As the world is losing hope about the US taking any kind of leading role on the world’s most pressing global issues like environmental protection and climate change, students of America’s top universities spread a strong positive message last weekend by hosting the Ivy League Vegan Conference at Harvard University. And no, it wasn’t a bunch of rich students telling each other how awesome they are being a vegan. It also wasn’t a group of skinny, pale, sandal-wearing hippies. This conference was characterised by the large diversity of people attending, as well as the number of topics and open discussions that took place. Some speakers were even so brave to admit to an audience full of plant-eaters that they enjoy eating meat from time to time!

Location of the conference: Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram.

Location of the conference: Harvard Museum of Natural History. Photo with permission from humanelemaguebos@Instagram

For me, this event was perfectly timed as I have just moved to Boston for a neuroimaging internship at the Martinos center for my MSc. Neuroscience at the Vrije Universiteit (VU). I’ll be studying the effects of meditation on the brain, so if you’re interested in this subject, stay tuned for future blog posts. Last spring, I got involved with the Green Living Lab when I followed their Green Student Bootcamp Challenge programme. I loved the experience so much that I joined the GLL team, where I’ve since helped to organise events and give tours of the location.

Now that I’m an ocean away from the GLL itself, I’ve taken up the role of reporting as the GLL foreign correspondent in the US! Volunteering with the GLL allows me to express my interest in how lifestyle choices impact global issues like sustainability and inequality.

A full audience. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram.

A full audience. Photo with permission from @humanelemaguebos@Instagram


After making these connections perhaps it is not surprising to learn that I am vegan. So by getting the chance to attend this conference just after my arrival in the US, as the Dutch would say, ‘I fell with my nose in the butter’ (= super lucky). Or, in this case, I fell in the vegan margarine.

Organised by the Harvard Vegan Society, the conference was part of a series of vegan conferences of peer organisations from other universities. The purpose of the conference is nicely summarised by the Vegan Society’s president Nina Gheihman, a PhD candidate and affiliate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs:

“The conference explores a truly fascinating question: could a plant-based diet be a single, elegant solution to the pressing global issues caused by an increasing population with diminishing natural resources?”  

A fully-packed program included talks and discussion panels on a wide range of topics concerning humans, animals, and the earth. Perspectives came from scientists, engineers, investors, and activists. In the breaks, delicious meals were served by various local chefs and caterers. And this was gratefully received, since there is little that can make a vegan happier than getting to eat everything in the buffet.

A lovely lunch provided by WholeFoods. Photo with permission from plantsforchange@Instagram©

A lovely lunch provided by WholeFoods. Photo with permission from plantsforchange@Instagram©

One of the goals of the conference was to serve as a networking platform for all people seeking to learn how they can live healthy and conscious lives. During Saturday night’s reception, environmentalists and animal rights advocates mixed with some fit and healthy people to chat about their common values and passions. This mix of perspectives sometimes led to funny conversations. I saw a girl handing a flyer about animal rights to a co-attendant, who responded: “could I just take a picture of it? I’d rather not use any unnecessary paper”. Myself? I ended up in an all-vegetarian (can-be-made-vegan) typical American diner with my new plant-eating friends.

On Sunday afternoon I left the venue feeling inspired, complete with a long list of places to visit, initiatives to look up, and new friends to connect with. Thank you to the Harvard Vegan Society for this fruitful (pun intended) event!


Suddenly November brought much colder weather and with it the challenge of heating our dome sufficiently to enable our activities to continue in the dome during winter. We wanted to find a heating solution high in energy efficiency, that could be easily fitted with the interior of the dome, and that provided multiple functions, in line with the permaculture design principles of all of the Green Living Lab facilities.

In early 2016 we built the Green Living Lab biomeiler as an experiment, with the objective of heating the floor of our dome. A biomeiler is a large heap of wood chips with water pipe laid in the middle. As the wood chips break down, the water inside the pipe is heated by the heat of the natural composting process and this warm water is then transported under the floor of the dome via a pump. Our biomeiler is much smaller than other biomeilers due to limited space on location. Although our biomeiler reached a temperature of up to 70 degrees Celsius and could heat the floor of the dome, we needed additional heat to make the dome warm enough for our guests to feel comfortable.

