Shared learning and action to reduce plastic waste

On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, The Terrace hosted a diverse group of people to talk about plastic waste and the circular economy. The evening kicked off with an interview with Leontine Gast, founder of The Terrace, followed by a roundtable discussion on plastic waste in our lives, led by Nelmara Arbex, CEO of Arbex & Company.

The past and future of plastic

Leontine Gast is an expert on bringing purpose to business. At this event, she was interviewed by her colleague Marjolein Baghuis. Leontine has worked in sustainability for over two decades, including ten years as the founder and managing director of The Terrace, the agency for positive change. She has contributed to a more circular economy through her work with companies and other types of organizations. Her top tips from that experience regarding plastic waste target both users and producers of products that contain plastics. Consumers need to be much more aware; once they really understand what they are buying, they will make different choices. Producers need to continue to pioneer solutions and share their learnings. Not just solutions related to waste streams, but also as early as product design; i.e. with design for disassembly such as Ahrend’s vision on office furniture. For the years ahead, one of Leontine's dreams is that we’ll find a way to consume and produce less stuff – and better stuff – including a reduction in the amount of plastic we create. Other dreams include the transition to renewable energy and a switch to a more plant-based diet.

Sharing issues and questions on plastic waste

After the interview, Nelmara Arbex led a roundtable discussion on plastic in our lives. We all agreed that there is a role for plastic is our lives (to protect food, to store cosmetics, etc), but that its use had really gotten out of hand. For all of us, our awareness of the plastic problem started with an eye-opening moment. Bananas individually wrapped in plastic, bottled water in countries with excellent tap water, plastic littered beaches, a shampoo bottle in the middle of the jungle. But also by simply separating plastic from the other household waste, and being shocked that this was more than half of our waste. We shared our ways to avoid plastic waste as much as possible, such as:

  • Bring your own bags to the supermarket, even for fresh produce;
  • Carry your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug;
  • Making more food and other household items from scratch;
  • Collecting plastic waste separately;
  • Influencing peers to start recycling plastic.

We also shared the many questions we had regarding plastic. For some we found answers (in italics), others remain unanswered, such as:

  • Can biodegradable plastics be recycled with other plastics? No, please put them with your organic waste.
  • How much plastic is recycled in our city (Amsterdam) and what actually happens to it? Amsterdam's citizens collect only 8% of plastics separately. After sorting, cleaning, and shredding, recycled plastic are turned into new products like fleece sweaters, toys, furniture, and pipes.
  • Why are the ingredients for food and clothing spelled out in detail, but those for packaging nowhere to be found?
  • Where can I buy groceries without superfluous plastic packaging?
  • How to balance food waste with plastic packaging to keep it fresh longer?

Supporting behaviour change beyond rules and regulations

We also wondered what kind of regulation exists on packaging. New EU legislation is on its way, but we also realized that rules and rational information alone will not change our behavior. We need to appeal to emotions, feelings, and instincts in people to help drive change. Some of our recommendations include:

  • Teach sustainability as a topic in school at every level;
  • Make it easy and practical for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, potentially through interactive apps to support recycling or to help you find places to shop with less packaging;
  • Label products not only with calories and food content but also with a waste indicator to make people aware;
  • Leverage emotional storytelling on plastic waste to generate more awareness;
  • Ask CEOs to live without plastic for a week and to share their learnings publically;
  • Involve celebrities to make it aspirational to turn your back on today’s throwaway culture.

It was great to meet like-minded people at this event. Thank you for your active participation in the discussion Jacobien Crol, Nierika Hamaekers,  Frank Kohl, Sari Kuvaja, James Rowbotham, Kajsa Rosenblad, and Tal Ullmann. All with a strong belief that we can have an impact, each with a strong personal motivation to create positive change!

This blog was written by Marjolein Baghuis to share the outcome of the roundtable discussion on the OpenIDEO platform. It also appears on the website of Changeincontext.com. 


Join the OpenIDEO plastics circular design challenge on May 23!

