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Green Innovators: A Chat with Laura, De Stadsgroenteboer CSA

By Tess Holmgren

Urban agriculture projects are becoming increasingly popular and viewed as agents for providing food security, as well as a creative way of greening urban areas. As more attention is given to finding innovative ways of growing food closer to and in cities, it is slowly becoming part of the public vocabulary with urban farms in cities including Amsterdam and Rotterdam. However, for many there is still a distinct separation between production and consumption of the fruit and vegetables bought at the shop. Not much thought is given to where and how these apples, or these oranges were grown simply because there is no need for it when supermarkets will supply close to anything in good condition. Among the people bridging this gap with the aim of reconnecting people with the land are the Amsterdam-based De Stadsgroenteboer team, who will lead our fourth Bootcamp session on Friday 24 May.

They have invited us to spend the afternoon at their 4000 square meter farm in the West of Amsterdam where they will be introducing the concept and philosophy of Community Supported Agriculture and its role in healthy urban food production. Those participating will have the pleasure of meeting the inspiring team behind the project, a chance to get their hands dirty and to later taste the fruits of their labour as a way of learning about community supported agriculture. In anticipation of this session, we spoke to Laura from De Stadsgroenteboer team to get a sense of what students can expect, as well as her ideas around healthy urban living.

Please tell us about your organisation, its inspiration and goals. We are a group people who have teamed up to grow vegetables on a small plot of land of around 4000 square meters in the west of Amsterdam. We try to grow as many kinds of vegetables as possible, currently I think we have around 62 different vegetables and we do everything organically. We are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, which means we supply vegetables on a weekly basis during harvest season to local subscribing members. The opportunity for this project presented itself when the previous owner moved away and got in touch with two of our current team members about keeping the farm. We had a common dream of growing our own food, so in a sense we inspired each other. We had some previous experience, but not necessarily expertise – I guess that comes with the years – so there has been some trial and error in getting started. Our main goal and inspiration with this project is really to recreate a connection between people and the land.

Without revealing too much about what’s in store, could you tell us what we can expect from your participation in this year’s Green Student Bootcamp Challenge?I won’t reveal too much but students will spend the afternoon with us at the farm, which will involve some activities where they will get to experience the work we do first hand. It will also involve some kind of transformation of food, possibly from our own land. And we hope to introduce everyone to the philosophy and the idea of community supported agriculture so they get an idea of the history, the philosophy and the different styles of CSA that exist. And it will also involve a good deal of fun!

What do you hope participating students will take away from the experience? We would really love it if the experience of practicing agriculture on small scale together with other people inspires them to think differently about food. Especially in terms of its whole lifecycle and its value. On the flip side, it’s also inspiring and exciting for us to involve people in what we do, so I hope they leave with these feelings as well.

How do you see our relationship with nature and with our environment? This is a difficult question, and quite an individual one. I think it is always tricky to say: “this is us and this is nature” because we are all part of one big thing. In this sense I think it is important to phrase the answer in terms of what our role is in nature instead of what is our connection with nature. Because I think what is for us to figure out is how we fit into this big intricate puzzle as opposed to how we relate to the puzzle.

Has your work and/or research changed the way you lead your life? If so, how? Well, currently I’m living the life of a farmer, which is more a lifestyle than a job. You are up with the sun and go to bed early, you are constantly working with your hands and your body. In a way we are also constantly creating things which is very rewarding. I think your priorities change a little bit when you live like this so there has perhaps been a change in the way I lead my life, but more because of the nature of the work than a conscious choice.

What does healthy urban living mean to you? Cities are crazy. There is this constant access to anything you might need and there are endless options. There are midnight shops in case you get hungry, it never gets dark, there is always something to do and there are always people around. It can easily feel frantic and crowded. I think healthy urban living means finding your own path – your own balanced way of living – in which you are content and not at the constant mercy of the hectic pace of the city.

