Local Goal Getters Puck and Juul Knols, founders of Juupu: for and by youth

Local Goal Getters Puck and Juul Knols, founders of Juupu: for and by youth

5 years ago Puck and Juul Knols joined forces to found Juupu. As young teenagers, together with the entire western world they were confronted with the refugee crisis. Deeply touched by this humanitarian crisis, they wished to roll up their sleeves themselves, instead of standing on the sidelines. When they offered to help as volunteers at the asylum center, they were shown the door, with ‘too young’ as reason. Completely stunned and frustrated by this rejection, they decided to take matters into their own hands, independent from the biased adults and their organizations. ‘Juupu’ thus originated as a collaborative coalition between brother and sister. Today we had a heartwarming conversation with Puck. She just successfully graduated from her secondary school. Puck also represents Juul who was unable to attend, as he is still busy completing his first bachelor year of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University College of Maastricht.

You end up in a situation of poverty when you have lost sight of the richness in yourself because of something that happened to you without being asked. (quote Puck) 

In the meantime Juupu has developed further as an organization in which about eighty active young people play a leading role. It is an inclusive group in which every young person is welcome (SDG #5, #10). Under the motto of ‘learned young is done young’, they work to improve the lives of young people. They work from the belief that everyone is born with a unique package of gifts and talents. Their approach is aimed at developing these optimally. However, circumstances sometimes jeopardize the development, causing young people to end up in a downward spiral of poverty. Poverty reduction is at the heart of their tasks (SDG #1). Puck says their definition of poverty is broader than the traditional version. In addition to financial poverty, their actions also try to combat social poverty such as loneliness and the negative impact of health problems (SDG #3).

Poverty is not limited to developing countries, but is often well hidden in your own neighbourhood.

The ‘community dinners’ were one of the first actions of our local goal getters. During these dinners they came into conversation with all kinds of people from the neighborhood on the one hand and refugees on the other. With this, it quickly became clear to our local goal getters that poverty was not limited to developing countries. It turned out that also in their own environment a lot of people were struggling with poverty. For many of these people, however, there appeared to be no safety net as they fell just outside the official criteria of poverty. Because of this new insight, Juul and Puck decided to dedicate themselves to that specific population group that was abandoned by the system.

Sharing is multiplying: after all, sharing will make you feel richer and happier.

 The product and food collection campaigns (SDG 2) are one of the main activities of this youth organisation. At this moment, several schools are participating in this. In the meantime, they have also been able to mobilize supermarkets such as Jumbo to donate products that would otherwise be thrown away as they approach their expiration date. A deal has also been concluded with the supermarket chain Jan Linders to set up collection bins, the well-known ‘Juupu crates’, in which customers can deposit non-perishable products of their own choice. These donations from schools and supermarkets are delivered to six distribution points. The logistics partners ensure that all products eventually reach several hundred needy families. This clearly shows that Juul and Puck work decisively and efficiently by entering into several essential partnerships (SDG #17).

Puck said it took a lot of time and effort to be taken seriously as a young person. The schools were the first to go overboard. But gaining credibility in business or other institutions remains difficult. As of last week, they have reached a major milestone with the consolidation of a partnership with the SNS bank (SDG #17). In 2019, this bank opened a community store. This initiative of the bank has the social goal to make Maastricht financially healthier and to educate everyone about money matters. Because this fits seamlessly with Juupu’s objectives, the SNS bank makes this space available to them. This gives Juupu the opportunity to organize physical appointments and activities. They also work together with the Red Cross, the national emergency aid organization, which can open doors to other organizations and cooperation partners.

By raising awareness about poverty, more and more young people can be motivated and inspired to become actively involved in the fight against poverty.

Besides the donations of food and basic products, Juupu also has some other core tasks. Juupu wants to increase the capacity of their foundation by informing and sensitizing young people about poverty. They do this by organizing symposia and information sessions, in which they allow both experts and professionals to speak about the various aspects of poverty.

Juupu distinguishes itself from the existing foundations because of the emphasis on youth participation. Young people can and want to make a difference. But then we, as adults, have to give them the freedom and responsibility to do so. Meanwhile, Puck and Juul are now in the age category to pass on the torch to the next generation of committed students. Their utopian dream is that Juupu will become superfluous as a poverty-fighting organization in a world in which poverty will be permanently banned. Their ultimate wish is for the ‘Juupu movement’ to have a base throughout the Netherlands, with a large group cohesion and a common ambition to fight poverty.