Love them or hate them, plastics are everywhere around us. In fact, demand for plastics is expected to double in the next 20 years. Yet our plastics system is broken. Most plastic items are used only once before being discarded. Only 14% is recycled, meaning a loss of USD 80-120 billion per year to the global economy. One-third of all plastic packaging escapes collection systems and ends up – inadvertently or not – as litter in the environment.

If nothing changes, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

So, how do we fix this? If we want to free our oceans from plastics, we have to fundamentally rethink the way we make and use plastic items so that they don’t become waste in the first place. That’s why we are inviting you as citizens, consumers, designers, scientists, entrepreneurs to find solutions that keep plastics in the economy and out of the ocean.

"Join us on Tuesday, May 23 from 5 to 7 pm at The Terrace offices in Amsterdam to explore how to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics in our personal - and professional - lives."

Around 5:30 pm, Leontine Gast, founder and managing partner of The Terrace, will kick off the event, showcasing some of the circular economy projects in which she has been involved.

We will then continue with a more personal exploration around the plastic in your life. How much plastic waste do you generate per day? How much of it are you able to reuse, recycle or upcycle? Plastic is collected separately in most of the Netherlands, but not even 50% of plastic is recycled. Why do you think that is? When you confirm that you're joining us, we'll send you a plastic waste diary to keep for a few days ahead of the event.

Nelmara Arbex (Arbex & Company) and Marjolein Baghuis (The Terrace) will facilitate the dialogue and discussion around plastics in an energizing way. At the end of the session, as a group, we'll create something to share with other people participating in this circular design challenge around the world.

 

Sign up and we'll see you there!

Sign up by sending an email to hello@theterrace.nl, so we can send you the plastic waste diary and more details. And ensure that we have plenty of drinks and snacks! We look forward to welcoming you at WG Plein 153-156, Amsterdam.

This event is a voluntary contribution to OpenIDEO, IDEO's open innovation portfolio, empowering people to design solutions to the world's toughest challenges, and working with partners around the world to bring these solutions to life. From May 18 - May 28, people around the world will be designing experiences that reimagine how we get products to people without creating plastic waste. 


Can the Netherlands lead the way in how the world eats protein?

Dutch food probably doesn’t conjure up images of very healthy eating. Lots of cheese, stroopwafels, chocolate sprinkles on bread, fried meat-based snacks and fries drowned in mayonnaise. And yet, the Netherlands might just be the country to lead the way to new eating patterns that are healthier for both people and the planet. In the past years, there have been many initiatives by the public and private sector. All working to encourage people to eat healthier with more plant-based protein. But as food patterns are probably the most deeply ingrained of all, this is no easy feat!

The complicated value(s) chain of protein

Did you know that 40% of plants grown in the world are fed to animals? Of the soy grown in the world, that percentage is even higher, 85%. The visual to the right shows the complicated and interconnected food chain for protein. It comes from the Protein Challenge 2040 by Forum for the Future. Simon Billing of Forum for the Future said: “It’s undeniable that protein is an indispensable part of the human diet, but the way we produce and consume it today presents many challenges – both in terms of global consumption patterns as well as their social, environmental and economic impacts.” It’s clear that doing a bit better on food productivity or food waste isn’t going to be enough, we really need to change the way we eat.

For centuries, the Netherlands has been leading in the area of agriculture. Perhaps not Dutch cuisine, but cows, potatoes, and cheese, as well as agricultural expertise, are important export products for the Netherlands. With many interesting initiatives underway, the Netherlands is well-placed to be a catalyst for positive change in the transition to plant-based protein.  Supported by the Dutch government and knowledge partners, a group of forward-thinking food companies joined to form the Green Protein Alliance, a coalition dedicated to progressing the protein transition. In February 2017, they launched the Green Protein Growth Plan with the objective to reduce the animal protein percentage from 63% in 2015 to 50% in 2025.

