Thursday, July 18, 2013

Because everything starts from Education - Green School, Bali, Indonesia

What is the role Education has in promoting sustainable development?

You are probably going to say that education is the key to reach everything; it is the passport to a better future or the most powerful weapon we have to change the world. I couldn’t agree more. The world has surprisingly changed along the past few decades and so should the education system. If we want to change things why not starting educating with different methods?

Nowadays, the big discussion is around the integration of technology in education. The use of computers, iPads or even virtual reality is already a fact in some schools. However if we want to achieve a more sustainable society, a society that really cares about the environment, that accepts people’s differences, that respect other cultures, shouldn’t we get closer to the nature or to those people too?   

Bali, in Indonesia is one of the most popular tourist destinations around the world. Now, the island is also home of a great and exciting initiative, the Green School.
Founded in September 2008 by John and Cynthia Hardy, the school has the mission to provide children with an holistic education with sustainability and nature at its core, empowering the students to be creative, innovative green leaders.

The Green School is made almost entirely from bamboo and other natural building materials. The school is designed to have the smallest carbon footprint possible. The use of composting toilets, generation of biogas for cooking and the small hydro vortex that generate electricity are some of the unique features of this green construction.
The program combines standard international curriculums with green studies such as sustainability, green farming, carbon-footprint, etc. However the approach given standard subjects seems also to be different from the traditional school. The environment makes possible a more collaborative learning. Imagine the children harvesting the food they are going to have for lunch or having as a “private” swimming pool the river that crosses the property?

The school today counts with about 300 students, 80% of them are international. The other 20% are local children holding scholarships. They want now to increase the number of students, mainly locals and hopefully they will. The school has called world-wide attention; it has already been covered in TV reports on CNN and BBC News.
Important to notice that the objective of the Green School is not to train children to become environmentalists or activists, but to educate them to be more caring about the environment, more thoughtful and conscious human-beings.

Take few minutes to watch this amazing TED Talk given by John Hardy in 2010 explaining how exactly he had the idea of creating the Green School. Just breathtaking!! (you can change subtitles by clicking on the link above)

Or take a look at Green School's website.

Again, I suppose the idea is not to be against the use of technology but to give a human sense to it and I believe this school has been very successful on that!
I hope to have inspired you again! If you liked it, please share! :-)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Urban Sustainable Development - The case of Hammarby Sjöstad in Sweden

Today’s post discusses about the role of urban planning on sustainable development and shows us the interesting case of a district in Stockholm area that halved its overall environmental impact!

For the first time in history, urban areas have more population than rural ones. Today, around 52% of world’s population is concentrated in metropolitan areas (Word Bank, 2011) and this number continues to rise. The recent growth of cities has demanded more from urban planners who have to come up with new strategies in order to guide developments in the right direction.

View of Hammarby Sjöstad 
In the early 1990’s, with the attempt to host the Olympic Games, Stockholm decided to change the old industrial and harbor district around the Hammarby lake (“Hammarby Sjö” in Swedish) into an innovative residential area. Today, the “Hammarby Model” has become an example of city development around the world. When completed in 2015, it will house more than 25000 people in around 11000 apartments.

The project aimed to reduce the total environmental impact by a half compared to ordinary Swedish households. In order to comply with this goal, improvements and modern solutions were put into place concerning a number of environmental issues. With its modern and sustainable design, the project completely transformed completely the cycles of water, energy and waste in the area as we can see below.


The main idea was to make the residents to produce 50% of the energy needed. Solar cells capture the sun’s luminous energy and convert it into electrical power in solar cells. Some have been installed on several facades and roofs providing the energy needed for their public areas. In addition, solar panels have been installed on the roof of the buildings.  These panels capture the warm rays of the sun and use them to heat the buildings hot water supply. By converting domestic waste and wastewater into heating, cooling and electricity, the district decreased the imports of energy. In addition, the use of more efficient and eco-friendly building materials and domestic appliances contributed to decrease the total energy consumption.

