“Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way… you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.”
People are their actions, and a story is only worth telling if it is about people who act outside of their normal behavior. Entrepreneur and innovator Edwin ter Velde of Zero Waste Center is a person whose story is well worth documenting. His story is an ever-evolving effort to breach the boundary between comfort and discomfort: he is a man of focused action, an innovator who believes that social innovation reigns highest in the hierarchy of innovation.
“I have studied together with my old friend and cofounder of the Zero Waste Center Cees Hebing human behavior (to start with our own behaviour) and the way you can change it, and I understand that your behavior is not how you are, but how you behave. So, why is it that in companies or in people’s everyday social behavior, we are not playing with our behavior? We think that’s how we are. No, it’s an instrument you can use,” believes ter Velde.
As human beings, we can experiment with our actions to change for the better. However, most people would rather not admit that their routine behaviors are just that: routine. The opposite of innovation. Stories that no one wants to read or watch.
Ter Velde wants to rouse people from their stagnancy to experiment with actions that force them outside of their comfort zones and to transform themselves. The problem, of course, is that most people are not as comfortable as ter Velde is with questioning the routines that make up the foundation of their everyday lives.
We’re sitting in a spacious nook in the Zero Waste Center production facility in Amsterdam-Noord, coffee in hand as 3D printers whir silently along one wall, and we chat facing the several meters high mock-up of the Solar Voyager. Ter Velde has found a way to inspire people to change their behaviors towards plastic waste, but elegantly framed in the concept of Zero Waste and in the story of the Solar Voyager Expedition.
“Talking about behavior is not a nice thing. Because people think, why are you talking about my behavior? It is uncomfortable. And I learned that if you put it in a concept that’s not directly related to yourself, but at the end it is, then it’s more comfortable to talk about it and to teach people,” explains ter Velde. “And this is the reason I founded Zero Waste because throwing things away is a behavior, not respecting materials and thinking it doesn’t bother you, is also behavior. If you’re talking about the zero waste concept, then we think it is all related to waste, but after a couple steps you understand that the concept is all related to you as a person.”
EXPERIMENT IN ACTION
The Solar Voyager is a solar powered vehicle partially made of recycled plastic. For one year now, ter Velde has been collaborating with renowned adventurer Wilco van Rooijen on the Solar Voyager Expedition. He is busy all day every day working on the project.
Edwin ter Velde is a sailor, but he is not a professional explorer. Nevertheless, come December 2017 he will embark with van Rooijen on an expedition to the geographical South Pole aboard the Solar Voyager. Their mission: to show the world that it is possible to journey to the center of Antarctica based on the concept of Zero Emission and Zero Waste.
The construction and expedition of the Solar Voyager is an experiment in behavior. Ter Velde not only wants to challenge himself to go outside his comfort zone, but he also wants to inspire people to change their behavior towards plastic waste. By creating a story and a community around the Solar Voyager Expedition and the zero waste concept, ter Velde hopes to encourage people to change their behavior by taking action to change their daily lives.
“We are showing that it’s all a matter of doing. Just do it! Stop talking about the world and sustainability and things like that. Act. Act. Directly, and that’s it,” emphasizes ter Velde.
The completed Solar Voyager will testify to ter Velde’s message of individual action and social innovation. If the Solar Voyager can make the journey to the South Pole, the most extreme climate on earth, then the expedition will set an example, challenging even the most average person to make radical changes in their daily life – to eschew comfort for the sake of preserving our environment and resources. To act, and by acting, to transform not only the world for the better, but themselves.
NOT WASTE, BUT PRECIOUS MATERIAL
The Solar Voyager will be made partially out of discarded water bottles, leftover packaging, disposable forks and spoons – what many of us regard as plastic waste. But not ter Velde, who doesn’t see plastic as waste, but as precious material that demands our respect and innovation.
“Why is it waste? Has one molecule in the material changed because you call it waste? I don’t believe that. It is still plastic, so it’s still material. In nature, everything is important. So, materials are also important. So, respect it. Take it up from the street, and let’s make the freshest thing you can imagine. Now for instance, the Solar Voyager, there’s a high added value. So, we learn – children, but also organizations, everyone – that it’s all in your mind. It’s all in your mind. We think it is waste, no it isn’t. It is material. And you can do such nice and precious things with those materials.”
