The One Good Thing spent some time in Amsterdam last week for a few days of meetings with new suppliers and also to have a bit of a break. We were looking forward to visiting Amsterdam not only because it is such an exciting city, but because it is an important location for sustainability. It’s renowned for its progressive attitude and sustainability is a topic that is prevalent in both the business and lifestyle context.
On Your Bike
Take the bicycles as an example. Amsterdammers cycle a combined two million kilometres on any given day and bike usage has grown by more than 40% in the last 20 years. Hundreds of millions have been – and continue to be – invested into building and enhancing bicycle infrastructure with more than four times the number of bicycles than cars on the roads.
This is because in the Netherlands, sustainability and its associated values are less of a recent trend and more an ingrained lifestyle. It is exactly the direction that we need to head in if we wish to achieve long-lasting environmental, social and sustainable change on a global scale.
The same forward-looking attitude is true when it comes to business. In comparison to many other destinations, including Dubai and the wider Middle East, there is so much more support for sustainable and conscious entrepreneurs and business in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is home to one of the Impact Hub branches, the global network that supports entrepreneurial initiatives through the idea that impact requires collective action to make a better world.
NDSM – Recycling An Entire Distict!
This sustainability ethic in the Netherlands is often driven as much by government as by business and the consumer, NDSM is a fascinating and vibrant area of North Amsterdam that provides a great example to the rest of the World of how areas can be regenerated successfully. Just 10 mins by a free ferry for the City’s central train station, this was an area that used to be the centre of the Amsterdam’s shipbuilding industry. When that industry all-but disappeared in the 70s and 80’s with the introduction of cheap competition from Asia, the areas was abandoned by the big companies and left to fall into disrepair.
In the 90’s, Amsterdam’s growing artistic community were struggling to operate in the city as the cost of work and living space was becoming unmanageable. In a great piece of forward thinking, the City started to offer artists and makers the use of shipping containers rent-free to use as workshops in the sprawling and then abandoned site. The creatives of Amsterdam eagerly took up the offer and set about transforming the area into a colourful and vibrant community. Fast-forward 20 plus years and along with its post-apocalyptic charm, you will find some of the city’s best graffiti, art, bars, galleries and restaurants. So much so that big companies are now starting to move back into the area, and there are mutterings about the dreaded ‘gentrification’. Perhaps in another 10 years, the artists will all be priced out once again and will head somewhere new, but for now it’s a fascinating place to visit if you get the chance.
From a more direct consumer point of view, we love the Little Boomerang brand because every element of their business is focused on repurposing. With the mission to “transform garments from the past into reflections of the future”, they take preloved men’s’ shirts and create basic clothing essentials for children to wear all year round.
This focus on preloved fabrics and local production processes writes a cross-generational authentic story that needs to be told. In the Netherlands, 235 million kilograms of fabric is thrown out every year and less than a quarter of clothes are reused. Little Boomerang create clothes that never go out of fashion with a mission to tap into the growing awareness of sustainability in Amsterdam. By capitalising on growing interest and success, we can turn sustainability from a thought into a positive action.
All of the Little Boomerang products are designed and cut by talented women who face different barriers to the labour market, such as a lack of qualifications. In this way, Little Boomerang create the full circular economy and they are far from being the only company in the country to do so.
We are also slightly obsessed with Rotterdam-based Granny’s Finest, where local Dutch grannies hand-knit products using natural yarn and designs dreamed up by young creatives. They also organise knitting clubs to prevent the issue of loneliness that is too prevalent among older people.
Sustainability at Every Level
As you can see, there are sustainable initiatives being made at every level of Dutch society from consumerism to infrastructure. It works because the ideas are so accessible and so universally attractive. Sustainability needs to be presented in such a way that it seems interesting and relevant to us as individuals otherwise we risk missing out on a captive audience for whom the benefits of sustainability are firmly tangible. It is just about communicating in the most effective way.
Amsterdammers certainly know how to get the right attention. Mud Jeans take the most World’s most popular and enduring fashion item, and give a fresh perspective on how to improve the fast fashion world. Operating entirely on the idea of a circular economy, they take a smart and fun attitude to fashion to emphasise that ours is not a world with infinite resources.
They recycle worn-out or unworn jeans and blend with virgin cotton for a fresh new pair. They also upcycle jeans and sell as unique vintage pieces. They offer customers the option to lease a pair of jeans to avoid their clothing become one of the 30% of garments in our wardrobes that have not been worn for over a year.
This is such an intelligent, well-thought-out and carefully executed sustainability model that is so common in the Netherlands. We firmly believe this type of business model would roll out effectively on a global scale provided that we create the right type of conversation around the issue.
One Good Thing is committed to sustainability and the idea of authentic consumerism where conscious choices are made about what we buy and why. Please click here to browse our collections and find a gift for yourself or a loved one that gives something back in very unique ways. And don’t forget stay in touch with One Good Thing on Facebook and Instagram to be the first to hear all the latest brand updates.