Running notes from the Picnic07 conference in Amsterdam.
-- by guest blogger Susan Kish
(UPDATE - The Picnic Green Challenge winner announced)
Picnic07 closed yesterday evening with drinks and television shows and folks running around in green swimming caps snapping photos of each other, The attendees streamed into the Public Lighting room -- floor covered with woodchips, checked tablecloths -- for the pre-final stage in a process dedicated to finding concrete solutions to fight climate change: the Picnic Green Challenge (see also these previous posts).
The PGC is the result of a collaboration between the Picnic conference an the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Picnic contributed its networks, its platform and its catalytic role, and the Lottery brought its expertise and the funding of the serious prize money: 500'000 euros.
Bruno Giussani was up on stage hosting the whole evening, so he turned the LoIP blog over to me. And be warned: this will be a long post. The evening opened with a video starring Amsterdam major Job Cohen suggesting his own response to climate change. It's short, and you really want to watch it. As Bruno said after it, "I don't know what you guys in Amsterdam really think of your major, but if you can clone him, I want one for my town":
Marieke van Schaik, head of the charity department at the Postcode Lottery, explained that the Challenge was inspired by a speech given by Bill Clinton Bill Clinton in Amsterdam last December, when he said that the solutions to the climate crisis will come from the new economy fueled by new ideas, not from the old economy fueled by oil. She also explained this very unique construct that is the Postcode Lottery: half of every lottery ticket sold goes to charity, and a big part of the lottery's appeal is that the winner "shares" the prize with everyone else who bought a ticket in the same postal code. Nice cycle.
The Picnic Green Challenge was launched in June with a deadline of
the end of August. 439 applications were received, from 50 countries.
Bruno, who was a member of the preliminary jury, has already blogged
some considerations after they read all the entries and shortlisted the
five finalists. In particular, he said that if we took the PGC entries
as a sample of current trends in "green" thinking, this would be the
- carbon compensation/offset schemes
- systems for coordinating carpooling (via cell phones, the web, or both)
- systems for monitoring household energy and water consumption/increasing consumption awareness
- solar lighting and solar panels in-a-box
- wind turbine kits
- initiatives to induce/encourage people to act "sustainably"
- green labeling and certification of products/services and of business/brands
- sustainable building and construction materials and concepts
- alternative approaches to transportation and energy infrastructure
The preliminary jury did the first cut, each jury member creating a
shortlist of 15, which were then pushed through several rounds of
reviews, additional research and discussions. They finally focused on a
shortlist of 8, before sending 5 to the final, yesterday night. The
preliminary jury was made up of Emily Farnworth from the Climate Group, Joris Krüse from Media Republic, Jeffrey Prins from the Doen Fondation, Femke Rotteveel from the Postcode Lottery, Marleen Stikker from Picnic, and Bruno Giussani.
The five nominees were:
- The Solar Lampion: a designer uses available solar technology to create a beautiful lampion, an invitation to designers to engage with the technologies of sustainability (website / article)
- The Sustainable Dance Club: a project to change clubbing and mass events to make them sustainable (website)
- The Green Thing: an online, not-for-profit social movement to mobilize the masses to act against climate change (website)
- City Cargo: a project for zero-emission cargo distribution in cities using existing tram infrastructure (website)
- Qurrent: an energy company that doesn't sell you energy, but helps you make and manage your own (website)
The five finalists that were presenting had been at Picnic all
week, attending the conference but also having their own "bootcamp",
with speaking coaching, private discussions with entrepreneurs and
investors, and the gift of an electric bike.
The finalists had 10 minutes to present, strictly timed (there's a
clock in the corner of the screen, and Bruno cut one off), followed by
7 minutes for questions from the jury and the floor. Then the members
of the final jury have worked on the final evaluation. Their decision
will be unveiled in a few hours. The members of the final jury were: Avery Baker, from Tommy Hilfiger; Helen Jones, from Ben&Jerry Europe, John Thackara from Doors of Perception, Liesbeth van Tongeren from Greenpeace Netherlands, venture capitalist Eckart Wintzen, Steve Howard from the Climate Group. The jury was chaired by Richard Branson, founder of Virgin. Branson and Howard were not attending the presentations -- they were in New York at the Clinton Global initiative,
flying in overnight -- but Bruno explained that they've been constantly
briefed and that the presentations were only one of many elements in
the final jury's choice. Branson had sent in a video message: "To make
an impact on climate change, we will have to give people a better
choice. You won't get them to stop consuming, so let's get them to
consume in a better way". So here my running notes of the five
The Solar Lampion
Presented by Damian O’Sullivan
Damian introduced himself as an industrial designer, based in Rotterdam. He described how he has been surrounded by solar cells for as long as I can remember, as his father was responsible for solar panels on some of the European consortium satellites.
Ugliness doesn’t sell. Determined to come up with a solar lamp that was aesthetic and mobile. Looked to the past for inspiration, lights made of glass and steel, Chinese and Japanese lanterns weigh next to nothing and give beautiful light, simple candles and oil lamps. However, these are beautiful but not efficient. Standard white LED lamp is 1500 times more efficient than a naked flame.
Now we don’t need to carry lights with us anymore, light is everywhere. So maybe it is a romantic notion to move away from the supply, cut the umbilical cord connecting us to the power.
Damian presented his working drawings, the final image, and then the lampion itself -- a lovely cylinder of solar cells, designed to sit on a table or be hung from a tree. He wanted to use standard materials such as 50x50 mm solar cells, and come up with something as beautiful as possible. To explain the design, he plotted the lamp on a matrix of Fixed vs. Mobile, Innovative vs. Traditional, placing it in the Mobile / Innovative quadrant.
