The Green Living Lab

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The Green Living Lab is a living lab in a nature where education & research into healthy urban living takes place. We believe that every city could have a Green Living Lab, a place in nature where local universities, students & the public connect with entrepreneurs & pioneers in sustainable living to explore, experiment & to invest in a healthy sustainable society.


What is the goal of the project?

The Green Living Lab is a living lab in a nature where education & research into healthy urban living takes place. Science confirms that we need direct contact with nature in our cities for health & well-being. How might nature be integrated with the urban environment where we work, live & play in a sustainable way that benefits our health? We have integrated our facilities into our garden's natural environment, creating balance with our natural location in order to encourage relaxation, learning, creativity & social connection. Our facilities include a transparent geodesic dome, a venue for learning & creativity enhanced by the surrounding natural environment.

Through our education initiatives we bring entrepreneurs, experimenters & students together to discuss how we can co-create a healthier, sustainable urban environment & encourage healthier lifestyle choices. Our education initiatives are focused on applied learning & co-creation in nature. Initiatives in 2016 include the Green Student Bootcamp Challenge, March - June 2016 & The Community Compost School in autumn 2016. By offering holistic education programmes & facilitating research into healthy urban living, we aim to assist with the transition to a healthier, more sustainable environment for urban residents.

What is the result of the project?

Green Student Bootcamp Challenge 2016: March - June 2016
The Green Student Bootcamp Challenge selected 45 university students from diverse universities in the Netherlands to take part in a 12 week programme designed to encourage students towards sustainable & healthy lifestyle choices. Students learned from experts how to grow their own food at home, compost their food waste, create healthy plant-based recipes from the plants they grow in our garden and at home, how to brighten up their urban environments, to think about sustainable business values & how they can apply these values in their own lives. Last but not least, they were given practical tools to manage stress for their well being.

Students worked together in the Green Living Lab organic garden to learn how to design a balanced & healthy garden, grow plants for food & pollinating insects as well as the affect of seasons & climate on what we grow & eat. Each week the students received a different challenge - from bringing a ‘worm hotel’ composting container home to compost their organic waste at home, to creating healthy seasonal recipes using ingredients from the organic garden they created together. The students’ final challenge was to co-create their graduation party. Here they worked together to make healthy snacks using the harvest from the organic garden they created for fellow students, educators & programme sponsors.

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam launched the 'Green and Healthy Students' research programme in 2016 in order to investigate the needs and wishes of students with respect to a greener & healthier university environment. Researchers liaised with the students taking part in the Bootcamp Challenge to collect research data throughout the 12 week programme, an example of research & education working together in synergy to explore healthier urban living for students.

In exchange for the education and the fun activities on offer, students were asked to share what they learned with their friends & families, informing & encouraging a wider audience towards healthy lifestyle choices.

The Green Student Bootcamp Challenge was co-funded by Triodos Foundation, NME Fonds, Le Compostier, Green Co-creations & The Green Living Lab. We are currently seeking sponsors for our next programme in May 2017. If you would like to help us inspire students towards healthier lifestyle choices please contact:

Community Compost School: Autumn 2016
The Community Compost School is a joint initiative of the Green Living Lab & Le Compostier, a designer of customised urban composting solutions including worm hotels. This initiative brings the Green Living Lab’s neighbours together, including student organisations & local businesses to turn organic waste into compost. By creating compost from organic waste we can actively capture carbon in our urban environment, improve the quality of our local soil and support our local food chain.

Organic waste can be turned into valuable compost in the city in an easy, fast & odour-free way using a worm hotel. The resulting compost is a rich natural fertiliser that can be used for growing food locally. Making compost out of organic waste helps reduce the carbon footprint in our local food chain & brings neighbours together to create value out of their organic waste.

The aim of the Community Composting School initiative is to encourage students, local businesses & city residents to create value out of waste by composting. Le Compostier’s worm hotels can currently be found on various streets in Amsterdam, where communities are processing their organic waste into compost together. Plants are also grown on top of Le Compostier’s worm hotels for food, local pollinators & to brighten up the urban environment.

Education Programmes:
Our workshops & education programmes aim to inspire a healthy urban environment in balance with nature & healthy lifestyle choices. We organise team building days & workshops including vegetarian cooking, composting, bushcraft, nature meditation & creating with natural materials.

Our LAB programme invites students and pioneers in sustainable living to share their research & experiments in healthy urban living with a wider public at our location.

