber alternative under the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Priorities.

Throughout my five months stay in Indonesia, I was able to receive in-depht insight into the present challanges and opportunities of bamboo for the Indonesian and international market. I looked at the potential of bamboo for the European Market as sustainable building opportunity , the current bamboo market in Indonesia, forestry and trade regulations and how it compares economically to other cash crops.

The report is very short. Please feel free to contact me for any questions!

Circular Economy

This menu is still in progress but aims at illustrating the potential of bamboo for the Circular Economy. In a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. Waste and resource use are minimised, and when a product reaches the end of its life, it is used again to create further value. This can bring major economic benefits, contributing to innovation, growth and job creation.

Explore more about the potential of bamboos’ role in the circular economy below

Energy

Textile

Construction

Plastic

[In progress]