Never underestimate a youngster…’ It’s high time we as adults realize this, once and for all.

 The ideology, sense of responsibility, pure unbiased motivation and open-mindedness of Puck and Juul are admirable and hopeful. The world is in the hands of the young generation. They can and will make a difference, in the short and long term. As adults, we must open up to these young people and let go of our prejudices and stigmas. Everything shows that young people are not indifferent gamers, but purposeful game changers. As Puck puts it, one is never too young to start something and it is never too late to make a difference for someone. Moving a small rock in the river has the potential to push the entire flow in the other direction over time.

Text: Anna Hermans

Pictures: Jennifer Timmermans

Editing: Jennifer Timmermans

Local Goal Getter Monique Lancée: Azaro, daycare in a new light

Local Goal Getter Monique Lancée: Azaro, daycare in a new light

This week, we talked with Monique, the whirlwind force behind Azaro: a daycare, but different. Sustainability is not (yet) so much a conscious course of the foundation, but at neighborhood level all efforts are aimed at making people’s lives better (#SDG3 #SDG11). Monique uses her experiences gained in women’s shelters, addiction care and care for the mentally vulnerable, but gives it a new look.

Daycare ‘without a label’

For the psychologically vulnerable it can be of vital importance to keep in touch with fellow human beings. However, they cannot go everywhere, some places first request paperwork as an indication. You will have to fit the profile. The need to be able to engage without a label with ‘ordinary’ people is hardly met. Azaro, of which Monique is the initiator and coordinator, does this. She arranges everything, motivates everyone and has always rolled up her sleeves.

Quite hard: building a new social network

‘I saw the women sitting in front of the shelter, puffing a cigarette, arguing with each other’. The shelter had been arranged and the financial and legal support was good, but Monique noticed a lack of personal, individual attention. “When you are constantly under stress or living in fear, you have no space for yourself; you don’t take time for fun things. You not only lose yourself but also the network of friends and family. For former addicts, it is quite a challenge to use the time they first spent on the addiction differently. ‘You have to say goodbye to your old friends and build a new network… And that is quite tough’. Azaro helps people rediscover their passion through genuine interest in the person. Only when that passion has been rediscovered can you ‘connect’ with others again.

Stigma-free meeting place

Psychologically vulnerable people often find it very annoying to follow daytime activities at a mental healthcare institution. “They are treated like psychiatric patients again. They really enjoy being able to participate here, without a label. You want to get rid of that label once and for all. Everyone has their own quirks!”

There were local residents who came to Azaro through ambulant escorts. When other local residents saw that people were walking in and out, who apparently were having a good time with each other, they wanted to join in. Now all the activities that Azaro organizes are also for local residents. A seniors group has recently been established; elderly from the neighbourhood who were a bit wasted at home. In principle, there is no distinction between client, resident or volunteer. You might be all three!

The neighbourhood as a sustainable community

When asked to which global goals Azaro contributes, Monique immediately answers ‘Reuse of materials’ (#12). They make lampshades from old jeans, statues from old wood, candles from stumps in the Basilica, new clothes and blankets from rags… Monique looks again at the postcard with all 17 goals and notices that Azaro is also participating in #1 No poverty (give away clothes), #2 Zero hunger (lunch together) #3 Good health and well-being (nutrition and coaching) and #15 Life on land (organic vegetable garden). And of course, #17 (partnership), where Monique mentions the municipality of Maastricht in particular.

Azaro underestimate their contribution to #10 (Reduced inequality) and #11 (Sustainable cities and communities). It is substantial! The low threshold (also literally: vegetable garden boxes for scooter users) and the social, cultural bridges they build here at neighbourhood level have the most impact. This success has to do with their greatest challenge: ‘letting people with a non-Western background work in harmony with residents in a working-class neighbourhood where the PVV-voter is very widely represented’. Here they break through prejudices by simply putting people together. ‘By being together you realize that you have formed an image based on what you see on TV, but it doesn’t match reality’.

Not a daycare ‘factory’

The biggest wish of Azaro is to have more space to do what they do. They are very cramped, on the floor of the Ouw Sjoal. More participants is not so much the ambition, but that they keep coming. At Azaro this is voluntary, in contrast to regular daycare activities with an indication. Personal attention is the most important thing. I don’t want to become a daycare factory.’

