Sustainable Innovation

Abundance or Scarcity? Age of Wonderland Designers’ new concepts.
October 22, 2015, 6:26 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , ,

abundance - jdg

Most designers are determined to make this world a better place. Trained to analyse complex problems and people’s needs, they are used to develop new solutions that are desirable, sustainable, and fit for purpose. We need these competences to tackle our major challenges such as Feeding the world within planetairy boundaries, and Climate Change. In a world where abundance and scarcity co-exist, we need Design Thinking to come up with new products that work, people like, are sustainable from financial, environmental and social perspectives.

At the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven designers are offered a stage to share their ideas to shape the world. One of the programs is ‘Age of Wonderland’, a social innovation program developed by Hivos and Baltan Laboratories. Each year six young creatives are invited to The Netherlands to develop their projects working with Dutch artists and companies. This years theme is ‘Balancing green & fair food’. The abundance of waste at one side, and scarcity of food and drink water have inspired Ahadi Katera from Tanzania and Achmad Fadillah from Indonesia to develop new concepts.

age of wonderland - jdg

Ahadi Katera, industrial engineering student from Dar es Salaam University, co-founded the social enterprise Guavay that collects organic waste and makes fertilizer from it using new ways. The venture uses both fermentation and composting to get nutrient rich fertilizers. Katera explains: ‘With a group of students we interviewed people in different neighbourhoods of Dar es Salaam. We observed a couple of challenges: 40% of the waste streams consists of organic waste: vegetables, fruits, eggs, bread. Most organic waste ends up on landfill, as the recycling industry is not full grown. Households produce on average 2kg of waste every day, and huge local food markets produce no less than 20 tons a day. At the same time, a few kilometres away, farmers badly need additives and nutrients to prepare the soil to grow new crops. There was clearly an opportunity here’.

 Guavay producing organic fertilizer in Dar es Salaam

Guavay producing organic fertilizer in Dar es Salaam

Katera and his team developed a system to collect and treat waste streams all the way from supermarkets and households. The venture created a potential to scale up process for converting of the collected vegetables, fruits and egg shells into fertilizer. The process takes approximately 15 days at the moment, and still being tested to shorten this period. The venture currently employs 4 people with a manager from the local community, people well-connected with government and enterprises. The fertilizer is being sold to farmers and florists.

To Katera success means that ‘all people involved are happy’: the families and supermarkets, the waste collectors and factory labourers, the farmers who can create better harvests, and the families who can enjoy tasteful and organically produced food. Guavay can be a blueprint for other cities, that want to turn their valuable organic waste into something so valuable and useful,

His visit in the Netherlands has brought new insights in waste collection, separation and composting systems to the African venture and also built interest to research on other potential products that can be made from organic waste, like liquid soap for dish and laundry washing and organic leather bags.  In return, Katera brought to the Dutch community grass roots experience, a deep understanding of local issues prompting the best possible solutions suiting the local situation, contributing to the lives of all people involved. Interested in more? Meet Katera October 25th at his workshop in Eindhoven.

circular process - photo credits sas schilten

From food to organic waste to fertilizer to crops to food – photocredits: Sas Schilten

One of the other Age of Wonderland 2015 creatives is Achmad Fadillah. Fadil is leading an industrial design practice in Bandung. Fadil is member of ADPII (Indonesia Alliance of Industrial Designers) and graduate from Industrial Design, Bandung Institute of Technology (Indonesia) and Scuola Politecnica di Design, Milan (Italy). Worried about the growing pollution of soil and water due to water bottles waste streams, he is exploring ways to re-use the bottles as toys. Fadil: ‘In Indonesia, people have no clean tap drink water available. Most people use bottled water. I saw with my own eyes how our environment is suffering from the plastic bottle waste. Why don’t we just re-use them for other things? Consumers don’t know what to do else than throw away the bottles. It seems there are not any plastic bottles that is easy to re-use’.