At this stage, ter Velde is busy calibrating the 3D printers that will print the plastic material into pieces that will make up the body of the Solar Voyager. He hovers over his laptop, monitoring the printers. It’s easy to be swept away by the project there in front of the Solar Voyager mockup and listening to ter Velde. When he fits several plastic samples together and holds them up against the mock-up, you become infected with his fervor. And then there is still the most important aspect of the expedition to discuss: Antarctica itself.
INNOVATION SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE
Journeying through Antarctica will not be luxurious – it is the driest continent on earth, with low temperatures and wind speeds of 350 km/h. But for ter Velde, the physical challenge of the journey is just as important as the technical challenges: if there is no discomfort, there is no change. Living sustainably and without waste will not be comfortable.
“If you want to change, you must change your standard behavior. And that’s a difficult thing for people. We like to have a comfortable situation. But if it is comfortable, you are acting as you always have. So, if it is uncomfortable, you know that things are changing. That you are moving forward, or back. It’s just a matter of testing and seeing what it will bring. It should be uncomfortable to innovate, to make a real innovation,” believes ter Velde.
When asked why Antarctica should be the site of the Solar Voyager’s route, ter Velde replies: “It is the most extreme. It is the most unknown continent.” For if there was a continent that would host a journey meant to assimilate the goals of zero waste and radical behavioral change, it would be Antarctica.
EVERY PIECE HAS A STORY
Ter Velde’s strength is not only in his motivation or his ability to realize ideas, but in his storytelling. When he describes the communities of schoolchildren, or stadsjutters (or urban miners in English), and their efforts to gather discarded plastic material, he lights up. His excitement at having motivated a community of people to act, to effect change is more fervent than any other aspect of the Expedition.
He explains to me how every individual piece of the Solar Voyager will have a numbered certificate that will document the people who helped collect the plastic for that piece. “Every piece has its own story,” says ter Velde. “So, this car is very precious because the energy in all those pieces is being shown to the world.”
The story of the Solar Voyager, he tells me, isn’t about him. “I do not want to have a notation in the Guinness book of records. It’s not about me. It’s about the fact that we can create things, and we should do it all together,” says ter Velde.
Despite what he might say, ter Velde is one of the main actors in this real-life story. His drive and his energy to act drives the story of the Solar Voyager. He inspires each of us to act outside of our comfort zones– to do. For it is only by doing that the we can transform, innovate, and grow. DUTCH PICTURE INDUSTRY believes in stories like ter Velde’s, helping him to share his story so we might accomplish our own goal to inspire people to create, to innovate, and to challenge themselves – to cross the boundary between possible and impossible.
Have a look yourself and be inspired by the Solar Voyager test drive.
Since a few months I have passed my 40’s. I become more and more aware that a lot has changed in those years that I have enjoyed on this planet. More than I could imagine….It brings the question to mind what in the coming 40 years, more will change. What are the game changers and what will be solutions to the big problems that the last decades this so called time of prosperity have brought.
To show you how times have changed and at the same time unravelled the mist of so-called prosperity I take you to my childhood. In my street where I grew up, in Amsterdam in the nineties there was a bakery, a milkman with fresh cheese. A tobacco shop, a grocery store with great fruit and vegetables, and a store that we called ‘’Jantje van alles’’. All these shops had everything that a normal household needed. And these products were packaged for you in paper bags.
With the coming of the supermarkets, these shops disappeared and the immersive introduction of plastic became a reality. And without exaggerating plastic waste became one of the most critical environmental issues in the world. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is described as a 7th continent and is a product of our way of living. It is made out of plastic and has direct impact on our ecosystem, livelihood and food chain.
Plastic is still an easy and cheap material to produce for industries and with the coming of 3D printers’, plastic has a bright new future. Knowing that only 10% of plastic is recycled, it’s time to raise the alarm and change our way of production and consumption.
A few years ago I was not so much aware of the impact of these changes. The realisation of fact that all you buy is packaged in plastic. Makes you aware of your role as consumer. With the effect that I can’t do any shopping without having guilty feelings.
Luckily more and more people has the same guilty feelings and are trying to have a more responsible behaviour and reduce considerably their wastes. This is just about new habits to adopt and more reflection when you are doing your groceries or throwing your garbage away.