The objective of the organization

Azaro offers daytime activities for vulnerable target groups. By standing next to her clients without a pre-issued ‘label’ but with an eye for people and the environment, Azaro lets everyone (re)discover their own qualities and passion. ‘Ordinary’ local residents also participate. A magical mix that is contagious. In this way, Azaro, together with the neighbourhood, builds on increasing self-esteem, self-confidence, community spirit and meaning in life.

The foundation currently has 76 clients, 5 volunteers, about 50 involved local residents and 3 paid employees.

The candles that are made in the Azaro studio can be ordered via the website www.azaro.nu

Interview: Severine Louf

Pictures: Severine Louf

Editing: Jennifer Timmermans

Local Goal Getter Mira Bakker: working on sustainability on all fronts

Local Goal Getter Mira Bakker: working on sustainability on all fronts

This week we interviewed Mira, an inspiring student who is working on sustainability on all fronts. As a girl she joined Scouting St. Gerlach, where she was involved also with nature (SDG #14 and #15). Last year, she graduated with a Bachelor International Relations and Affairs at UCM. To bridge her gap year, Mira applied for a Traineeship offered by SDG House Network and TheRockGroup.

SDG Professionals working on assignment for MECC

The first edition of SDG Traineeship started on 1st of March. This makes Mira one of the first trainees based in Limburg. Together with four other trainees, she received an assignment from MECC: how can MECC make itself more sustainable? The first steps have already been taken, but there is still a lot to do. Therefore, it is a challenging issue for the SDG professionals. They looked at MECC’s business operations and values, and selected a number of SDGs that matched, namely: # 8 Fair Work and Economic Growth, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, # 13 Climate Action and #17 Partnership to Goals to achieve. During fifteen weeks, the project team will write a consultation report containing a baseline measurement of MECC’s policy with regard to these goals and how they can take next steps in this regard.

SDG Talks with guest speakers

In addition to this one-day-a-week project, every Tuesday evening an interactive SDG Talk takes place, where guest speakers from different sectors and types of organizations talk about the implementation of the SDGs that accompany system change. For example, the first Talks were held by Rob van Tulder, professor of International Business – Society Management at Erasmus University. Other SDG Talks covered for example Biosphere International, Diversity & Inclusion and the “Reform” of the economy. The closing session will focus on the future of the SDG professionals.

In touch with SDG House Maastricht

For Mira, the SDG Traineeship is not her first contact with the Sustainable Development Goals. While writing her thesis with localization of the SDGs as subject, she came in contact with us as SDG House Maastricht. Through this contact, she conducted interviews with potential partners of SDG House, which revolved around awareness and possible interest in the SDGs. This research has given us a wonderful way to expand the SDG House network in Limburg.

SDG’s also at AIESEC

In addition, Mira has joined AIESEC since last year, which attaches great importance to sustainability goals. This is how the SDGs find their way back on her path. Last April, for example, the national project World Largest Lesson was organized. Mira participated in this project together with a number of colleagues from AIESEC; they gave an interactive guest lecture on the SDGs at the bilingual secondary school in Liège. Mira tells us how nice it was to see that students initially had no knowledge of the goals, but came up with many ideas on how to impact themselves.

A great experience

To come back to the SDG Traineeship, Mira highly recommends it: it is a great experience where you can gain practical experience regarding consultation work. In this way she gets the opportunity to put the theory lessons of her Bachelor into practice and to work on a “real” case for an existing company. The challenging question that MECC has posed is an interesting preparation for future work: she has found that she would like to dive into the consultation world. We wish Mira the best of luck with completing her Traineeship and continuing her (study) career!

 Finally, our inspiring Local Goal Getter would like to give one more tip: “keep the conversation around SDGs going! Bring the sustainability goals closer to the people by getting the message across. It is important not to punish behaviour, we want to motivate! “

Also interested in the SDG Traineeship? More information can be found at https://www.sdghouse.org/sdg-traineeship/ . You can register up to and including 15 June.

Interview: Jennifer Timmermans

Pictures: Jennifer Timmermans

Local Goal Getter Toos Hofstede: busy bee with sustainability as a guideline

Local Goal Getter Toos Hofstede: busy bee with sustainability as a guideline

In our search for Local Goal Getters’ we met with Toos Hofstede today. Together with her partner, she runs the strategic communication agency Viastory. As a very young mother, she simultaneously studies Communication Sciences and Business Administration at the University of Twente. In Communication Science she gains her first scientific insights into the do’s and don’ts in conveying a message. In Business Administration she learns to apply theoretical insights in practice. During that training process, however, she missed an ethical foundation. Therefore, Toos decided to focus on Corporate Social Responsibility in her graduation research. In her thesis she shows companies that implement sustainability through to their core process, perform better economically, ecologically and socially, and are also more innovative. From that moment on, the concept of “sustainability” definitely conquered a place in her life.