Fadil developed a prototype water bottle that can also be used as a toy or a brick. From the bottle-bricks new forms can be made such as towers, bridges, or, why not, refugee homes. The new type of bottles with an obvious 2nd life, 3D printed from ABS, are expected to motivate consumers not to throw away the bottle.

fadil and bottles - sas schilten

Fadil bottles with an ‘after-life’ as toys & building blocks – photocredits: Sas Schilten

Working with Dutch designers has taught Fadil more about new possibilities for influencing user behavior.  Fadil brought nnew inspiration to European designers who search for new ‘after-functions’ or ‘second-lives’ that could be both useful and fun, after products has served their primary function. Fadil wants to continue his research in cooperation with a company that produces plastic bottles, or uses plastic packaging. if you want to know more, join Fadil Friday 23rd of October at his workshop in Eindhoven.

our curious engagement - jdg

It is great to see and learn from the journeys of the Age of Wonderland designers. Successfully addressing societal issues requires on the ground, grass roots knowledge and determined people: people who won’t rest before realising the right product or system that will solve the problems – best fit for purpose, desirable and sustainable.




City of Tomorrow : Seminar on March the 15th in Paris

In Europe, no less than 74% of the people are living in urban areas. Paris is among the top 3 largest cities in Europe with 6.4 million inhabitants, including suburbs. The growing population density brings a number of challenges such as increased energy consumption, traffic congestion, pollution and resource scarcity.

Fortunately, a great number of enterprises and public bodies are starting to introduce new plans and technologies to contribute to the development of sustainable cities, such as the The Hague municipality, and Dutch energy provider Eneco.

If we look at a city as a ‘living being’, with all its buildings, streets, inhabitants, enterprises, we recognize different streams that enter, are used by and sometimes leave the city. Think about energy, water, primary resources and waste.

If the city were one living being, how should we manage all different streams (‘flux’) ? What role to play for the private sector parties that bring specific solutions ? What are responsibilities of municipalities, the territories, the national government or the European Union ? How should we develop our cities in such as way to guarantee a good quality of live respecting environment – for the benefit of ourselves as well as our children ? I invite you to share your thoughts by sending your ideas via email or posting them on this blog.

For those living near Paris : On the 15th of March 2011 in Paris the seminar  ‘Ville de demain : une ville qui respire’ will be organised. Senior speakers will share their views on the particular challenges of our future cities and the systematic approach that is needed. Among the key note speakers will be a Paris suburb mayor, the  Sustainability Director of a large fastmoving company and French largest energy provider as well as a waste management company and urbanism specialist.

The seminar is organised by the network ‘Femmes & Développement Durable’ (women and sustainability). Inscription for this particular seminar is open to both women and men. Note that the working language will be French. For more information look at :

Sources :, National Geographic ‘Planet Earth’, edition 2009, Washington DC,


Best Practices at Veolia Environnement

logo veolia Photo identité VOISIN

Muriel Voisin, project manager at Veolia Environnement Sustainable Development Department

Veolia Environnement has a broad portfolio of water, waste, energy and transport services. It operates in 72 countries with 330.000 generating an annual turnover of 36 billion euros.

Four Business Units join forces : Veolia Water (water cycle management), Veolia Energie – Dalkia (energy management), Veolia Transport and Veolia Environmental Services (waste management) (1).

Muriel Voisin is project manager at the Sustainable Development Department at Veolia Environnement. Muriel Voisin is holding a PhD in Chemistry. She has a vast working experience within Veolia Environnement R&D and Quality departments. In 2005 Voisin has taken responsibility for the company’s environmental activities within the Sustainable Development department. In her job, she coordinates the Environmental Management System (EMS) and maintains the corporate relations with non-financial authorities,  environmental auditing and consultancy firms.

1.  What are CR objectives  ?

Environmental matters are part of the DNA of Veolia Environnement. Minimizing environmental impact has therefore always been part of the core strategy and R&D activities. Already in 1998 the Environmental Management System (EMS) has been installed to measure performance against quantitative goals of the different environmental challenges of Veolia Environnements  activities.

