Is it magic yet?

A review of Rotterdam-based sustainable social enterprises

Words: Zuzzana Nazaruk

Rotterdam enjoys a unique position when it comes to sustainability: lying on a bank of the Maas River, 6m below sea level, the city is acutely aware of its vulnerability to climate change. Simultaneously, being the biggest European port, Rotterdam has the potential to establish trends in sustainability worldwide. Rotterdam makes the sustainable dream happen: the Port of Rotterdam, in collaboration with various companies, is moving towards becoming carbon neutral. The municipality has pledged an ambitious goal of climate neutrality by 2050. It backs up that pledge by supporting sustainable initiatives with infrastructure, advice or finance, thus helping sustainable start-ups in Rotterdam boom.

Inside Rotterdam Magazine recognises the efforts of the municipality of Rotterdam and aims to join the sustainable transition. From this issue on, we will be covering sustainable developments in the city, hoping to encourage our readers to opt for sustainable solutions. Demand drives innovation, and innovation facilitates supply. Therefore, the more people adopt a sustainable lifestyle, the more affordable and available sustainable products will become.

Join us on a journey through innovation and creativity where we will find unusual solutions supporting sustainable lifestyles that are developed here, in Rotterdam.

A hub for circular start-ups, BlueCity is the best starting point in our journey through sustainable Rotterdam. Home to approximately 30 young businesses, BlueCity brings together entrepreneurs and ‘bioneers’ to prove that a holistic view on the economy – one where nature is paramount – is possible. BlueCity promotes circularity: a way of rethinking ‘waste’ as a misplaced resource rather than something to be disposed of. More than half of the enterprises mentioned in this article are part of BlueCity.

A delicious way to fight food waste 
What if you want to eat out, but the realisation of how much food is wasted in restaurants is likely to spoil your dinner? Try Aloha Bar, a circular bar and restaurant in the old Tropicana pool. You can tell Aloha has mastered circularity by the way they treat their coffee leftovers. The milk is used to make ricotta, for example. Aloha Bar also serves beers from Vet & Lazy, a circular brewery located in the neighbouring BlueCity.
Support farmers + reduce carbon footprint = buy locally
Rechtstreex is an online platform where local farmers offer their seasonal products. The proximity of their farms ensures their products are fresh and their carbon footprint minimal. All you need to do is place an order online, and then pick it up in one of the designated locations scattered all around Rotterdam, on a designated day of the week.

The most sustainable fashion is what you already have: make it last
Studio JUX at Meent is a go-to if you’re out on a sustainable shopping spree. It’s both a shop and a brand: their ‘casual and timeless’ clothes are produced in their own garment factory in Nepal. The shop also hosts other sustainable clothing brands and carries a multitude of cool gadgets and accessories. Their products include kitchen equipment and cosmetics with three different price ranges (plus, the shop has a student discount).
Make it last… forever 
The goal of fashion brands that play with upcycling is to use what’s already produced, and as such, to avoid using more resources or produce more pollution. KEES is a fashion brand that makes literally anything out of… literally anything. Their shirts and jewellery made of old bike tyres are charming. Beleef je Verbeelding uses leather leftovers to make chic bags. Tizi is an upcycling clothing brand producing garments for children. Fruitleather brought the game to another level by making leather-like material out of leftover fruit. Playful and original, slow fashion is a remedy for shopping fever.

A good kind of factory
In production and fashion alike, sustainability starts with a good design. Better Future Factory is a product design and a consultation studio. Under their supervision, waste becomes fashionable. BFF works with big brands such as HEMA, but also helps develop smaller brands such as New Marble: a fancy-looking marble-like material created entirely from recycled bottles.
Turn your windows into a table
Bored with your interior design, but too attached to your old furniture? OKKEHOUT is a furniture upcycler: the studio uses only products that are already in circulation, including your old furniture, if you wish.

Fighting plastic pollution 
Plastic waste is one of the biggest single challenges to sustainability
Clean up!
The Ocean Cleanup is an NGO that wants to clean up 90% of the ocean’s waste – and even Oprah Winfrey believes they will find a way. They recently succeeded in catching their first batch of plastic floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and aim to transform it into products, allocating all the revenue for further development of their technology. Although they operate worldwide, their headquarters are right here, in the centre of Rotterdam.

Community Plastics transforms plastic into fashionable tables and lamps. They also beautify the neighbourhoods by creating street furniture from recycled plastic. This includes house numbers and tiles, but also UniBricks: an ‘urban furniture model’ which can be turned into seats, low tables or pop-up stages.

UnPlastic, developed by Outlander Materials, is an innovative packaging that has the same properties as plastic but is fully biodegradable. It is made of leftovers from beer production. It doesn’t get any closer to magic than this.

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