Facilities Integrated With Nature:
Each part of the Green Living Lab has been co-created organically with the help of volunteers. Every volunteer has helped shape the outcome and made the Green Living Lab what it is today.

Geodesic Dome: A Venue for Learning & Creativity in Nature
Our transparent geodesic dome is a venue for lectures & workshops to promote healthy urban living. The dome is fully transparent, offering guests a 360 degree view of the surrounding garden. The form of the dome is a truncated icosahedron, the natural form of the Carbon 60 molecule. The dome’s structure has been constructed from Lexan & Accoya to ensure durability. We worked with the creative collective Sober Industries to design & build our dome. The dome has been integrated into the surrounding garden with a green slope circling the base of the dome. This not only provides a space to grow plants & herbs but also offers a comfy place to sit & relax, study or work while enjoying the garden.

Le Compostier designed a special ‘Worm Hotel’ for the Green Living Lab, a unique worm composting container with a glass panel at the front so visitors can observe the worms busy doing their composting work. In this way our organic kitchen waste is recycled into high quality compost, which is then used to grow vegetables and herbs in our education garden. Learning & cooking together, watching a film or enjoying a cup of tea with a view of the surrounding garden are highly recommended experiences!

Organic Education Garden
The organic & pesticide -free garden of the Green Living Lab has been designed and maintained according to permaculture principles, with help from Green Living Lab volunteers. Our garden is an outdoor classroom for urban gardening & composting workshops as well as team building events in nature.

Food Forest:
Our Food Forest has been created to demonstrate how we can landscape food production into our urban environment. By mimicking the diverse natural layers of vegetation in a forest, we are exploring how we can make most efficient use of small spaces in urban environments to produce local organic fruit, vegetables & herbs with perennial plants.

Living Willow Structures & Barefoot Circle:
Our willow structures create a special natural ambience at our location. One of the willow structures provides shade for the dome while the other creates a unique natural space for relaxation & learning in nature, a barefoot willow circle. We invite you to visit our willow circle, kick off your shoes & relax on the grass, surrounded by a crescent of native herbs & flowers.

The Green Living Lab Biomeiler: Harnessing Heat from Compost
Our biomeiler has been designed and realised by Rowin Snijder of Le Compostier, with help from Green Living Lab volunteers.

What is a biomeiler? We built a container to hold 50m3 of woodchips and the woodchips were constantly soaked with water from a ditch that runs alongside the biomeiler in our garden. 500m of water pipe was placed in the middle of the woodchips and this pipe was then connected to 300m of water pipe placed under the floor of our dome. As the woodchips decompose heat is created, and this heats up the water in the pipes. This warm water can then be pumped under the floor of the dome to provide additional heat when required. The composting process is a biological one, dependant on the presence of a healthy mix of bacteria in order for the woodchips to compost evenly.

We built a terrace on top of the biomeiler in order to integrate it into our location and enable the space to be used for workshops and events. Usually biomeilers are made with much larger volumes of woodchips (for example, 250m3) & so need a lot more space to be realised. Our biomeiler is an experiment to explore the possibilities of creating a functioning biomeiler in an urban environment with limited space. Sensors have been inserted into the biomeiler to record its temperature & the highest temperature recorded so far is 70 degrees Celsius at the centre. The temperature fluctuates depending on the location of the sensor, how much light the biomeiler has received & according to weather conditions.

Who initiated the project and which organizations are involved?

The Green Living Lab is an initiative of Aveen Colgan, with assistance from Arthur de Smidt of Green Co-Creations & Rowin Snider of Le Compostier. Aveen, Arthur & Rowin are currently supported by a growing number of volunteers, keen to learn how we can work towards a healthier urban environment, in balance with nature.

What is the next step?

We are currently seeking sponsors to support the Green Student Bootcamp Challenge 2017. We would love to hear from Cleantech design students who could be interested in working with us on a new project in 2017!

What can other cities learn from your project?

We believe that every city could have a Green Living Lab, a place in nature where local universities, students & the public connect with entrepreneurs & pioneers in sustainable living to explore, experiment & to invest in a healthy sustainable society. The VU University Amsterdam has donated the use of our location to us to facilitate research & education programmes into healthy urban living. We have also connected to local sustainable businesses, student organisations & creative individuals to form a network of like-minded people, focused on making healthier living in the city a reality.