On the same day, Minister for Agriculture Martijn van Dam launched the New Food Challenge. The goal of this challenge is to increase the number of new healthy products offered in food retailers. Based on plant protein, which is not just better for people, but also better for the planet. The New Food Challenge will invest €1.8 million in product ideas from new and existing companies; ideas driving a change in eating patterns by making plant-based protein more attractive.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has convened a coalition of Dutch companies and NGOs to contribute to the global transition to more plant-based protein. What’s so interesting about this specific CSR-covenant that it is designing this relatively new sector in a sustainable way from the start. First-time-right, as opposed to various other CSR covenants, which have to reshape and redesign existing industries and therefore often raises quite some resistance from the parties with vested interests in the old systems. The international CSR-covenant for plant-based protein is expected to be signed in March 2017.

Changing the way we eat - for health and planet

Great to have so many public and private parties working together, but in the end, will we eat it? Last but not least on the list of interesting institutional initiatives is the Netherlands Nutrition Center. This government-funded institution encourages consumers to develop healthier and more sustainable eating habits and advises the food industry to produce a more sustainable range of food products. In 2015, it overhauled its food advice (the wheel of five). The key change is to reduce the intake of animal products and to include more plant-based protein.

We all know that people won't simply change their eating habits because a government agency tells them that this is better for them. The real challenge, perhaps, is fought on the high street, in the supermarkets. How do you encourage people to try new products that are better for them and the planet? Plant-based protein does not sound too tasty, so we'll have to find other ways. Amsterdam-based market research company Motivaction identified two kinds of shoppers who are more likely to buy plant-based protein products. The conscious quality shoppers want to progress to a more plant-based diet and are quite knowledgeable. To market to them, build on their existing knowledge and inspire them with real stories. The impulsive comfort shoppers are eager to try appealing new products. To market to them, make plant-based foods exciting, luxurious and easy to use. Manufacturers of plant-based protein products must know some of this already. In 2016, the market showed double-digit growth and this is just the beginning!

Top tips to contribute to the protein transition

From the varied initiatives above, it does look like the Netherlands has a reason to be a confident leader in the transition to a more plant-based diet. Here are our top tips to join the movement, wherever you're from!

  • Explain positively how plant-based protein fit into everyone's daily life. For most people, this probably will avoid the words plant-based protein, but rather focus on other benefits like health, flavor, innovation and for some, perhaps, the environment.
  • Convince clearly that plant-based protein is a healthy option for everyone.
  • Share knowledge within the sector to really progress the green protein growth plan
  • Activate together, joining forces with public and private parties, inside and outside the sector - for positive change!

Written by Leontine Gast (@theterraceNL) and Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis) for The Terrace and Changeincontext.com blogs. Mostly inspired by the content of the Green Protein Alliance event held on February 16, 2017. To stay up to date on other events and The Terrace activities, please subscribe to our newsletter. 


Bioplastics: when innovation empowers abundance, La Coppa

Plastics are indispensable to our daily lives. They come in every colour and shape, light, strong, resistant, tremendously useful for every person and industry. Plastics have come to stay.

The vast majority of plastics are oil-based. Around 4% of the oil that the world uses every year goes into producing plastics. Their composition has been both its strength and its weakness. The challenges of climate change and fossil fuel scarcity are putting the plastics industry under pressure. In addition, the ever-growing and widespread plastic waste problem is no longer possible to ignore.

In this setting, bioplastics are a great alternative allowing both for high-quality performance and widespread use while having a reduced environmental impact.

Bioplastics are totally or partly made from biomass (plants), mostly corn, sugarcane or cellulose plant fibers. Although there are several varieties of bioplastics, only a few are fully made of renewable, natural resources. The 100% plant-based plastics are the only variety that at the end of their useful life will decompose into water, carbon and compost (i.e. are compostable/ biodegradable). Ideally, the decomposition will take place at an industrial facility and will be catalysed by fungi, bacteria and enzymes, leaving no toxic particles or harmful substances behind.

New materials such as PLA, PHA or starch-based materials create truly bio-compostable packaging solutions.

Closing the loop on plastics

Advanced Technology Innovations, a company that provides innovative packaging solutions for food and beverages, developed a system for coffee cups made of plant-based plastics (PLA), namely produced from the residue of sugarcane and sugar beet.

One of our clients, LaCoppa coffee adopted this innovation showing their leadership in sustainable packaging in the consumer goods industry.