It started with bringing your own bag to the store, and re-used the ones you had. Separate the plastic waste, from the rest of the garbage. But that is not enough. A new mentality is needed, to avoid plastic packaging. By using paper bags and bringing your own sacks again. And even then you can’t avoid paradoxical situations: “should I choose the organic cucumber in plastic packaging” or “the non-organic one without packaging”. When you want to have a responsible behaviour, this kind of decisions matters: you have to choose between supporting this “plastic mania” or eating these pesticides poisoning our lands.
Some still see a positive side to plastics as an opportunity for sustainable development. It is actually a cheap material that we can reuse and reuse again through recycling. Some entrepreneur and communities are inspired to change from a linear to a circular relationship with plastic. This is always motivating to see people thinking out of the box and looking for alternatives solutions for the good of our planet.
An inspiring story is that of Wilco and Edwin from Clean 2 Antarctica, they are convinced we can have a zero waste community. And to prove that they will go on expedition to the South Pole in a vehicle entirely built from recycled plastics and powered by solar energy. This is a way to demonstrate that “Zero Waste” and “Zero emissions” are possible… Imagine the relief of clean air and clean oceans! It is not only their opinion but also that of the younger generation. That is why children in this project to collect plastic waste and shape them through 3D printing in a message to the world. This project is a message of hope showing the promises of plastic recycling and clean technology to live in a cleaner planet. It is just one of many great projects only here in the Netherlands. Possibilities are infinite with recycling and reusing. Each time that you are closing your garbage you can make sure that nothing belong to the recycle bin and ask yourself in which way you could reuse these wastes. You will awake your creative spirit and reduce your environmental impact. Give to your wastes a happy ending, a second life, much more brighter than ending in one bird’s stomach.
And although older generations and mine will have to a make a major change in their behaviour, the hopeful finding is that when I can’t separate my garbage I feel awkward. As doing something really wrong. That is in my point of view the confirmation that humans a custom animals. And with a little effort we can change the beautiful world around us.
More info on great plastic projects in the Netherlands:
WASTED Laboratory: a neighborhood Laboratory for Plastic Waste Upcycling in Amsterdam Noord
PLASTIC: Promises of a Home-made Future; explores the relation between plastic and the 3D printing market
Precious Plastic: built machines able to build new objects thanks to recycled plastic
Now and then, there comes a time when the walls begin to close in. All the beautiful surroundings feel more like a barricade. Even with the most positive mood, it feels like a splash of cold water in your face again. When this trapped feeling somehow snuck in, its time to change perspective and hit that reset button.
When I pushed that button, I was ready to get inspired again. I tried to look around with a positive eye. For example; I saw my shoes next to the front door. Normally I would walk right passed them. But now, they were standing there, inviting me out. I looked at them as a motivation to move. I always like taking slow walks, the kind that make you notice things; like that clouds are never the same. So I went out and get that heart rate up and breath deeper than I can remember. I experience pure harmony with the fresh air on my skin. I could feel my spirit automatically loading with positively. After that simple walk outside, I have returned to myself, ready to take on another week. This change in the way I look at things will lead to more positivism in the daily life. Just find your place where the air is easy to breath.
Most people start new year as an opportunity to make a promise to themselves. But new years resolutions will be swallowed by the dark and depressing days of January. Well, we have already survived Blue Monday – we can fight some more. Focus on finding positivism and change perspective. The sun will break trough the clouds again. Even when it feels like you standing at the bottom of a valley and the only way is up the mountain. One foot after another, the climb is worth it. Just think of the incredible view on the top.
What do you need to think more positively?
Two weeks ago I went with my friends from the Dutch Climbing Association for a bivouac weekend in the Ardennes in Belgium. Houfallize was the place to be and so we decided to meet up in a local pub from where we walked together to our first resting place in the forest. Weather was mild but wet, just like last year. It must have been an eight degrees Celsius and nights around freezing temperatures.
We had to walk for an hour or so before we could all chose our own space to spend the night. As I had only a bivy sac with me I was searching for the tree with the biggest crown to give me shelter during the night and protect me against rain. This meant I had to sleep a bit upwards as the ground wasn’t flat at all.