If you’d like to join our cooking-in-nature workshop with De Stadsgroenteboer, please mail us before Wednesday 22 May to book your space: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

For information on how to join the De Stadsgroenteboer CSA, visit their website: https://www.stadsgroenteboer.nl

Circular Innovators: A Chat with Steven Keulemans, Fungi Factory

By Tess Holmgren

How we produce food and handle waste are important topics of today, and Utrecht-based enterprise Fungi Factory is tackling both issues by using spent coffee grounds to grow oyster mushrooms.

Fungi Factory co-founder Steven Keulemans will lead a workshop at the Green Student Bootcamp Challenge’s session in Utrecht on Friday 17 May, where participants will learn about mycelium and Fungi Factory’s circular solutions for growing mushrooms with waste.

In advance of this session, I connected with Steven to find out what students can expect from his workshop and what he feels is important to have a healthy life in the city.

Please tell us about your organisation, its inspiration and goals.

We were originally inspired by the book ‘The Blue Economy’ by Gunter Pauli, who really inspired people to look at things differently by showing how we can learn from the natural world’s clever ways of handling challenges. One thing he mentions is using coffee waste to grow oyster mushrooms and after chatting to my co-founders Martijn and Erik, we thought that Utrecht needed an initiative like this. So that’s how we started growing oyster mushrooms on coffee waste. Our goal is to use as much coffee waste and grow as many oyster mushrooms as possible. We want to inspire people and companies to look differently at waste, and for waste in Utrecht to be used to make new products.

Without revealing too much about what’s in store, what can we expect from your participation in this year’s Green Student Bootcamp Challenge?

We will be talking a bit about the role of mycelium in nature and how we use mycelium in our business model. We also want to explain how our business model is inspired by the interactions we see in nature, and we want to show everyone how to grow their own oyster mushrooms at home, which is easier than it sounds!

What do you hope participating students will take away from the experience?

We want to inspire students that a lot of good things are happening in businesses at the moment, not only in theory but also in practice – that there are things actually being done that make a difference. We hope to inspire students to see that they can really implement the things they learn during their studies, hopefully some of them will do so by starting their own sustainable business around something they like. Which will inspire others, and themselves, to start making a difference in the world.

How do you see our relationship with nature and with our environment?

That’s a broad question. If by ‘our’ you mean mankind’s then I think we are fitting in less and less. One of the main problems for the way humans look at nature at the moment is that we think we can control nature. We think of nature as our commodity which we can do with as we please, and we are also not looking at the long-term relationship with nature because most of us want to make a short-term profit. There could be a reason for this, for instance to make money to raise our children well but still, even in this situation we are only talking about one generation. In short, I think we are being short-sighted in how we make use of the natural world.

Has your work and/or research changed the way you lead your life? If so, how?

Actually, the way I look at the world and lead my life is the reason I changed my job.  After 12 years working in a bank, I thought I wanted to do something different and I am now a mushroom farmer! It was a slow process and there were a few moments during my twelve-year career where I thought I needed a change and it didn’t happen for one reason or another. After a reshuffling at work I thought it was a good opportunity to force myself to make the change.

What does healthy urban living mean to you?

I think healthy urban living means to be respectful to nature. By that I mean not to look at it as a commodity with which we can do as we please and to recognise that everything in nature serves a purpose. It’s especially important to do so in an urban environment because it isn’t inherently a healthy place. If we take care to this by, for instance, not using too much water, being wise in our energy consumption, or eating healthy I think we can contribute to a liveable city. To me it also means to inspire others and the next generation to take care of themselves and their environment by giving a good example.

Green Educators: A Chat with Sameena Safiruddin

By Tess Holmgren

Starting Friday 3rd May, the Green Living Lab will already be hosting its fourth Green Student Bootcamp Challenge. This year students in the Netherlands are invited to go on a tour of the Netherlands to learn about healthy urban living and a series of workshops will take place in Amsterdam, Groningen, Utrecht, Delft, and Rotterdam.

Starting from the ground up, this year’s first Bootcamp session is all about ‘Seeds and Soil’ and it will take place at the Tolhuistuin in Amsterdam on Friday 3rd May. Students will learn about the importance of biodiversity in the soil for life on earth and will roll up their sleeves to build their own DIY worm hotel home composting system, learn how to grow healthy plants at home for food and sow seeds. Commonland will also be there to talk about restorative solutions for environmental degradation.