Authenticity and sustainability

The first employer in which Toos puts her insights into practice is the Gulpener brewery, the sustainable beer brand in the Netherlands. Gulpener is the perfect example of a company that not only tells a sustainable story, but actually carries through in all areas of the company. Through authentic communication that reflects the true identity of the family brewery, this beer brand conquers the hearts of many consumers. She has been working there for 5 years and has been a partner at Viastory Creative Agency since 2014. Here, too, authenticity and social responsibility are the two keywords in everything Toos thinks and does. Sustainable storytelling is the foundation of her work. Much attention is paid to getting to know the customer before developing a sustainable communication strategy. Part of this strategy is the position that the customer takes in the market, but also in society. According to Toos, entrepreneurship is by definition a social activity and therefore all Viastory customers are questioned about their sustainability ambitions.

Viastory as B Corp

With Viastory, Toos and her partner focus on two goals. On the one hand, they want to achieve a positive return with the company to generate the necessary income. On the other hand, they strive for a positive impact on the environment and society in all their activities. Based on these two objectives, they obtained the prestigious B Corp certification in December 2020. In this way, Viastory and other Benefit Corporations are pushing the economy towards inclusion and sustainability.

Earth Ambassadors

In addition to her professional activities, Toos is also committed to several social and sustainable initiatives. For example, together with Viastory she is the founder of the community “Earth Ambassadors”. Our Local Goal Getter realizes that Earth’s challenges cannot be solved alone. That is why partnerships and collaborations between people and companies are high on her agenda. (SDG # 17). Together with other ambassadors, she is building a network of like-minded people in which sustainability is central. They organize meet-ups and Earth Talks to increase awareness and accelerate innovations for a future-proof society. During these “Earth Talks”, the guests will receive insights from people with very diverse backgrounds, from a sustainable chicken farmer to a climate journalist and a polar explorer. From a lecture on “the forest as a sustainable superhero”, a concrete plan was presented to Hubert Mackus, the former deputy of the province of Limburg. This plan aims to plant two million trees. On LinkedIn you can join the community. (SDG # 4)

Freedom meal

For some people, the day turns out to be longer than twenty-four hours. Because in addition to all the previous activities, At the request of the National Committee on 4 and 5 May, Toos became the quartermaster of the freedom meal in Limburg. In the past, the term liberation was more related to the Second World War. These days, freedom is more about embracing and including diversity. During the Freedom meals, guests are invited to talk about historical and social themes that are not often addressed in daily life. During the recent digital Freedom meal, a lecture was given by Abbie Chalgoum, a Dutchman of Moroccan descent. Because of his background, this man had ended up in an identity crisis. After all, he was not regarded as a fully-fledged Dutchman, but by Moroccans he was seen as a ‘fake’ Moroccan. His story about freedom was mainly about his quest to really be himself. (SDG # 10)

 Maas Cleanup

With the Viastory office located next to the Maas, it is difficult for our Local Goal Getter to ignore the river. That is why she committed herself to the Maas, with her company as a founding partner. Under the motto “Clean River, Better Business”, many companies have joined forces with NGOs and volunteers to combat river pollution. Every year, thousands of volunteers roll up their sleeves to clean up dumped waste all over the strip between Eijsden and Mokerhei. On Saturday, September 18, which is “World Cleanup Day”, the next clean-up action is planned where every citizen can help. In addition to clean-up actions, the partners are also working on structural solutions, such as making business operations more sustainable and combating single-use plastic. You can read more about this on the website of maascleanup.nl/partners. With the ‘Maas in de Wet’ petition, the partners hope to convince politicians in The Hague to grant rights to the river Maas. The petition will be presented to the King and the House of Representatives in the autumn. When the fundamental rights of the Maas are recognized, these will be more enforceable and enforceable. (SDG # 14, # 16).

Full agenda devoted to sustainability

Factually, Toos’ spectrum of activities can be linked to all sustainable development goals. Within our one hour of conversation we did not have enough space to discuss everything. Her full schedule speaks volumes. But from our conversation, we can say with certainty that everything Toos does revolves around sustainability. Creating a sustainable impact is the engine of her existence. You can’t stop talking with the eloquent and passionate Toos. Those interested in a general overview of her activities can visit the Viastory.com website. Moreover, you will find numerous opportunities there to actively participate as a volunteer. After all, the responsibility for a better world lies in our own hands. People like Toos give us hope, and that hope stimulates us to live responsibly.