Every hour I woke up and turned a bit to find the best spot and felt asleep again. In the morning you always have the ritual of starting the stove to boil water for breakfast and whilst it is doing so you will pack your stuff so after breakfast you can start your day. As we had to do a 35km trip on Saturday with a 15kg backpack this means with an average of 3km per hour that you have to move for at least 12hours without breaks. That is a pretty long day. Most of it is off road and in this season the rivers mostly are over the banks and paths so you have to find your way on a map with coordinates and a compass.
During the day you are full of excitement as there are so many obstacles to overcome and so many times you think; why I am doing this? You know that the night will be cold and wet with less sleep than is good for you after such a long day walk!
When I arrived back home Sunday evening everything was crossing my mind again and a few things came up. There is a mental and a physical element in bringing yourself out of your comfort zone. From the applicants there is always a percentage canceling their trip for many good reasons. Mostly it is not the real reason why people giving up on themselves. It is hard, it is not comfortable and warm at most of the time but just by setting that one step before the next is the start of a new adventure. Any adventure big or small, in cities or in nature.
The physical element is mostly direct linked to the mental state. When we are young we learn to cycle and then when it rains and is cold we still need to cycle because our parents say so. When you are getting older and deciding for yourself suddenly life becomes easier as you are making the calls. Many of us, trying to walk the easy less steep route through life. The route that is not giving you that extra when you succeed but lets you be average. Most of us don’t see the parental strength anymore that we sometimes just need, to do and believe in the outcome and feeling a little of pain. We lost our inner strengths and trust that we can survive on our own with that extra glory moments that come along with it. No matter what choice you make in life, what walk you walk as long as you do it hand in hand with nature you will be surprised about the outcome!
Just before the start of the COP21, 600 anti-advertisement posters have been placed in public outdoor spaces through the streets of Paris. Over 80 artists, from 19 different countries were involved. Joe Elan from Brandalism: “By sponsoring the climate talks, major polluters such as Air France an GD-Suez-Engine can promote themselves as part of the solution – when actually they are part of the problem.” It all started in 2008 when two friends started to reclaim billboards in London. They were tired of the visual pollution that stems from large public advertisements.
The Brandalism artwork illustrates the connection among advertising, marketing, consumerism, fossil-fuel dependency and climate change.
Where the Tides Ebb and Flow
Land art project “Where the Tides Ebb and Flow” is all about raising awareness for global sea level rise. The artwork is located at Montsouris Park in Paris. The artist Edro Mazorati placed 30 sculptures of blue men in water that appear slowly rise up and then sink down again. The artwork was first introduced in 2008 at an Art Festival in the Netherlands. Since 2008 it has been moved to raise awareness all over the world.
A sea of footwear, from high heels and flip flops to sportive sneakers and outdoor boots standing at the Place de la Republic in Paris. With the state of emergency making it impossible to demonstrate, the protesters used the empty shoes as a personification. More than 20.000 shoes were placed. This made a strong impact on the worldwide audience (picked up by many broadcasters), maybe even more than if there had been protesters.
Artist brings icebergs to Paris
Olafur Eliasson brought 12 large blocks, from the Nuuk fjord in Greenland to the middle of Paris. By displacing the ice, the obvious result is that it melts. The huge blocks are a visual reminder of the change climate happening now, at this instant… and that we are creating irregularities on earth. The artist said: “The ice we are going to put in Paris is a tenth of what melts in a second in the Greenland summer.
1 Heart 1 Tree
This artwork is transforming the Eiffel tower into virtual forests with light. People all over the world, will have the opportunity to give life to a virtual tree. After downloading the smart phone app, you can participate in this collective project. You place a finger on the sensor to record the rhythm of your heartbeat; which grows a unique tree on the Eiffel tower. For each virtual tree, a real tree will be planted in one of the 7 reforestation programs over the world.
These are just a few of the inspiring and creative art projects, presented in Paris.
Want to see more art projects, join them or make one here
Art activism is just one of the many ways to let people look at the cause with new eyes. But it’s also important to taking up real space and real time, attaching the cause to real faces and real voices who care enough about the cause to go out there in a public protest.
Art may often used as a medium to express extreme impulse into simplistic flares, but I believe it intended to have a small part in a beneficial purpose. Considering, those ghostly shoes and billboards are not an individual wave. They have a collective spirit and that unity; the small suggestion, hidden within each, that is what can work towards collective goals. Protests are not persuasive themselves but they invite persuasion, they invite change.