Water and Sewage

The goal was to decrease by a half the consumption of water compared to the Swedish average. This was done by the use of eco-friendly installations as washing machines and dishwashers, low flush toilets and air mixers on taps and showers reducing, thus, the volumes used. The district have its own wastewater treatment plant that uses new cleaning technologies. There, organic materials are separated from wastewater and carried to digestion tanks where biogas is produced. The gas is used as fuel to public transport and stoves and the remaining biosolids are used as fertilizers. Rainwater from yards and (green) roofs is drained into the lake instead of going to wastewater treatment plant and rainwater from streets is treated locally using settling basins and then drained into the lake.


The waste is separated in proper containers and recycled, re-used or discarded according to its nature. Combustible waste as paper and plastic (non-packaging) are sent to the incineration plant where it is transformed in heating and electricity for the community. Food waste is composted and converted into biogas and fertilizers. Other types of waste are recycled and in the last case sent to landfills. The collection system consists of underground pipes under vacuum suction (this system was already explained in a previous post, click here for a more detailed explanation) which reduces CO2 emissions, air and visual pollution.

The diagram below shows the integrated approach of the project showing waste, water and energy flows.
Other beneficial modifications in the region were made regarding land usage and transportation. The area was transformed from a contaminated industrial spot into an attractive residential district with parks and green public spaces. The soil was fully decontaminated in order to ensure that no one is exposed to any risks in conjunction with service work in the future. Existing vegetation has also been saved.

The district has fast and effective public transportation (especially by tramways), combined with carpool system and beautiful cycle paths. The area is very well connected to center Stockholm which makes it even more attractive! It also counts with pathways along the canals, sports and cultural centers as well as pre and elementary schools for children.

Today, Hammarby Sjöstad receives thousands of visitors per year including mayors from all over the world and other public administrators in search of this successful case of sustainable urban development. The model has already been exported overseas to Russia, China and UK.

The question that remains now is if it would be possible to expand this model to other countries. Unfortunately, those sustainable urban models are mostly seen in wealthy countries. The developing economies are most concerned about first developing their territories economically and secondarily with the creation of environmental programs. On the other hand, what we do see today, even in emerging countries is the green building industry that raises attention and start to warm up market! One thing is certain, independently of the wellness of the nation, engineers and urban planners have still a long way to go and a lot of work to be done!

On your next visit to Stockholm, take some time and go to visit and explore this incredible place with difficult name!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Changing people's lives by innovating - The case of a successful social business model.

This is one of my favorite cases of innovative initiatives towards a more sustainable world! Besides involving all the three pillars of Sustainable Development (Economic, Social and Environmental aspects), it is just delicious!!

I am talking about "La Fageda", a dairy cooperative located close to the city of  Girona, in Catalonia, SpainFor over 30 years, La Fageda has been in the market positioning its products on the shelves of supermarkets right next to Danone, the sector leader in Spain, and other brands. 

But the company not only offer its customers delicious yogurts, puddings and other deserts. It also ensure social and labor integration for more than 160 people with mental disabilities, the larger share of its employees.

Taking a closer look to each of the pillars we can see why the cooperative has being succeeding for so long time:

Economicallythe company made it by offering quality products perceived by its customers as real farm products: natural and healthy. Additionally, La Fageda was created as cooperative, where all employees are partners and, therefore, owners. Nowadays the company is even launching  new product lines as ice creams and jams.

Environmentally, the company make use of sustainable agriculture techniques, using no pesticides and no aggressive fertilizers. The cows are fed with 100% natural forage, rest of organic matters is treated in a composting facility, energy efficiency studies are carried out, as well as waste recycling. La Fageda is also certified with ISO 14001. 

Socially, La Fageda is unquestionably producing a very positive impact in the local community! The company employs 270 people, 60% of whom have an intellectual disability or severe mental illness. Which leaded to an unemployment rate of 0% in the region, for people with intellectual disabilities. The workers count with medical and social assistance, as well as monitors to support them in their work activities.

The video shows the daily working of the ice cream factory. Touching, no!?

But we don't stop here... If the employees are well treated, so are the animals. Another innovative idea was to play classical music to the cows! Yes, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach... they are all on the La Fageda daily "set-list". From 6 am to 6 pm the cows are granted with classical music. The technique, now used by the cooperative, besides increasing production, also relaxes the animals.