We now have this additional heat solution in the form of an efficient Rocket Stove from the Rocket Stove Store, with a mass heating system built around the rocket stove.


The Rocket Stove: the Wood Burning Stove with Optimum Efficiency
Laureano Boerman from Rocket Stove Store has been an pioneer of rocket stoves for home heating solutions for several years. He now imports the first professionally built, ready-to-use rocket stoves to the Netherlands, that come ready to be installed for use as stoves in private homes. A rocket stove is an efficient mass heater that uses small diameter wood fuel and works via the principle of double combustion. What’s that exactly? First of all wood is burned in a combustion chamber containing an insulated vertical chimney. As the wood burns steam is released and C02 gas is trapped in the vertical chamber. This gas is then also burned, increasing the overall heat efficiency of the rocket stove. This means almost complete combustion, using up to 35% less fuel than conventional stoves, as well as significantly reducing emissions.

For detailed info and illustrations on the workings of a Rocket Stove check out this link

Rocket Stove as a Mass Heater
Laureano brought us a beautiful Ramepa Rocket Stove that not only looks elegant, it is also odour free, giving the pleasure of having a fire in the home without emissions. He advised us to consider using the rocket stove in combination with a heat absorbing mass: a Rocket Mass Heater. Building a Rocket Mass Heater around the stove, where the stove exhaust pipes are installed in some form of heat absorbing mass, would trap heat and keep it inside the dome for longer. The mass heater would also continue to heat the dome after the fire has stopped, significantly reducing the amount of wood needed for fuel.

Laureano introduced us to Jason Learned of Nomad Farmers. Jason is a sustainable living systems expert experienced in installing rocket mass heaters worldwide. He is currently installing the new rocket stove at the beautiful KasKantine urban farm and restaurant in Amsterdam. Jason advised us on the best way to integrate the rocket stove with the dome and told us how the stove’s exhaust pipe could be laid horizontally along the interior wall of the dome, in order to extract more heat, before the smoke inside the pipe leaves the pipe via the chimney. He also advised us to think about how we could trap more heat inside the dome using a heat absorbing mass.

Creative Installation to Harness Heat
Our creative building wizard Rowin Snijder then began to develop a design to capture heat from the rocket stove pipe. We were really lucky that the talented master builder Ed Koevoet was available to install the rocket stove and did a beautiful job welding the stove exhaust pipe.

Rowin built a wooden bench around the stove exhaust pipe that transports smoke from the rocket stove, through the wall of the green slope on the outside of the dome, and into the chimney. The exhaust pipe inside the bench was encased with pebbles, as the combined surface area of these small stones provide a natural mass to transfer and store heat from the exhaust pipe. Rowin’s bench fits perfectly with the interior of the dome and provides a comfortable warm place for guests to sit and enjoy extra warmth while attending activities inside the dome.

Tips for Optimum Use
Laureano advised us on the correct way to make the fire inside the rocket stove, to ensure it heats up in the optimum way. It is important to make a vertical fire in the chamber with small, dry pieces of wood. To heat up quickly and evenly the small pieces of wood should be of a similar size. Instead of having to chop wood outside the dome with an axe in the cold weather Laureano came up with a solution, the Kindling Cracker. This handy device was invented by New Zealander Ayla Hutchinson for a school science project at the age of 13! It enables everyone, including kids, to break larger pieces of wood into the ideal size needed to fuel the rocket stove with minimum effort. Laureano is just beginning to import the Kindling Cracker to the Netherlands and they are now available to pre-order at the Rocket Stove Store.

The Heat Proof
Rocket Mass Heaters provide a highly efficient, clean and cheap heating solutions for homes. As the heat is absorbed into the mass (small pebbles in our case), as much heat from the exhaust pipe is extracted and captured as possible before it leaves the dome.

Another big advantage of using a mass heater is the type of heat emitted via conduction and radiation feels more pleasant than the convection heat of standard heating systems. The air inside the space is not dried out with a Rocket Mass Heater and the heat feels more natural and comfortable.