The fully compostable coffee capsule can be used in espresso machines, proving that it is possible to replace petroleum-based and aluminium coffee capsules with a fully functional, more sustainable alternative that should be widely adopted.

     

Others leading the change

Many industries are already using bioplastics. Not only traditional industries, such as food packaging but also automotive, electronics and textiles. Several leading brands, such as Tetra Pak, Ecover and Danone are investing in new bioplastics solutions. Unexpected partnerships are also arising: Heinz approached Ford about possible uses for its tomato waste. Ford was already using bioplastics based on soy and coconut for its auto components, carpeting and seat fabrics; why not explore the use of ketchup bi-products to develop a more sustainable bioplastic material? Specifically, it is expected that this new bioplastic could be used in wiring brackets and material for onboard vehicle storage bins.

Work in progress

While great opportunities and fast growth await bioplastics, this is a work in progress.

For bioplastics to become a truly sustainable alternative both the industry and governments need to make technical adjustments to the current waste streams to allow for an adequate treatment of bioplastics. Otherwise these will end up in the landfill.

Engagement with the final consumer is also crucial to promote education on bioplastics and recycling. Consumers should avoid contaminating plastic waste recycling with bioplastics, as it will compromise the plastic recycling process.

Finally, in order to gain widespread support, the bioplastics industry should increasingly use food waste residues (from pineapple fibers to shrimp shells), non-food crops or cellulosic biomass, leading to decreased land-use demand by the industry. Innovative alternatives are endless.

The future of plastics

Biodegradable bioplastics are a growing niche market. According to European Bioplastics, the global bioplastics production capacity is set to grow 300% by 2018. This growth will lead to a new generation of plastics, where abundance of plastics is powered by innovation. Oh, and it is sustainable!


Planned obsolescence and a 3D printed solution

Here at The Terrace, we are dreamers, we are thinkers and we work hard for positive change. The process from idea to detailed action plan has many phases. Some start on a small bench in the park, others with a nice phone call or after an interesting meeting. But all projects have a moment where we gather in out meeting room for a joint brainstorm session. We have our notebooks, our critical remarks, we laugh, have intense discussion and we vividly visualize everything on our NOBO© Flip chart. Till the day came when the connection part between the writing board and undercarriage broke.

Without this small piece, the flip chart became more or less useless. If we wouldn’t be The Terrace we would put the remaining parts outside, next to the garbage for the Tuesday evening pick-up, buy a €200,- new one and happily go on with our lives. But we are The Terrace and also for in-house challenges we seek circular solutions. This is not a grand story how we saved the world, but it’s the story of how we repaired our loved flip chart.

We don’t give you life-challenging answers, but at least we hope to inspire you to see your office equipment in a different way and think again, before you throw it away. And maybe, during the process, we can raise awareness that the production of office equipment, and production in general could shift to a more sustainable and circular model.

And so our journey begins…

Fien started with the main office suppliers in the Netherlands; Manutan, Staples and Viking. They did not deliver the part we needed without the whole flip chart. We tried the repair service, mentioned on the NOBO© website. They only repaired their beamers. In the mean time we had also contacted the NOBO© Europe customer service. When their reply finally came it was a ‘not deliverable’. This was simply not acceptable. In a time where sustainability and resource scarcity are high on the agenda we couldn’t just throw away the old and buy the new, because simply one part, nevertheless essential, was missing? I shared my worries with the customer service and after ten emails and fifteen days they send a request to the factory in China to send a spare part.

We still did not have my connection part. Bummer. I also hadn’t sit still. Meanwhile I contacted 3D Hubs if they could maybe ‘print’ me a new part for my flip chart. Unfortunately I didn’t have a STL. file (which you need to print 3D), but they linked me to a company, Van Alles Wat Ontwerp, who could design the STL.file of my connection part and print it. So with a hopeful hart I send the broken part to Van Alles Wat Ontwerp.

Nobo2 Nobo3 

A week later we received, neatly and well fabricated our missing link of the NOBO© Flip chart. Now happily in use again.