Take a look how happy these cows seems to be! :-)

La Fageda products are only placed in the Catalonia region of Spain, but its successful business model has been talked in many countries. As they were frequently asked bt companies and institutions how to achieve economic success with an authentic social project, they decided to write the "La Fageda Model". (Unfortunately, available just in Catalan).

So, here it is a beautiful and inspiring example to be followed!! 

I hope you have enjoyed and remember, we, customers, have the powerMake a smart decision next time you go grocery shopping!

Want to know more about La Fageda!? Visit their website by clicking here! You can even schedule a visit!

Tell me your opinion! Leave me a comment! :-)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

European cities innovate waste management systems!

Are we still managing waste the same way it was done a hundred years ago?

In most of cases,yes... But some cities have discovered a more practical, cleaner and less polluting way of managing waste.

It started first in Sweden and rapidly it was spread over European cities. The "Automated Vacuum Collection" transports waste through underground pipes to a collection station where is is compacted and send to its final destination; recycling, composting or even power generation.

Living in Stockholm and in Barcelona I have experienced this technology with my own eyes and hands. The advantages? It doesn't generate foul smells, it improves visual impact,  the waste can be thrown out any time of the day, it is efficient and most of all, it reduces the number of trucks in the city, which means: less pollution and less CO2 to the atmosphere.

In Barcelona, the system was first constructed for the Olympic games in 1992 inside the Olympic village. It worked so well that it became an example to the whole city. Nowadays, it is estimated that around 70% of the solid waste is already collected by this method and it took away from the streets daily, almost 200 trucks. 

The other 30% of waste that is still removed by trucks uses a system of containers that aims to optimize the segregation and thus, favoring recycling. The waste containers are placed around the city in a way that all residents have them within 100 meters from their homes, they are user friendly and accessible to all, with ergonomic design and containing even tactile symbols indicating the container's waste type for the blind.

In addition to all that, there are also the "Punts Verds" ("Green Spots")where people can dispose their electronic and other household wastes.

I personally believe this example is a real positive and innovative solution, not only because a proper waste in collection in a city can certainly interfere in the whole city sanitation system, but also it can contribute to the well-being, comfort and general prosperity of its population.

As I mentioned, it started in Barcelona for the Olympic games... I hope, my home country, Brazil, can also take advantage of the forthcoming events as the World Cup (2014) and the Olympic games in Rio (2016) to implement smart systems like this to its population.

Here you find a video explaining more about the system. Enjoy!

And this video in Portuguese! From "Jornal Nacional", the most popular news in Brazil:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Danish island is carbon free!

Havvindmøller ved Samsø. Foto venligst udlånt af Samsø EnergiAkademi
Samso (Samsø), in Denmark, became self-sufficient in electricity production using only renewable sources. Not only energy issues were solved but it also became income for many families!

Wind turbines supply the energy needed by farms. The surplus energy is sold and it generates an income usually 3 times more than what is made by the farm itself. "I sell more electricity than milk" says a farmer. People that can't have the turbines in their backyard are shareholders of offshore wind farms. 

The surplus energy is sent to the public system and a credits system is in place so that the proprietors of solar panels can spend their credit during the winter. The houses are heated by a central system that uses locally burned straw to produce the energy and cars are now either electric or powered on biofuels.

It started in 1997, when Samso won a government competition to become a model renewable energy community. The island was dependent on oil and coal coming from the mainland. Today, Samso exports energy, what brings income to the island that can be re-invested in benefits for the community. As a result, Samso has nowadays one of the highest quality of life indexes of the world!

If you want to know more about Samso and its renewable model, click here  for a full article published by Scientific America or see this video done by CBS News.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Follow the Frog - Ads worth spreading

I would like to start this blog in a funny way, so I decided to post this very creative, smart and thoughtful advertisement.
Recently, TED (Ideas Worth Spreading) selected the 10 winners of their third "Ads Worth Spreading" challenge. I would like to share my favorite one with you.
Contributing to a more sustainable world is actually much easier than you thought!! Just Follow the Frog...