Local Goal Getter Noël Wilmes: a hairdresser cutting his climate impact

On his electric cargo bike, equipped with solar panels, Noël is not only cutting his clients hair, but also his climate impact. It never was Noël’s preconceived intention to become a forerunner in sustainability goals. However, he always likes to be outside and enjoys nature. It is most likely that his conviction that the air one breathes should be clean, stems from his love of the outdoors.

 Maastricht Bereikbaar

In 2017, Noël was granted a subsidy to purchase an e-cargo bike through the “Maastricht Bereikbaar” (Maastricht Accessible) initiative. The aim was to guarantee the accessibility of the city centre during the work on the A2 project and the relocation of the “Noorderbrug”. Entrepreneurs were granted a subsidy for the purchase of a cargo bike, if they could do their work by bicycle instead of using a van or car. In exchange, participants were asked to share their user information with the municipality for six months. These data were used for a larger, national study of urban mobility.

As a mobile hairdresser, Noël recognized himself in the profile and saw opportunities to stop using his car and opt for the cargo bike instead. Especially the idea that he was contributing to better air quality by doing so attracted him.

With this move, Noël supported a number of SDG’s: # 11 sustainable cities and communities and # 17 partnership for the goals.  

Not the most obvious

The participating entrepreneurs were free to choose their preferred cargo bike. It was obvious that Noël would opt for a bicycle with a somewhat more unusual appearance, which would better suit his creative profession as a hairdresser. It was not the most obvious choice: The Babboe Carve Mountain, which had caught his eye, had no closable lid. As a consequence, he decided to experiment with polyester and fiberglass himself. Quite a challenge, but with some creative thinking one can go a long way!

Solar energy

While working on the cover, the dimensions of the surface gave him the idea that it might be possible to integrate a solar panel. At that time his knowledge of this matter was limited. By reading a lot and consulting relatives and acquaintances, he soon discovered that one panel was not enough to meet the energy requirements. In particular because of the increase in weight due to the cover itself, the conversion equipment and the required larger battery.

Out-of-the-box

Being able to install an extra panel somewhere was quite a challenge. Especially because Noël did not want to make any concessions to the streamlined design. Eventually, he came up with the idea to make drawers in the lid. When parked, the extra panels can be slid out of the box. A nice bit of out-of-the-box thinking!

The next step has already been taken. Recently he has contacted a producer of ultra-strong, super light, organic and 100% recyclable material. Noël hopes to be able to use this material to manufacture his lid. All he needs now is a producer who wants to professionalize and develop his idea further!

These activities contribute to several SDGs: #9 industry, innovation and infrastructure, #12 responsible consumption and production and #17 partnership for the goals.

Spring, summer and autumn completely off-grid

The energy that our local goal-getter needs throughout the year is entirely generated from the integrated solar panels. Except during winter: only an average of 5-10 km can be extracted from sunlight during that time. The remainder of the year there is enough energy yield to also charge his telephone, clippers and an electric bicycle pump.

On average, Noël cycles around 7000km a year on his SolarCargoBike, come rain or shine: “if you cycle every day, you will notice that the number of times you get really wet is very limited. Besides, I stay fit both physically and mentally. No stress in busy traffic. Just cycling with your head in the wind”.

This way, he contributes to SDGs: # 3 good health and well-being # 7 affordable and clean energy and # 11 sustainable cities and communities. 

Not unnoticed

When Noël rides his bicycle, many people react surprised and enthusiastic, especially when he parks his bike and extends the drawers with two extra panels. Regularly a nice conversation follows about his design and idea. “Then you realize that your enthusiasm is contagious”.

Zero Carbon Road to Glasgow

His design has also been noticed by the promoter of the book “Eerste Hulp bij Klimaatverandering” by author Anabella Meijer. In this humorous, positive book about the loaded topic of climate change, it is discussed how to make sustainability goals fun to implement. The cargo bike lid (called the SOLFIE project by Noël) fits perfectly into the promotional campaign.

The campaign entails cycling from Dover to the climate summit in Glasgow (COP26) at the end of October this year. Noël, together with other enthusiasts like David Klein (translator of the book into English) will cycle this “Zero Carbon Road to Glasgow.” On route a number of important cities such as London, Oxford, Birmingham and Manchester will be visited to draw attention to climate change and promote the English version of the book. This contributes to SDG # 13 climate action.

Noël is urgently looking for sponsors to cover travel and accommodation costs. Interested parties can take a look at https://www.hairvisit.nl/product-categorie/sponsoring/

Dilemma: ecological or local

As a hairdresser, Noël tries to use products that cause as little damage to nature as possible. The dilemma is that these products often come from afar. What he misses is a local producer of high-quality and ecologically responsible hair care products.  Our goal-getter remains hopeful that these products will get developed locally in the near future. In this respect, he mentions Philippe Disse from the jewellery store Etoile. Philippe is involved in setting up a completely organic line of soap and shampoo blocks. All still in the testing phase, but nevertheless with passion and full drive and focus, contributing to SDGs: #12 responsible consumption and production, #14 life below water, and #15 life on land.

Future dream

Noël’s greatest wish is to be able to develop his SOLFIE lid into a production model. He has different ideas about this but lacks the professional skills and production space to actually realize this dream. Collaboration with a local party that can support him to make his dream come true, would be fantastic and would contribute to SDGs: #17 partnership for the goals, #9 industry, innovation and infrastructure and #12 responsible consumption and production.

Less is more

Finally, Noël would like to say that he has noticed that without “having really been out there”, he was able to act as an example and inspirer for anyone who believes that “doing something for the climate” should always be preceded with a well-considered plan. That was certainly not applicable to Noël! In fact, it comes down to awareness and the intrinsic desire to do something, however small-scale this may seem. Try to create space (time) for yourself. This also creates more room for fresh, new ideas. It enables you to create inner peace and patience to deal with setbacks and unlocks creativity to come up with workable solutions. By imposing less economic pressure on yourself, working less and buying less stuff, it becomes possible to create that space. Less is more! SDG # 12 Responsible consumption and production

To Noël, anyone who makes a conscious contribution to reducing greenhouse gases and environmental pollution is a hero. Jörn Behage is someone he admires for his relentless efforts to closing the loop. Together with Josse Kunst he is co-owner of Arapaha. A company that focuses on 100% circular production, creating a world in which waste does not exist. At Brightlands-Chemelot, Jörn has developed an ultra-strong, lightweight, biological and fully recyclable material, which can potentially be used as a lightweight application for the SOLFIE lid. Jörn will definitely be put in the spotlights as Local Goal Getter during this LGG campaign.

Text: Karin Gielen

Photos: Karin Gielen

Editing: Jennifer Timmermans

Design: Linda Vecvagare