2001 has marked a year of change. A dedicated department of Sustainable Development was created. The environmental focus has been  extended with a new emphasis on social responsability. Veolia Environnement CEO Henri Proglio has proven to be a strong promoter of this, supporting the employee training program and social responsibility in developing areas. Veolia Environnement obtained a price for French Corporate Social Responsibility by the French Society of Financial Analysts (AGEFI) in 2008 because of its social practices, such as internal education, health and security as well as stakeholder dialogues in sensible world zones.

Veolia Environnement signed the Global Compact principles in 2003, and committed to Global Reporting Initiative. As of 2008, the sustainable report is merged with the annual report. The Corporate Sustainable Development Website offers an extensive range of reports that inform stakeholders.

7 key challenges have been defined :  1. Combating climate change, 2. Preserving biodiversity, 3.  Saving ressources, 4. Contributing to the protection of health and lifestyle, 5. Promoting respect of human rights,  6. Reinforcing  social attractiveness and 7. Protecting  health and safety at work. 

Combat climate change. Veolia Environnement has implemented a global strategy to contribute to a global reduction in green house gas emissions (GHG = Green House Gases like CO2 and CH4) by reducing its own emissions and by avoiding  third parties emissions.  This is not a simple task. GHG emissions are inevitable in the sectors were Veolia is active such as transport, waste treatment and energy generation. Nevertheless, Veolia makes all efforts to reduce the GHG emissions of its Business Units. Reduction is achieved by optimising treatment procedures, clever recycling and development of renewable energy sources. The company closely monitors and reports its emissions.

Improving recycling methods. Together with the INRA (French National Institute for Agronomic Research), Veolia Environnement is studying the treatment of household and industrial compost for agricultural purposes (3). Another  innovative recycling practice is the high-performance materials recovery facility opened in Ludres in the east of France.  The plant can recover more than 50% of industrial waste. It uses pre-shredding techniques and it sorts by size and weight. The recovered waste can start a new life either. Either as raw material for other industries (paper, cardboard, wood). And other waste (the non-chlorinated plastics) can be used as fuel in the production of district heating networks. These advanced recycling technologies are examples of Veolia Environnement in-house knowledge. This knowledge is used for further developiment to the benefit of solutions that reduce ecological impact.


Renewable energies. To secure an energy portfolio that mixed and future proof, Veolia Environnement is investing in a number of renewable energy projects. Wind energy projects with a total of 7000 MW are under development at Eolfi, which is a 50% Veolia Environnement subsidiary. In Spain, the world world’s most powerful photovoltaic roof (10 MW) is installed by Veolia Environnement and its public and private partners (Aragon government, General Motors and Clairvoyant Energy). Lastly, Veolia Environnement invests in bio fuels and developments look promising.

12kr0075rf.tif solar panel credits siqui sanchez

Wind and solar energy : renewable energy innovation at Veolia Environnement

2. Is Sustainable Development a motor for Innovation ?

Veolia Environnement is constantly trying to improve its methods for water, waste management, energy and transport. Sustainable matters are an integral part of the companies strategy with customers expecting Veolia to take charge. Sustainability is certainly motor for innovation in all its forms : Innovation of its products and services, pricing and partnerships.

Customer requests for sustainable products were few some years ago. However, in the last couple of years, customers have been requested green alternatives or add-ons to the current services.

Every Request for Proposal nowadays contain questions like : ‘What is your substitute that requires less energy’ ? ‘What is your solution that produces less emissions and waste’ ? In response, Veolia Environnement has developed sustainable alternatives and add-ons in all business lines.

