Amsterdam is not only one of the most romantic cities in Europe, but also one of the most sustainable. Sustainability in Amsterdam is the priority of the city government and lots of businesses as well. Some years ago over-tourism was causing serious issues in the city center, and since then, lots of sustainable actions have taken place and green ideas were born to make Amsterdam’s neighborhoods popular as well.
In November 2019 we were invited by the I amsterdam tourism board to participate in a press trip to Amsterdam, where we can get to know some unique green businesses and take part in some innovative and responsible activities. Are you bored of watching and doing the exact same things as other tourists? So are we! You’re in the right place if you want to read about some unique things to do in Amsterdam!
What is sustainable tourism?
Sustainable tourism can be defined as the concept of trying to make a positive impact on the environment, society or economy when traveling somewhere. Sustainable tourism doesn’t only include not leaving trash behind in nature or on the streets of the place we visit, but it can also mean that travelers are not only passive but active. Sustainable tourists don’t only watch, take photos, enjoy the opportunities that the destination has to offer, and “take” from the community, but they also actively participate in the life of the community, and “give back”.
There are many ways in which responsible travelers can contribute to the places they visit, whether it is shopping locally, choosing sustainable accommodation or volunteering some of their time to worthwhile causes.
In the Amsterdam area, different businesses and organizations are prioritizing sustainable and responsible travel. We would like to tell about them to you and explain their green initiatives.
Hermitage Museum Amsterdam – A sustainable museum
The mission of this great museum is to show the art of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to Dutch and international visitors. Their purpose is to strengthen the ties between Amsterdam and St. Petersburg, Russia. But the Hermitage Museum is not only a gallery with excellent art collections and interesting temporary exhibitions (like one of the jewels of the Russian court until March 2020,) but it’s also a sustainable museum!
The Hermitage Museum is the most sustainable museum in Amsterdam. They aim to make their operations and buildings more sustainable by various innovative projects, like the Between Art and The Greenhouse (more about that later). They successfully reduced their energy consumption as well. The air conditioning of the museum buildings – to comfort the visitors and protect the art objects – requires a lot of energy, but the Hermitage Museum achieved to create an efficient climate control system. The Hermitage Amsterdam complies with the BREEAM-NL In-Use standards, which help museums take specific steps to become more sustainable. They’re also taking bis steps to install solar panels on the roof of the museum. The Hermitage Museum is also changing its current glazing to energy-efficient glazing, to ensure superior thermal insulation.
By visiting the Hermitage Museum, you support their sustainable initiatives and projects.
Adults € 18
CJP | Stadspas € 14.40
Museumkaart € 2.50
I Amsterdam City Card free
Children aged 11 or under free
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The Hortus Botanicus of Amsterdam is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the world, as it was founded in 1638. The garden was established as Hortus Medicus, an herb garden with medical plants for Amsterdam doctors and pharmacists.
Nowadays this big garden has more than 6000 plants. The most unique plant is the 2000 years old agave cactus. The big new greenhouse creates perfect conditions for tropical plants.
Children (age 5-14): €5
Student card: €5
Senior / Youth <26 Card: €5
I amsterdam City Card – free
Between Art and the Greenhouse – project for a more sustainable Amsterdam!
The Hermitage Museum and the Hortus Botanicus are connected! The Hermitage Museum needs to keep the art pieces and the exhibition rooms cool, which means it has a heat surplus under the ground. The Hortus Botanicus needs heat in their Palm Greenhouse to keep the tropical climate for the plants.
For these reasons, a sustainable project was implemented since 2016, it’s called the Tussen Kunst en Kas (Between Art and the Greenhouse) project. The Hermitage Museum and the Hortus Botanicus share their heat and cold surpluses, and this project is the most sustainable innovation in Amsterdam!
Thanks to this smart exchange of heat and cold, they save 77,215 m3 of gas, 200,000 kWh of energy, 259,000 kilos of CO2, and 12,950 trees every year. This project has won several grants, including the Sustainable Heritage Award 2016.
An Amsterdam visit is not complete without a boat cruise through the canals of the city. But during our press trip, we had the chance to have one at the same time we were contributing to the preservation and cleaning of the canal with Plastic Whale.