I caught up with GLL workshop leader Sameena Safiruddin who will co-lead a workshop on seeds and how to grow healthy plants at home, in order to ask about her inspiration for healthy urban living.

Please tell us about your work.
I am a permaculture designer, I lead foraging workshops and gardening tours, teach school children how to grow plants and I am a willow weaver. I work with diverse community garden projects and nature education projects. Amongst other things I’ve helped set up community garden projects in the east of Amsterdam, including a public garden and a community arts and cultural space for people in the neighbourhood. For me it’s mostly about the nature connection. It’s not so much growing plants as getting in touch with nature: learning how things grow, learning the importance of insects, and so on. My work is, for me, about bringing nature back into the city and into people’s lives, and bringing back that connection to the natural world.

Without revealing too much about what’s in store, could you tell us what we can expect from your participation in this year’s Green Student Bootcamp Challenge?
Those joining can expect to get their hands dirty. I think this is important because many don’t do this anymore, too many people spend most of their days sitting behind a computer. So this workshop will be a fun chance for people to use their senses and interact with their environment differently.

What do you hope participating students will take away from the experience?
I hope to inspire students to be more conscious and aware of the nature or the lack of nature around them. I want them to feel both connected and aware of nature. I also hope they feel like they have agency- that they can actively participate in their communities and feel like they have the ability to influence change.

How do you see our relationship with nature and with our environment?
I feel humankind has separated themselves from nature quite a bit. Especially considering we were hunter gatherers at first- foraging for food and intimately connected with the cycles of life. Then with the agricultural revolution we were distanced from the land, and then with industrialisation even more so. For instance now we look at our clocks, not at the sun and the stars. We are no longer as involved with the natural world, instead it has been separated and put in a sterilised environment: our food is mostly wrapped in plastic at the supermarket. Of course this is not true for all people and in many ways I think the awareness of the environment is coming back. But generally this is how I feel our relationship with the environment has evolved.

Has your work changed the way you lead your life? If so, how?
I feel my intuition has led me to all the work I am involved with. At first my goal was to work for an ethical organisation and so I really made a conscious decision to let my ethics and morals guide me. I would ask myself in the face of the work I was doing or in looking for a new job whether this is something that is good for me and good for the earth. I let this act as a filter and, honestly, since I started doing this and dedicating myself to what I love people have started finding me as opposed to the other way around. Because of this there hasn’t been a need to proactively look for new projects to do. I have always had a connection and love for nature, when I was little I had one tree I used to play in. I am still trying to figure out if there was a moment that caused this connection – perhaps it was at school when my teacher, Mr Woods, spoke about the Amazon and he told me about the areas of trees being cut that were the size of football fields. This really moved me and I don’t know if it was him who planted the seed but this for me isn’t a definitive moment, I think my love for the natural world is something that has grown inside me slowly over time and which I’ve let guide my life.

What does healthy urban living mean to you?
I think it’s important to think holistically- from caring for the soil to voting and taking political action. For me healthy urban living also means living as consciously in natural cycles as we can. By this I mean to cause as little disturbance as possible to the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the waste cycle and so on. Biking for instance is a good example because you are not producing waste. Also eating healthy, local, organic food and then composting it so it goes back to the earth. Or being conscious about the waste cycle you are producing personally by the things you buy – to be mindful of buying less, only the things you need and quality products or using rainwater to water the garden. This also involves visiting green areas and to keep creating them. I think we have the ability and responsibility to actively create more biodiversity in the city which is so good for the mind body and soul. We can actually do so much more of this in the city already, and I personally try to do as much of this as I can.

Programme: Green Student Bootcamp Challenge 2019 Netherlands Tour

Students from all universities and colleges are welcome to join, from any study course. See how you can participate & book your space below.