But this keeps you wondering, doesn’t it? How can something so simple, be so complicated? Why don't companies repair services or spare parts? Most products have planned obsolescence, which means that they are designed to break down after a certain period. This cannot be the right way forward. We strongly believe that in rethinking your client journey, you tap into new business opportunities while lowering the stuff we needlessly throw out. WIN-WIN!

If you also have a broken connection part of the NOBO© Piranha Flip chart, please feel free to contact us for the STL.file, we love to share!

Feeling the fixing vibes? Here are some options for help:

Van Alles Wat Ontwerp – design & 3D printing
3D Hubs – 3D printing
Repair Cafe – Repair (almost) everything

Want to know more about planned obsolescence? This is an interesting item on ‘made to break’ by Economische Zaken from the VARA:http://ez.vara.nl/media/313730 (In Dutch)


Reducing food waste: beautiful work for ugly fruit and veggies

The world loses or wastes one-quarter to one-third of all food produced for human consumption according to the estimates of the FAO and World Resources Institute. However it’s not only a waste of food. There are nearly one billion malnourished people in the world that would no longer be hungry with the 40% million tonnes of food waste by US households, retailers, and food services each year.

Besides we didn’t even mention the irrigation water to grow food at 200 litres per person per day that is wasted, the 10% of developed countries greenhouse gas emissions coming from food that is never eaten, or the occupied land currently used to grow unnecessary surplus and wasted food.

All this could be avoided on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe. A great number comes from stores discarding produce that doesn’t fit the standards of food beauty. But the third biggest supermarket in France, Intermarché, came up with a bright idea on how to get people to buy, and actually look for those ‘ugly’ fruits and veggies.

A few months ago they’ve launched their campaign called “les fruits et légumes moches”, or in English, the inglorious fruits and vegetables. We love this campaign, its beautifully designed ads, great PR, and the impressing results. Check out the video below for the full explanation, and let us know what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2nSECWq_PE&feature=youtu.be


Baby you can drive my car: business opportunities in the sharing economy

A new economy is on the rise. A growing number of companies are gaining interest in an economy where collaboration is essential. This emerging economy has many names, from Collaborative Consumption to lease-society, from peer economy to maker movement. But it all comes down to the same thing: we share. This exchange is not only limited to tangible objects, but can also include the exchange of skills or services, for example a shared car drive.

Sharing is not a new phenomenon. But due to the Internet and other innovations the scale on which the sharing economy is operating is much bigger today. Where does this renewed interest in sharing come from and what are the opportunities for companies?

From hyper consumption to sharing economy

We live in a predominantly capitalistic society. Our way of consuming is based on a fascinating system. In order to sustain itself, it needs to grow. In order to grow, it needs to be fed with more consumption. Psychologically it works like this: people want to own more as they acquire more, which is of great convenience for business, they’ll produce and sell in an equal pace. Within the past century, we saw the unprecedented rise of individual property, credit, and commercials. Together they resulted in a system of hyper consumption.

Entering the 21st century - certainly after the start of the economic crisis of 2008 - we see a shift from a consuming, individual society to a culture where a growing number of people are starting to collaborate. During the crisis, people began to lose their trust in large organizations who seem to appear only as greedy, hungry monsters only looking for one thing: profits. The new emerging economy offers a new perspective to these people. Shared access overrules individual ownership, reputation is the new credit and commercials are replaced by the quality of the community. These three pillars are the basis of the Sharing Economy.

Shared access

In the sharing economy, it’s about ‘access’ over ownership. We have to make a mind shift, instead of owning a product; we’re using the services a product provides. In other words, we don’t need the light bulb, we need the lumen. Like mushrooms in autumn, companies with a sharing philosophy pop up everywhere. On the popular platform of Airbnb, people rent out their spare room, air mattress or backyard tree house to visitors. On peerby, neighbours lend out their toolkits. Do you need advice on your business plan, or do you want to learn Spanish? Konnektid will connect you to a person who can help. And for easy transport, you can always borrow a car via Snappcar. These platforms offer consumer-to-consumer sharing services. A typical B2B platform is Floow2, where heavy construction vehicles and business equipment are being shared. B2C platforms, such as Netflix, see their list of customers grow. Important in the sharing economy is your community or network. The bigger it is and the more whufffie you have, the more access to goods, skills and services are being offered. Which leads us to explore the whuffie-factor.

