Closing the circle on sustainability

Society has to clean its act up and the engineers of the future have to take up the challenge and contribute to making it sustainable according to Bram Ruiter, second year mechanical engineering student and chairperson of the Students4Sustainability (S4S) -week committee.

Instead of a vague, wishy washy concept, S4S wants to make sustainability concrete for students and show how they can contribute, connecting them to firms with a sustainability agenda.

To increase awareness among students they organised the Close the Circle week from March 21-24. The programme included three lunchtime workshops and a lecture, all presenting real, tangible examples of sustainability firms at work. This was partly a reaction by S4S to the lack of companies with a clear sustainability focus participating during the latest Delftse Bedrijvendagen technical career fair presentation days in mid-February 2016.

At the Dutch Windwheel lecture Duzan Doepel, invited speaker from Doepel Strijker Architects, emphasized the role architects can have in conceiving effective circular and inclusive design strategies. For two years his office has been working on its visionary iconic Windwheel design for Rotterdam. A dense, high rise, double ringed skyscraper with integrated renewable energy measures, it aims to generate more energy than it consumes. The ambitious narrative behind its concept went viral online, intriguing people all around the world. The concept resonated with their own ambitions and in turn attracted local partners to come on board and develop it further.

Another presenter was Better Future Factory, a sustainable design and engineering studio that turns plastic waste into innovative, valuable solutions. They were the first in the world to set up machines to turn recycled plastic from old car dashboards and PET bottles into 3D printing filament. They showed the power and profitability of not just designing, but also making well thought out sustainable concepts.

Except, a cooperative of sustainability consultants and systems thinkers, demonstrated the guiding principles they are committed to. A sustainable future, long term and multi-scale thinking, creating value above profit, collaboration, freedom of information and knowledge, and responsibility underlie all their activities.

In addition, the firm Closing the Loop, presented how they specialise in buying discarded mobile phones in Africa and Asia and ship them back to Europe to recover the valuable metals in them at a specialised smelter in Belgium. That way the old phones don't cause health and environmental hazards by ending up in landfills or the informal metal recovery circuit in Africa.