Author: Anna Hermans

Editor: Jennifer Timmmermans

Pictures: Jennifer Timmermans

Apply now for the SDG Traineeship

Would you like to make an impact on the world, but are you not sure how? The SDG Traineeship comes to the rescue!

Especially during the Corona crisis, we are looking for new ways to make a concrete contribution to more equitable, inclusive and sustainable societies to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). At the same time, many companies are using the crisis as a moment to reflect, change course and make themselves more resilient in the face of a rapidly changing world. SDG House Network and TheRockGroup connect these two needs with the SDG Traineeship: a programme that offers the opportunity for both young people and companies alike to become future proof!

During this 15-week parttime programme, a team of motivated young people commits 1 day a week to tackling a concrete SDG-case from a client.

The first edition is currently running and has proven successful. Apply now for the second edition of the SDG Traineeship, which starts on the 6th of September: https://www.sdghouse.org/sdg-traineeship/!

Local Goal Getter Saskia Hermens devotes her life and career to create a sustainable and circular Maastricht

Local Goal Getter Saskia Hermens devotes her life and career to create a sustainable and circular Maastricht

Saskia Hermens is a member of the city council. Being part of the green, left-wing party GroenLinks, she likes doing things that inspire her. Saskia was born and raised in Maastricht, and is passionately devoted to creating a green, sustainable, and circulair municipality. She has been active in local politics since 2003. In this year, she started as a citizen council member. In 2006, she was elected to be a full council member, and she has been fulfilling that role with joy ever since. The portfolios she works on include nature, waste policy, sustainability, and an ecological landscape. Her interest in these topics does not end when she closes her laptop after a long day working from home. Rather, they seem to be a big part of her whole life. An example of this is her garden, in which we are drinking tea together. In this small place, she manages to grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs. On the wall, there are several bird houses. Next to that, there is a big barrel where rainwater is stored. From the picnic bench in the middle of her garden, she tells me everything about how the global development goals come together in both her work and private life.

A greener city

Saskia advocates for a municipality where bubbling city life and calming nature meet in a sustainable way (SDG #11). She wants to inspire her two kids, and all other young people, by letting them explore the beauty of nature – even in a city as hectic as Maastricht. She wants to do so by for example creating nature playgrounds, where kids can ‘get their feet in the mud, get dirty, and learn about the beauty of nature’. She also wants to cover the walls of houses and buildings in the city centre with plants, and replace concrete with trees. Not only is a green inner-city aesthetically pleasing, but it will also have a cooling effect in the increasingly hot summers, which is of big importance in a changing climate (SDG #13).

An example for the new generation 

There are many ways in which Saskia wants to inspire the new generation. For example, she is working hard to implement a new, circular waste system in the 24 elementary schools of the municipality of Maastricht. It frustrates her to see that, despite attempts of the schools to separate waste, all the waste often gets combined when it is picked up by the waste company. This gives the children a wrong impression of recycling, and it also leads to a gigantic landfill. Together with colleagues from different political parties, she is working on a programme that should allow the municipality to pick up waste in an efficient way. This way, the waste will not get combined and thus, recycling is possible. However, Saskia sometimes struggles to get things done. This is partly to blame on strict rules and regulations, and also on her limited mandate as a city council member. Fortunately, though, she is not one to give up easily.

Very small, and also very big 

An example of her perseverance concerns the water points in the city, an initiative of Saskia. There are poles placed in several locations in Maastricht where people can get clean water for free. This seems fairly easy, however, it took her almost a year of talking to stakeholders and creating a detailed plan before the first pole was placed. These water points ensure a great decrease in the use of plastic water bottles (SDG #12), and also provide clean water for everyone in the city (SDG #3 and #6). ‘A water point is such a small and simple thing, but to me, it means a lot, it is actually very big’ she says proudly.

Change starts with you

Saskia is sure that our children will only be able to live on this planet in the future, if we put an enormous effort into fighting climate change. How? It is simple. Our society is driven by consumption, but Saskia does not believe that makes us happy. She rarely buys new things. When she needs something, she first asks her neighbours if she can borrow it. Or she makes things herself, whether it’s laundry detergent, bags, clothes, or toys from her children. The most important thing to her is showing her children the importance of living a sustainable life. Instead of going to H&M or Zara, she takes her daughter shopping in the closet of her cousins or her friends’ daughters. And her son? ‘He joined the climate strike last year, they even wrote about him in the newspaper!’