 Share stuff, gain whuff!

You probably wouldn't lend your car as easy to a stranger as you would with your garden tools. In essence, the exchange comes down to a relation of trust. Trust is mainly build on the reputation of both the lender and the borrower. In the sharing economy, reputation is your capital: it’s social capital. And its’ currency is called Whuffie. Whuffie originates from the book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. In this novel, money no longer exists and people pay with whuffie. Whuffie is obtained through sharing goods, skills or other services. The good thing is: the more you share, the more whuffie you receive. For companies, social image or whuffie is just as important. Examples of companies who have already joined the sharing economy are Bosch, with a leasing model for washing machines and refrigerators, and Achmea, who have started their own sharing initiative: WeHelpen.

Community

Whuffie is a strange currency because it’s not directly visible. It is measured only in your relation to other people. You need to build a community of trust with the people or companies around you. Only trying to sell your product will not work. You will have to reach out to your customers and make a real, long-term connection, for example through a leasing system or after-sales services, so they will come back. But also think of the numerous opportunities there are online. The web is getting bigger and bigger and there are an increasing number of websites and apps that offer sharing opportunities all around the world. The sharing economy is a local community on global scale.

Together, we have created a glocal community where people can share items, save money and have more contact with each other, online but even better in real life. For companies, the sharing economy has created new markets via access versus ownership; it sparked the consumer mind-set of we and together instead me, me and me; it has extended customer relationships from ‘point in time’ to ‘point across time’ and created word of mouth through a user community.

The sharing economy is growing. Not only new individuals, but also institutions as the municipality of Amsterdam (Amsterdam Economic Board) and Brussels have shown interest and discuss the possibilities of how to best facilitate the sharing movement. This shows that the sharing economy is not just a flash in the pan but is here to stay.

Author: Fien, intern at The Terrace. In the coming months, she will submerge herself into the world of the sharing economy.


Black Friday: because shopping is fun, but should it be greener?

In Europe we look with wonder at the millions of Americans who line up in front of Walmart to get their hands on a good bargain the moment grandpa puts down his fork after a convivial turkey dinner. ‘Black Friday’, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the official start of the holiday shopping season in the United States. Retailers use the hype created around the tradition by offering appealing discounts that move consumers to camp outside of stores waiting for the early openings. This year, the National Retail Federation estimates 147 million Americans will start their holiday shopping during the Black Friday weekend, boosting sales of retailers who hope to clime out the red numbers into the black.

So what exactly is moving American consumers to give up their precious night’s sleep and spend hours on end queuing up to spare a few bucks? Fact is that for many, bargain hunting the day after is just as much of a tradition as the turkey and pumpkin pie on the night before. The rush of finding that two-for-one and being able to give your family members that extra special present under the Christmas tree can be a truly satisfying experience.

However, not everyone is thrilled about the exorbitant expression of American consumerism that heralds the holiday season every year. Reoccurring stories about fights and stampedes of frenzied shoppers have led to a somewhat tainted reputation of the tradition. In recent years, retailers themselves have become the cause of resentment due to their decision to move up opening times to 9 and even 8 p.m. on Thursday, nibbling their way into the sanctity of Thanksgiving Eve. Both employees and families are starting to grow weary of the relentless efforts of retailers to maximize their profits at the cost of family tradition.

The upside to all this fuss is that an increasing number of citizens and companies are seizing the discussion about Black Friday as an opportunity to push for positive change. Last year, Patagonia published their surprising and inspiring “Don’t Buy This Jacket” ad on Black Friday, encouraging consumers to think about the environmental impact of their behavior. This year, too, the call to use Black Friday as a moment to vote with your money and choose for sustainable alternatives is growing louder.

That definitely sounds good to us. Almost as good as a slice of pumpkin pie.

Written by Leontine Gast and Jacobien Crol