*Friday 3 May, Tolhuistuin, Amsterdam, 14.00 – 17.30

‘Where Life Begins: Soil & Seeds’, with the Green Living Lab & Commonland

Lecture:  Commonland tell us how restorative solutions can reverse the degradation of the land and water systems that are the basis of life on earth, and bring back prosperity to both people and planet.

Green Living Lab Workshops: 

Composting – build healthy soil while making profit from waste. We’ll show you how to turn your kitchen waste into rich compost with a worm hotel.

Sowing Seeds – a guide to growing healthy plants at home.

*Friday 10 May, University of Groningen, 14.00 – 17.30

‘Gifts from Nature: Inspiration & Wellbeing’ with Green Office Groningen & Guests

Tour: A meeting with product designer Tjeerd Veenhoven at his studio to hear how he is inspired by the natural world to develop sustainable products including Palmleather, a plant-based replacement for animal leather, plastic and rubber, and AlgaeFabric, a raw textile material made from algae.

Interactive Lecture: “Links between pro-environmental behaviours and wellbeing” by Steph Johnson-ZawadskiEnvironmental Psychology PhD, University of Groningen.

Green Living Lab Workshop:

Seed Balls – cheering up grey urban environments for people and pollinators with seed balls full of native herbs and flowers.

*20 spaces exclusively available for University of Groningen students for €5,00 per student.*

To register as a University of Groningen student, please contact Green Office Groningen: greenoffice@rug.nl 

All other students, please contact: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

 *Friday 17 May, Utrecht University14.00 – 17.30

‘Interconnectivity in Nature: Forests & Mycelium,’ with Green Office Utrecht & Guests

Workshop: Forests, with IVN & the Tiny Forest initiative. Exploring the role of urban forests for a healthy city,  and learning how a Tiny Forest can be realised on campus or in the neighbourhood.

Workshop: Mycelium & Mushrooms, with Fungi Factory. We’ll hear about the magical world of mycelium, how Fungi Factory’s circular enterprise utilises mycelium to turn waste into profit, and we’ll be challenged to grow oyster mushrooms at home with a Fungi Factory grow-kit.

*20 spaces exclusively available for Utrecht University students for €9,50 per student.* 

To register as a Utrecht University student, please contact Green Office Utrecht: greenoffice@uu.nl before Thursday 16 May.          

All other students, please contactgsbc@greenlivinglab.org

*Friday 24 May, Amsterdam West, 14.00 – 17.30 

From Farm to Table: CSAs & Cooking Workshop in Nature, with De Stadsgroenteboer CSA & UvA Green Office
We visit this newly established CSA to hear about the role of CSAs in producing healthy food for urban populations. De Stadsgroenteboer team met while studying gastronomy in Italy and they will share their love of tasty fresh produce with us from farm to table, as students are invited to get their hands in the soil to harvest and then cook together.

Cooking Workshop: Expect to get your hands in the soil and to cook with fresh veggies from the garden.

20 spaces exclusively available for University of Amsterdam students for €15,50 per student.*

To register, please contactgsbc@greenlivinglab.org before Friday 17 May.

*Friday 31 May, Rotterdam, 14.00 – 17.30 

‘Creating Cities for Healthier Futures,’ with Hannah Wright & Jorn Wemmenhove, Humankind

City Tour: Exploring how our urban surroundings influence our well-being, with urban planner Hannah Wright and tactical urbanist Jorn Wemmenhove, Humankind.

Includes a visit to the largest and loveliest productive roof-garden in Europe, De DakAkker.

20 spaces exclusively available for Erasmus University Rotterdam students for €5 per student.*

To register, please contactgsbc@greenlivinglab.org before Monday 27 May.

 *Friday 7 June, TU Delft14.00 – 17.30

‘Nature-inspired Innovation,’ with Green Office Delft & Guests

Workshop: Biomimicry Nederland invites us to look to nature for sustainable solutions, and tells us how nature’s design genius is inspiring innovation for a healthy world.

Lecture: Dr. Ingrid de Pauw teaches at the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering TU Delft, and will tell us about her research into nature-inspired design, as well as its applications.

