Along a highway, in the middle of an urban area of the Dutch city Almere, the Urban Greeners have found a desert island: Utopia. It is becoming the place where young entrepreneurs can explore, experiment, meet and share knowledge about how to live a green urban life. Now and in the future.
There is a challenge people face in all parts of the world: a growing population and strong urbanization. That puts a lot of pressure on nature. How will we provide ourselves with enough food, water and energy in the future? By giving nature a chance. There should be more ‘green’ in architectural and spacial planning.
The Urban Greeners want to take it even further: “Also music, fashion, art, food, drink, sport, dance and lifestyle should be greener. Because we believe that when city and nature are connected, everyone benefits.” That requires new ways of thinking and new ways of doing.
At the moment, 13 young and autonomous entrepreneurs with ideas and the guts to go off the beaten track are given a stage: on the first green spot of the Urban Greeners’ Utopia Island in Almere. From a carrot snack developer to a cress grower and a beer brewer, but also tiny house builder and sustainable meeting space developer.
I visited the island to see what’s up at the moment.
The island is located in the future area of Floriade Almere 2022: the world expo in agriculture, horticulture and urban development.
There’s still some work to do before this area is fully (re)developed. The Urban Greeners are the first participants of the Floriade that have ‘landed’ on this terrain.
Marketing & Communications partner Choi Mi Chung explains: “We build, brew, create and experiment and develop this island, to become the creative hub for sustainable innovation. In 2022 we estimate 2 million (inter) national visitors, that we want to inspire with our green innovations. After that, we continue to be active. On Utopia, in the rest of the Netherlands and, if it is to us, also far beyond.”
For the Floriade organisation and the town hall of Almere, the Urban Greeners are like a ‘learning on the job’ kind of experiment. They are the first established party, so they are encountering the tipical first challenges, like getting building permissions. All the experiences they encounter, add to the knowledge of the organisation, which is beneficial for all future participants.
The first building is a large greenhouse. The plan is to have a bar and a terrace in here, plus enough meeting and working space. There will be placed sea containers as working spaces, so other entrepreneurial people can come and work and enjoy the island here too.
On the island, a lot of initiatives are coming to life. The idea is to draw as many people to the island as possible, to get them involved. That will be people from all type and age.
A food wood is planted right now, there’s events like guided tours, beer tastings, movie evenings and even an annual festival in June: GROW, where hip hop music and sustainability are merged into one event, where electricity, sound and light are running on bio-fuel and the waste is collected in separate bins, which s unique in the festival scene.
Four temporary tiny houses are to be built, the first is this house on wheels.
One of the entrepreneurs is Koen Kaljee from the business meeting place Drijfveer. After having raised enough money trough a crowdfunding campaign, he has built this floating building himself, as he is an architect. “I used all kinds of local – Dutch – materials, like hemp and sheep wool. And also: wood, resin and sawdust from local trees that had to be cut because the highway had to be extended. I designed the house according to the material I got, so that’s why the roof is curved: because of those trees that have been bowing down by heavy wind for over 50 years.”
The Urban Greeners work together with the city ecologist of the town hall, who knows which animals are living here, like rabbits an a beaver. Whilst making plans, the interests of those animals are always considered as the most important. Also the trees and endemic plants are ‘king’, so all decisions are made with those in mind.
Some of the starting points of Urban Greeners are:
– Make city and nature one
– Think big, start small
– Do not waste anything
– Close cycles, use natural materials and processes
– Doing is the best communication
– Ecologically and economically profitable
So there is a huge compost bin, the wood of the trees in the area that had to be chopped, is re-used for benches and other products, and even two donated old windmill molds are coming in handy as a large planter and a very long lounge bench.
I’ll be seeing that development next time I visit the island.
Discover the Urban Greeners
For further info on the members of the community and the Urban Greeners philopsophy and activities, visit their website