Laureano tested the temperature on several occasions with a digital laser thermometer, to ensure all was working in an optimum way. So far the temperature on top of the rocket stove has been recorded at over 350 degrees Celsius. At the point where the exhaust pipe exits the dome, the temperature of the pipe inside the bench is around 40 degrees Celsius. This tells us that most of the heat is successfully staying inside the dome. About 1 inch of pebbles heat up every hour, so the whole bench is warm to sit on by the end of a day’s use.

Just 1 hour after lighting the rocket stove the entire space inside the dome is heated nicely and the pebbles at the end of the bench closest to the rocket stove start to feel warm. We can heat a large kettle of water to make tea, make soup or pancakes on top of the rocket stove. Our guests can enjoy the heat anywhere inside the dome and also gather around the stove itself to enjoy the feeling of being close to around a fire and get a nice view of the flames.

The perfect recipe for cosiness!

So a big warm thank you to Laureano, Ann-Kee, Ed, Antony and Rowin for creating such a perfect solution for heating the dome and for making it possible for us to stay warm inside!

For information on rocket stoves and to contact Laureano for advice on models and installation, please see:

Please mention that you heard about rocket stoves via the Green Living Lab!


A BIG thank you to all who took part in the Green Living Lab’s Circular Economy Hackathon, where circular economy ideas, kind to people and planet, were hatched by enthusiastic hackers in the dome!

Enactus VU hosted the event as part of our Community Compost School programme. Enactus president Hanneke van Setten told us how positive social impact & sustainability are central values for their enterprises. We heard about the new Enactus compost collection enterprise, incubated by the Green Living Lab, where students will work together to create value from organic waste in the city. Viewing waste as a resource for value creation is central to circular economy thinking.

We heard from Rowin Snijder about StadsOogst, a circular economy co-operative that he recently set up with partner Chris Mueller, The StadsOogst (City Harvest) team make potting soil from compost made in the city & from waste materials from urban food production. The resulting potting soil will be used to grow food in the city, for the city.

Luana Carretto, founder of Taste Before You Waste, shared her motivations & experience of setting up a circular economy initiative that is focused on preventing urban food waste. By creating & serving healthy, delicious vegan food from food waste, TBYW shows us how a healthy diet, a healthy local food system & a healthy local economy are connected. Taste Before You Waste is now to be found in other cities & towns & offers educational food waste workshops to inform children & their parents how to prevent food waste. Taste Before You Waste are looking for more food waste heroes to help them with their mission to prevent food waste in the city, so if you’d like to help out just get in touch!

Knowledge & Innovation Manager, Shyaam Ramkumar from Circle Economy explained what circular economy means & the importance of systems thinking in designing sustainable products & business models. Shyaam’s examples of innovative local & international circular products & business models really inspired guests – thank you Shyaam!

Then it was on to the Hackathon Challenge! Enactus VU challenged guests to work in teams to think of a circular economy idea that could be applied locally & then to pitch it to our jury. After 4 passionate pitches the judges chose the winning idea, ‘The Magic Lightbulb’, a repair service focused on connecting younger & older generations. The winning team received a Dopper water bottle each, donated by Green Office VU.

We have 2 workshops left on our Community Compost School programme – 25 November & 9th December & everyone is welcome to join us. For info & to reserve your place please get in touch at

#circulareconomyhackathon #circulareconomy #circulaireconomy #rethinkbusinessmodel #systemsthinking #biomimicry #wasteisaresource #greenlivinglab #circleeconomy #enactusvu #stadsoogst #tastebeforeyouwaste

Het is bijna tijd om onze 2de onderwijsprogramma ‘De Buurtcompost School te lanceren op vrijdag 30 september!

Dus de perfecte tijd voor een terugblik op onze 1ste onderwijs programma, ‘The Green Student Bootcamp Challenge’.

Hier vinden jullie een mooi verslag over de invloed van het programma door deelnemende student Roos van der Deijl, MSc Neuroscience, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU).

“Vrijdag, begin van de middag. ‘Ga je weer naar je groene ding?’ ‘Jep, weer lekker in de aarde wroeten!’ roep ik voordat ik huppelend de Boelelaan oversteek en het Groene Leven Lab binnenloop. Daar vind ik mijn mede ‘groene gezonde studenten’ al (ja hip hè, je vind ons op sociale media onder #greenhealthystudents), kletsend rondom de groentedips, gevulde dadels, en andere (groene, gezonde, vanzelfsprekend) snacks die programmaleidster Aveen met een aantal (groene, gezonde) helpers heeft gemaakt.

