The movement that is turning waste into precious material

Ever since I stepped into a Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) stuffed with laser cutters and 3D printers in my home university in Leuven, I have been intrigued by the idea that all of us have the possibility to built stuff. Just think about it: for millennia, our economies have been driven by craftsmen and -women that imagined, prototyped, and built their wares from A to Z. With the industrial revolution and the advent of conveyor belts, humankind has largely alienated from making things. The Maker-community, as the people craftings objects are often referred to, turns the tables again by democratising prototyping and production techniques.

I recently stumbled upon a particularly nice project that hit several soft spots of mine. First of all, it works with plastic trash and turns it back into a raw material. Secondly, it develops hardware to easily set up a small production facility with shredders, extrusion and injection moulding machines. Thirdly, all of it is open source. Fourthly, they dream big.

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Permafungi: from coffee to mushrooms

Chances are high you are reading this from a beach chair in France or with your feet dangling off the border of a swimming pool in Italy. Or maybe you are sipping from a coffee on la Rambla in Barcelona? While coffee ground is usually thrown away, some creative souls have found a better purpose: to use it for growing mushrooms.

The people I am talking about are from Permafungi, a small business in my home base Brussels. Of all sustainable projects to be discovered in the Belgian capital, they are definitely one of my favourites. And you will soon see why. For me, it represents all that I like about the city: a bit rebellious, doing things differently, and making the best of what one has. With respect for nature, and with the passion to make a supreme end product. Let’s see how it works.

Bags are filled with a mixture of coffee ground, straw, and mycelium under sterile conditions (photo: Permafungi)

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World’s most sustainable football stadiums

It was kinda unavoidable. Everyone is talking about football these days, so I’ll do so too. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that the World Cup is a small disaster for the environment. Tens of thousands of supporters flying to Russia from around the world. An abundance of beer served in single-use plastic cups. A stunning amount of industrial meat being devoured in the form of sausages… I don’t want to pull this through a carbon footprint calculator to be honest.

Yet, what about the stadiums? Mastodonts of steel and concrete, which are very carbon intensive building materials, fitted with huge lights to reveal the spectacle to the audience in the tribunes and at home. And after all the World Cup mania dies down and people return home, some undoubtedly more satisfied than others, the buildings will probably not be used more than once every week or so. Doesn’t sound like the most sustainable infrastructure investment ever to me.

Luckily, luckily, some football stadiums show that it can be different. Inspired by an article in Eco Business, I made an overview of my top sustainable football stadiums below. Take a look during halftime! Enjoy the rest of the world cup ;)

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Kheyti: greenhouse-in-a-box

A couple of years ago my parents decided to start their very own vegetable garden –a long-time dream. Growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and cauliflower prooved to be more challenging than expected. Except the salad, which consequently is served for dinner for four summer months straight. Tomato diseases and bad weather cause some disappointment every now and then, yet never did it mean there was no food on the table. In the end, my mom still brings plenty of fresh produce from the supermarket every week.

One of the farmers that participates in Kheyti’s first pilot of the greenhouse. Apparently, it works. (photo: Kheyti)

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Making young people vote: An overlooked solution to step up climate ambition?

I used to write regularly about politics here on the Shift. Its importance for tackling climate change is pretty obvious: a problem that transcends national borders asks for a political and diplomatic solution. Yet, together with my audience, I got discouraged by the fact that the positive progress that has been made on that front always seems to be ‘too little, too late’. I chose to focus my articles on entrepreneurs and scientists paving the way for solving the climate crisis. From the response I got from you, my dear readers, it seems you like that approach.

In 2019, the voice of young people should be heard louder than ever!

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I love travelling and it’s ruining the planet

This week I am enjoying Greek salads with feta cheese, morning swims in the sea, and lazy afternoons in the sun. I am in Cyprus, a country whose tourism sector’s greenhouse emissions per capita are the sixths largest in the world. And it’s not the Cypriots who are to blame, rather the troops of tourists (including me) that fly into the Mediterranean island to enjoy their holidays in luxurious hotel rooms kept cool by batteries of air conditioners. Thanks to a new study, for the first time ever we now have a comprehensive overview of the footprint of global tourism. And it’s not a pretty picture, rather an inconvenient truth (to use Al Gore’s words).

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