Plastic Whale was born in 2011 from the mind of Marius Smit. He got aware of the plastic problem during his years of traveling, so when he went back to Amsterdam, he didn’t waste more time and started to take action. On Septemeber 2011 he and his team organized the first plastic fishing where 450 people attended. One year later the second edition of the event attracted more than 1200 people!
It was a matter of time to make companies like Starbucks, Nike, and ING interested in the movement and sending their employees to participate and fish some plastic from the canals.
Some numbers from Plastic Whale
After collecting so much plastic, the Plastic Whale achieved to make their first own boat made entirely from recycled plastic from the canals!
But that wasn’t the only good idea, in March of 2016 they start with the Platic whale foundation. This is destined to educate young people about the plastic problem and of course, take them to fish plastic as well. In 2017 they had the idea of creating furniture with the plastic too, they are still creating and developing new designs that are getting very successful.
If you want to resume the goals of Plastic Whale would be something like this:
- 11 k + people have participated in the fishing tours.
- 2000 kids have learned and fished thanks to the Plastic Whale Foundation.
- 298 companies have gone fishing with the PW team.
- 46, 225 plastic bottles have been recovered from the canals of Amsterdam.
- 15 complete furniture sets have been made.
- 3 boats made of recycled plastic were manufactured and a 4th one is coming!
This is a great company, the numbers and successful story showed us that the solutions for the plastic problem are everywhere, and they have a positive impact even though it seems impossible.
The coolest thing is that you can participate in this fishing boat tours whenever you visit Amsterdam.
The plastic fishing tours have a cost of 26 euros per person. You will have the opportunity to sail on one of the recycled plastic boats with one of the Plastic Whale crew members. Fishing equipment will be provided as well, and also a lot of information about how to properly separate the trash that you will catch. Don’t worry about getting your hands dirty, they have antibacterial gel all the time 😉
If you feel interested to participate in one of these great tours, click here to book it in advance! Remember that you need an Airbnb account for booking the tour!
Untourist Movement - Untourist guide to Amsterdam
Amsterdam is a very popular city. Not just around Europe but at an international level! That has been causing a lot of over-tourism during the last years. Overtourism participating in the same kind of cliche activities and transiting the same routes day by day.
Of course, there are a lot of “must” activities and attractions if you visit this city, but what if we tell you that aside from this, you have the chance to experience a lot of not so popular activities at a closer level with the city and its inhabitants?
The Untourist movement borns from these over-tourism problems bringing a great solution. For them, you are not a tourist, you are a social adventurer! You can get the Untoursit guide to Amsterdam in multiple info tourist centers.
The activities in this book search for a closer and not so expected experiences for you. Marry an Amsterdamer for a day, visit an adult playground, arrange a date for a lonely sock in your backpack, or participate in a laughing course with a local!
These and more activities are described in detail in the book, they show where can you find them and how much they cost. In the words of the Untoursit guide team, it is not a travel guide, it is an invitation for exploring and finding another part of yourself in the streets of this magical city.
As part of our press trip, we were invited by the Untourist team to visit the Temporary Christmas Tree Forest. Devised by Nancy Wiltink, she decided to create a foster home for all the trees that may finish in the dump after the Christmas season. She encourages the locals to adopt a tree and leave it there to grow and take nutrients from the soil until it is Christmas again. During the holidays, the tree will be located in a pot to stand at the homes of the people, after that it will return to the soil where it was located and wait for the next year.
We had the chance to visit and learn about some of the sustainable companies that work in the heart of the Netherlands. Both visits where very informative and we learned a lot about how businesses work hard to achieve their goals without forgetting their impact on the environment and their utilization of resources.
Patagonia is an American company of clothes and sports gear that works with sustainable materials and works with sustainable processes and a circular economic model. But it is not simply that, and the story behind to achieve what they are today is huge and full of ups and downs!
Founded by Yvon Chouinard, the famous rock climber, and environmentalist, in the ’60s, the company started as a small Climbers tools company. Moving in a similar line, the company evolved to create special clothes for extreme sports like skiing, snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking and trail running.
We visited the offices in Amsterdam where we had the chance to watch how the people at Patagonia work hard to make this world a better place!
Roetz Bikes Amsterdam
One of the reasons why Amsterdam is sustainable is due to the high number of bicycles. The city has a great infrastructure for these two-wheeled vehicles. If you move to this city one day, be sure that you will need to have a bike yes or yes.