Interactive Lecture: Dr. Bertus Beaumont, teaches BioLogic at the Department of Bionanoscience TU Delft, and will tell us about the course’s focus on how biological principles can be applied to achieve green technological solutions.

We will meet BioLogic students, and hear from them about their entry for the Biodesign Challenge, a global challenge for university students to envision future applications of biotechnology.

*20 spaces exclusively available for TU Delft students for €5,00 per student.*

To register as a TU Delft student, please contact Green Office TU Delft:  info@greenofficedelft.nl before Monday 3 June

All other students, please contact: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

*Friday 14 June, Amsterdamse Bos, Amsterdam, 14.00 – 21.00

Trees & Us: Trees & People in a Healthy City.

A tree expert will tell us about the role of trees and urban forests in creating a healthy city. We’ll also go on a bird safari and explore what edible delights the forest has to gift us.

To attend, please contact: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org before Monday 10 June. 

*****

Ways to Participate & Costs

All participants required to be students  & advance payment required.

1) Full Programme (8 sessions):

€85 per student, including workshop materials. Apply before 29 April: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

2) Individual Sessions:

€17,50 per session. Please book here:  gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

3) University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Erasmus University Rotterdam, TU Delft & University of Amsterdam Students:

We have reserved 20 spaces at a discounted rate for local students at sessions taking place at the University of Groningen, Utrecht University, Rotterdam, TU Delft & in Amsterdam.

Please contact us for information on how to book your space with discount: gsbc@greenivinglab.org

An Inspirational Green Tour of the Netherlands!

Netherlands Tour 2019

This year’s Green Student Bootcamp Challenge is going nationwide, as participants set off on an inspirational tour of the Netherlands in May and June.

This is the 4th year of our experiential learning programme for higher education students in the Netherlands. We are both delighted and proud that our graduates from previous years are helping to organise this year’s programme and will lead some of our workshops!

On Friday afternoons, 14.00 – 17.30, in May and June, sessions will take place at diverse locations in the Netherlands in partnership with educational organisations, experts, entrepreneurs and innovators all working to create solutions for a healthier and greener world.

Inspiration from Nature

The Bootcamp Challenge brings students from diverse universities in the Netherlands together for one semester to learn how to make healthy lifestyle choices in balance with the natural world. Our immersive green learning experience takes a holistic approach to student health and wellbeing, as students are encouraged to relax in nature, feel connected to the natural world by acquiring both knowledge and experience, and reignite the joy and wonder of the natural world that we all shared when children.

A Rich Learning Experience

Just as in nature, we see that increased diversity in the group of participants leads to a richer learning experience for the group as a whole. We invite students from all study backgrounds to take part, and no prior knowledge of the course content required. Students learn from experts, entrepreneurs and each other as debate and sharing knowledge and experience is actively encouraged throughout.

Applied Learning 

We introduce students to diverse themes with a focus on exploring the links between our health and wellbeing, with that of our environment and our world. Students are given weekly challenges to be completed at home or as a group, and based on knowledge from previous sessions. In this way, students are asked to apply knowledge in a practical sense immediately. Students share their learning experiences in an online forum, so they also can learn directly from each other.

Partners 2019

This year sessions will take place in Groningen, Delft, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and Amsterdam, where we will welcome new partners and meet some amazing partners from previous programmes. We’ll learn about the interconnectivity in nature from IVN ,  Tiny Forest and Fungi Factory, hear from De Stadsgroenteboer about the role of CSAs in urban food production and how to cook healthy plant-based meals, learn of innovative solutions inspired by nature from Biomimicry Nederland and TU Delft, about trees and their role in a healthy city from City of Amsterdam ecologists, and visualise the healthy city of the future with tactical urban planning experts Hannah Wright and Humankind.  Other partners include Green Office Groningen, Green Office Utrecht, Green Office Delft, De DakAkker, Studio Tjeerd van Veenhoven, Commonland, and Duurzame Student.

A big thank you to LemonAid and ChariTea for sponsoring the programme!

Monday 29 April

There are have limited spaces available, and a short application is required. Applications are to be received by Monday 29 April. To request an application, please email us: gsbc@greenlivinglab.org

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