Mobility: he described how you can pick it off the branch and take it anywhere you want. The bedroom. The living room. The porch. Innovation: The lampion is made of solar cells fitted into an exoskeleton made of a metal alloy designed for strength.
The cells are translucent, so the light shows from the sides, not just the top or bottom. Damian developed the exoskeleton, and each crown includes 6 inclined solar cells. Once the design was complete it looks like a spiraling pine cone. The prototype lampion has 30 cells, which all work with a rechargeable battery. The lamp works for three hours after a day charge, and is expected to cost around 185 euro.
He showed the lampion, tuned it on, and got a series of "ahhhs" from the audience. Well deserved, it's beautiful.
The Sustainable Dance Club
Presented by Michel Smit
Michel’s idea is to change the world by changing clubbing. What if we could capture the energy that we produce every time we take a step, he asks? In a club, that could be used to power the music and lights, and the dance floor could be turned into a generator. The SDC (Sustainable Dance Club) intent is to make clubs and festivals more sustainable all over the world, and to do so without having to go into the clubbers comfort zone.
Clubs are the places for the young, with 1.5 million clubbers per week just in the Netherlands. However, clubbing today is not sustainable at all. Clubs don’t think about the issue, and the yearly impact of a club for 1000 people, is that they use 30x more water than a household of 4, create 40x as much waste, use 7000x more bottles, and burn 150x times as much energy – even if the club is only open a couple of nights a week. The total carbon production of one club in a year is 450,000 kg of carbon.
Michel and his colleagues have a lot of experience of clubbing, and have developed expertise about sustainability. Their initial focus is on the SDC energy dance floor, with the idea that the more people dance, the more energy you make -- there is a system under the floor to capture that kinetic energy. However, the total energy produced from 500 people dancing for a night, is only around 25,000 watts, or about 1% of the energy required.
The team is opening up a club, “MyTown” in Rotterdam, in the spring of 08, targeting a 50% reduction in waste / water / energy. “So… Shall we dance?”
Do the Green Thing
Presented by Andy Hobsbawm
The Green Thing is a free online community that makes it really fun to change your behavior and “get more green”. This is based on the premise that the vast majority of people really want to live greener lifestyles, however, they feel it’s too futile, too confusing, or too difficult. Most of the actions recommended are seen as too activist, or too scary, or too preachy. The Green Thing aims at using creativity to fight climate change.
TGT is set up as an online not-for-profit (get rid of that issue as a potential barrier). The process is simple; you sign up, get an intriguing email at the end of every month which leads you to a short video / call to action, inspiring you to undertake that month’s activity. Two weeks later you get a reminder, with another film that dramatizes this month’s Green Thing.
The Green Thing has lots of things to make acting more fun. The launch activity will be walking so it will come as a podcasts that you can listen while walking (Tracy Chevalier, the author of the "Girl with the Pearl Earring", is apparently writing the story). Their research has also shown that community reinforcement is really important, to create social currency. The intention is to create a series of Green Things for each month’s action, which you can trade, and show them on sites such as Facebook and MySpace, launching a green YouTube.
The power of the idea rests on the premise that entertainment will hook in the community, understanding to bring them context, which drives them to serious behavior change over the longer term. The people in turn, will drive government and business to do Green Things too.
Green Thing will launch in October in the UK, and possibly in April in San Francisco. The plan is to reach 25 million people by the end of 2008, inspiring 2 million actions per month, which could save at least 135,000 tons of carbon.
Andy closed with his launch video, a funny blend of steet signs and storytelling, and the whole room smiled and laughed.
Presented by Michael Hendriks
CityCargo is focused on using old and existing things in new ways, in particular sustainable cargo distribution in urban centers, using the existing tram network. The process starts by receiving cargo in large warehouses on the outside of the city, where the cargo of four trucks get transferred to one freight tram. That trams go to locations inside the city, where they are met by smaller electric vehicles that take cargo from the tram to the final destinations.
CityCargo aims to take out half the number of trucks that come into the city (in Amsterdam, that would mean cutting the number of trucks from 5000 to 2500 a day). In addition, Citycargo intends to use zero emission electric vehicles (clean), to reduce the number of trucks (safer for streets), to use the tram infrastructure (fast and efficient). The market is global with over 240 cities with tram systems. They have found all the partners to make this happen, have done a trial run and obtained a 10-years license from the city of Amsterdam.
Michael closed by reporting a conversation with a CEO two days ago who said, “I love green - it’s the color of money and the color of nature. If you combine the two, I’m in.”
Presented by Igor Kluin
Igor opened by challenging Picnic08 to set a better example in being green –- by lowering the temperature in the rooms, using different lighting systems etc. (Applause).
The focus of Qurrent is to be the first energy company not to sell you energy, but to help you make and manage your own.
Qurrent produces a small black box, called a QBox, which does three things: (1) Energy Optimizer: turns on and off things such as your washing machine at the time when it is most efficient and cheaper; (2) Energy monitor: gives you clear insight into energy flows of your home presening it in a very friendly fashion; and (3) LEN: is a router for a Local Energy Network (LEN) within your neighborhood, connecting you to the grid and to your neighbors. Igor believes in decentralized energy systems. Which, so far, is not affordable and too complex. Lowering those two barriers is Qurrent's focus (they also will advise people on how to set up their own energy production systems -- wind, solar, etc).
Qurrent's product is already post-prototype stage, and they are trying to sell them to energy companies and real estate management companies, "which are very conservative". He plans to use the prize money, if he wins, for demonstration projects. “For mass CO2 reduction, bring CO2 reduction to the masses", he says.
In closing the evening, Bruno stressed that whoever wins, the prize money must be used for investing in taking the project or idea to the next stage.
The winner's name will be announced by Richard Branson in a few hours.