Zo ongeveer begon de afgelopen lente iedere vrijdagmiddag voor mij en vijfendertig medestudenten. Vervolgens wachtte ons iedere week weer een vol programma waarin zowel onze handen als breinen werden uitgedaagd om wat duurzamer met de aarde om te gaan. Want naast het vergaren van kennis en inspiratie over de hele reeks onderwerpen die hiermee te maken hebben, was de Green Student Bootcamp Challenge vooral een ‘action lab’, waarmee het creatief, productief, en efficiënt in de praktijk brengen van ideeën voorop stond.

Ik zou pagina’s kunnen vullen over de bomvolle lijst aan workshops, sprekers, en uitdagingen die we iedere week kregen, maar voor de leesbaarheid van dit stukje zal ik het bij de hoogtepunten houden. Praktische stadstuinieren workshops door Cityplot werden afgewisseld met o.a. zonnige en erg inspirerende lessen van VU professor Jaap Seidell, en dr. Jolanda Maas, die i.s.m. het Groene Leven Lab onderzoek doen naar de effecten van een groene omgeving op gezondheid. Ook de VU Green Office en sociaal ondernemen platform Enactus VU kwamen met ons brainstormen. Daarnaast werden we geïnspireerd door verhalen uit het bedrijfsleven van o.a. Coco-Mat, Bio-Kultura, en NICE fruitijsjes (inclusief gratis ijsjes die erg welkom waren op die warme middag!). Goede herinneringen hebben we ten slotte aan de kookdemo van Vegan Sundays, en Tai Chi en mindfulness lessen in het ‘blotevoetenveld’.

Als ik van dit alles één ‘take home message’ zou moeten noemen, is het wel het belang van onze bodem. Ik vind het ongelooflijk me te beseffen dat ontelbare diersoorten onder onze voeten een complex ecosysteem vormen dat letterlijk en figuurlijk ten grondslag ligt aan al het leven op aarde. Wist je bijvoorbeeld dat één eetlepel aan bodem meer micro-organismes bevat dan de volledige bevolking ter aarde? Daarom is het zo jammer dat we er niet zo goed voor zorgen; de afgelopen 150 jaar is de helft van de bodem toplaag verloren gegaan door menselijke ingrepen zoals ontbossing, overbegrazing, en het gebruik van landbouwchemicaliën.

Confronterend? Ja. Hopeloos? Nee. Met een beetje creativiteit is overal een oplossing voor te bedenken, leren we van de lessen maar ook van elkaar. Neem Rowin uit het GLL team, ook wel ‘Le Compostier’. Hij maakt ‘wormenhotels’: zelfontworpen compostbakken, voor straten en restaurants in de stad. Of kijk naar Juste, hij wordt héél blij van gezond koken en is een levend voorbeeld van hoeveel energie dat kan geven. Of Waas, die ons verteld over zijn project ‘Tiny Tim’, een minihuis dat zichzelf voorziet van water, warmte, en elektriciteit.

De tijd vloog om, en voor we het wisten waren we onze graduation party aan het organiseren. Op dit groene festival evalueerden we op de ervaring en vierden we onder het genot van zelfgemaakte hapjes uit de tuin het behalen van onze groene studentenstatus. Onze ‘graduation gift’ was niets minder dan bodem uit de tuin. En zo, beginnend en eindigend met bodem, was de cirkel rond.

Aan het eind van de middag fietste ik altijd naar huis met mijn hoofd vol ideeën om mijn eigen leven weer een beetje groener, bewuster, gezonder, en vooral leuker te maken. Mijn vrienden, familie, en huisgenoten lachten me toe (of soms een beetje uit) over mijn nieuwgevonden enthousiasme voor het houden van wormen, het ‘opvoeden’ van mijn baby plantenbaby’s, en het ijverig schudden van mijn kiempotten. Maar ik denk dat we stiekem best wat zaadjes hebben geplant. Nu maar hopen dat ze blijven groeien.”

Er is nog tijd om deel te nemen aan De Buurtcompost School programma!

Stuur een e-mail naar: voor informatie.