But this massive use of bikes was becoming an overproduction problem. Each year, approximately 1 million bikes are thrown away, sometimes the bikes don’t have anything wrong! That is why this company decided to create a system where they can reuse the materials of the used bikes.
Today the company has achieved 30% circularity with their Roetz-Bikes (re-using parts like the wheel frames and hand parts) and 70% by re-working the OV-fiets bike fleet. They saved Tons of raw material with those actions!
They want to achieve the first 100% circular bike, reusing absolutely all the materials for the construction.
Where to eat?
Amsterdam has a lot of options for veggie eaters! During our press trip, we were invited to some of the greatest in town 🙂
Restaurant Dekas is a great option if you want to have a special meal with someone, in a sustainable way!
It’s common that elegant restaurants don’t take care of the proper management of resources. But Restaurant Dekas has a very strong compromise with their clients and their own philosophy. The building was constructed in 1929, but it was in 2001 when the owner decided to convert it into one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in the world.
The dining room is amazing! It gives you the feeling to be inside of a state-of.the-art greenhouse and it’s actually true! Because they grow their own vegetables in a modern greenhouse.
We enjoyed a very nice vegetarian meal with very elegant dishes and exotic flavors 🙂
Where to stay in Amsterdam?
The press trip was hosted in the Jakarta Hotel, almost all the participants stayed here during the two days of the event, including us of course!
We need to say, that our stay was simply incredible. There is no other word to describe it, but we want to tell you about all the features that make this place like that. Amsterdam is a very conscious city regarding architecture, environmental impact, and production. These tree facts where the perfect conditions to bring up a place like Jakarta Hotel to life.
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The location of the hotel
Located in the Java island, the hotel roots in a place that was once one of the most important commercial ports in the whole of Amsterdam. It is actually an artificial island built at the end of the 19th century to manage the constant routes that brought mail, goods, and people between the Netherlands and Asia.
100 years later the island transformed into a residential area, where a lot of new and experimental architectonical styles had the freedom to settle and create one of the most variate landmarks in the city. It is this cool combination of two worlds what makes the settlement of the Jakarta hotel perfect for it.
The incredible design - Sustainable materials and eco-architecture
The whole structure of the hotel is a kind dedication of the SeARCH Architectural firm to the eco-design and sustainability. The whole structure’s main structure of the building is made of wood, this main wood structure is complemented by other materials like aluminum, steel, bamboo, and glass that give the building a warm and sustainable character.
The high amount of glass in the building gives the place an abundance of natural light reducing the cost of electricity, and what is more incredible, the building has a fully functional inside tropical garden!
The garden is provided by a gray water system in the building, making the use of water to reduce. There are also 17 m2 of solar panels in the rooftop, precisely located to be invisible from the ground, achieving to maintain the landmark as clean as possible.
All these combinations of factors are collated with each other to create a green generator of natural heating that keeps the rooms warm during the fall and the winter and fresh during the spring and the summer.
Café Jakarta, Skybar Malabar, and Westers bakery
The Jakarta cafe combines perfectly the cuisine of two worlds. From one side, the nice and warm Dutch cuisine classics, in the other, some of the freshest and exotic ingredients that make the Indonesian cuisine so alive.
You can always grab a bite during your stay, with a very colorful and varied menu. The breakfast is a buffet, so you can actually enjoy from a classic dutch breakfast as big and substances as you want 😉
The Skybar Malabar is located above the restaurant. Here you will be able to enjoy exotic drinks and cocktails inspired in the Javanese culture while you enjoy a great view from the city over the water.
But what if you are in the middle of the day and you just want to grab a quick snack? The westers bakery has a great selection of fresh-baked bread and other delicacies for the whole day. All the pastries and goods are free of additive ingredients, so you can be sure that you will taste some good and fresh bakery.
One of the first sustainable hotels of Amsterdam adopts a “full circle concept”, meaning that it operates by using recycled materials, and then it basically recycles everything. This starts with the building itself, as the building was also repurposed to a hotel. Their restaurant is dedicated to using local produce and their own produce from the indoor greenhouse in the hotel. They also have their own energy storage under the ground.
Carpets are made from 100% recycled yarn, the reception desk is designed in a circular shape to represent inclusivity and hire bikes are sourced from a company that rescues and restores those discarded in the canals. Q&O Hotel also created its own greywater system to reduce wastewater, and to include the concept of circularity in their philosophy even more.