New cost calculation ways necessary. Muriel Voisin recognizes that Sustainable solutions may come with higher upfront costs, though often bring lower operational costs. Example : If you add an installation to create biogas from the side products produced during a sludge digesting process, this comes with an additional initial cost. However, the environmental impact is significantly reduced and the new product (renewable) energy can create additional revenues. The environment benefits and the total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower. Privately owned industries tend to understand this concept well. They increasingly choose green substitutes or add-ons.

New partnerships emerge : public private partnerships. Veolia Environnement is working closely with renewable energy partners. An emerging type of partnerships are the public private partnerships. Private partners invest upfront and are paid back by public partners and end-users in the course of time. When public parties are faced with high upfront costs, they often have difficulties to invest as they are obliged to conform to strict annual budgets. To work around this problem, Veolia Environnement promotes public private partnerships. Public and private partners join forces to design, build, finance, operate and maintain services over the life span of the project. Example is the light rail tramway launched in 1994 in Rouen which is designed, built and operated under a thirty year agreement between Veolia Transport and Rouen public authorities.

rouen tramway

Tramway of Rouen, created in a public private partnership of Veolia Transport and Rouen authorities

Decision tool for Waste Water Treatment. Veolia Environnement closely monitors its own environmental footprint. Customers also want to be well informed. Veolia Environnement is developing monitoring and decision tools for its customers. Veolia Water, for instance, has developed the EoliaTM decision aid. This tool helps customers to make the possible choice of treatment process for water, wastewater and wastewater sludge. EoliaTM is being used to compare the energy and GHG balances of the various systems under consideration. The tool clearly shows the impact of the treatment processes on environmental impact and helps to find levers of improvement.

water treatment

Waste Water

Measuring GHG emissions. Veolia’s Energie-Dalkia has implemented a new energy service called ‘Carbon Care’ to provide a step by step approach which includes an analysis of activity based GHG emission analysis. The system is implemented at the Greater London Authority and at Tesco (UK retail sales). Veolia Environmental Services developed an internal tool called GHG Tracker to calculate the carbon footprint of its services supplied to industrial and public sector clients.

Eco-efficient Travel method. Veolia Transport has developed an eco-efficient travel method to be used as a decision tool when reorganising a companies transport system.  The bus operator Eurolines, one of Veolia Transport customers, is now offering a derivate of this tool, the carbon emission calculator, as an online service to its customers.

Eco deplacement Eurolines

Eco-efficient travel of Veolia Environnement, offered by bus operator Eurolines (2).

3. Does the economic crisis impact CR activities ?

Henri Proglio, Veolia Environnement CEO, states that the crisis is nothing less than the collapse of the artificial and the unsustainable.’‘Sustainable development is not just an option, nor is it the opposite of economic development. Wasted resources and poorly controlled (environmental) impacts have a cost. For Veolia Environnement and its customers sustainable policies are not loosing their relevance, despite the economic downturn’. Consequently, sustainable directions already taken will be continued to be implemented as planned. To Voisin, economic and environmental gain go hand in hand. That is why Veolia Environnement does not hesitate to explain how industries can cut production costs and how people can reduce their green house gas emissions by choosing sustainable solutions.

4.  What is your outlook for Sustainable Development ?

‘Etre exemplaire chez nous‘. Care for planet and people is day to day business for Veolia Environnement. These perspectives are equally important as the profit perspective. Muriel Voisin remarks that notably employees of Generation Y (born after 1980) expect Veolia Environnement to ‘Walk the Talk’. They fiercely state that Veolia Environnement should reduce its own emissions and ask the Board how it can garantee this. The guideline  ‘Etre exemplaire chez nous’  has become a red line for internal responsable behaviour : waste sorting, energy use limitations and paper recycling.

‘Be exemplary has become an important internal guideline’ – Muriel Voisin, Veolia Environnement.

Customers will increasingly ask for environmental specifics and sustainable solutions. Veolia Environnement therefore, as well as industry peers, will continue to develop green solutions.

Sources : 1.; 2. Veolia Environnement Annual and sustainability Report 2008; 3.; 4. ;