The new generation 

In many ways, Saskia tries to be a role model, whether this is for her children or her coworkers. But, she finds, we still have a long way to go. Her passions and ambitions sometimes clash with bureaucracy or misunderstanding from others. She is sure that the solution for this can be found in cooperation between generations. The older generation is often the ones in power; they should actively try to make better, more sustainable choices. A new culture of young activists can help by making their voices heard. Because, Saskia says, they are the future, and only with their help we can make sure the sustainable development goals will not only be goals, but reality.

Interview: Fleur Leijte

Pictures: Fleur Leijte

Design: Linda Vecvagare

Local Goal Getter Arthur Bribosia: striving to the commitment of Maastricht for Climate

Local Goal Getter Arthur Bribosia: striving to the commitment of Maastricht for Climate

Spurred on by the global climate protests, our Local Goal Getter of today, Arthur Bribosia, together with other students, founded “Students for Climate” in the spring of 2019. This group was later renamed “Maastricht for Climate” to promote the inclusion of the Maastricht population. His connection with nature clearly came forward in his choice of place to conduct the interview. He mainly spoke to us in a coop with chickens that are adopted by families from the neighbourhood. Arthur has just graduated from UCM and is the winner of the UM student award 2020. This week he started working in the “Green Office” of UM. He said that as a young scout leader he was already very passionate about nature and sustainability. He was, among other things, at the base of “waste-free camps” and has promoted the use of local products. Although he supports the content of the 17 sustainable development goals, he is somewhat sceptical about these labels that often get bogged down to “marketing labels” or “buzzwords” of large companies. He emphasized the essential importance of putting action above words in the struggle for sustainability.

Not just climate marches

Although Arthur is best known as the organizer of the local climate demonstrations with “Maastricht for Climate” (SDG#13), this group has quickly grown into a larger organization with different focus points. For example, they have set up a research team that aims to build up more fundamental knowledge about the various sustainability themes. Another team has set up a dialogue with UM, urging the introduction of education in the field of climate and social justice. Finally, they have drawn up a sustainability guide that gives the population concrete guidelines for living a more sustainable life.

Action over theory

This prominent pursuit of action over theory becomes clear when reading the sustainability guide that you can access on the website “maastrichtforclimate.nl”. As a reader, we get a clear overview of the impact of our daily life on the climate. In addition to explaining the consequences of our consumption behaviour, practical guidelines are also given for improving sustainability. In doing so, the link is made to many local initiatives and shops that make a concrete contribution to this. We can catalogue this initiative under the sustainability label of quality education (SDG#4), where the informative aspect is directly linked to the practical implementation. Another initiative of knowledge transfer takes the form of online lectures offered by “Maastricht for Climate”. On May 11th there will be a lecture on making homes and buildings sustainable and on May 25th they will close the academic year with a lecture “Inform and involve the people”.
Finally, the initiative of a webinar series for a sustainable Maastricht is also covered by SDG#4. These webinar series share the insights and concerns of experts, citizens and activists who are then passed on to local politicians. Every 3 months they enter into direct dialogue with Gert Jan Krabbendam, the local alderman for the energy transition. In this positive and constructive way, Arthur wants to actively participate with his team in building the bridge between theory and practice.

Collaborations with the people

Because the pursuit of sustainability concerns us all, our Local Goal Getter affirms the importance of partnerships with all kinds of organizations pursuing similar goals. (SDG#17). For example, they work together with organizations such as ‘Precious Plastic Maastricht’, ‘Milieudefensie Maastricht’, ‘Climate Action Network Maastricht’ and ‘Fossil Free Maastricht’. Arthur has set up an entire Maastricht climate coalition with like-minded organizations. These partnerships have grown from the realization that as a nation, people must take the lead together in the increased pressure towards a more sustainable and social world. The climate coalition has drawn up a package of eight requirements, ranging from the use of free public transport to the prohibition of the use of single-use plastic. The total package of requirements can be found on the above-mentioned website.

Activate to redefine our lives

As a student of Belgian nationality, Arthur finds a great challenge in putting pressure on local policymakers. In the short term, his greatest wish is to make the underlying team of “Maastricht for Climate” stronger and bigger with clear responsibility and an unwavering commitment. In the long term, he wishes that all of us will redefine the meaning of life and free ourselves from our contemporary world characterized by individualism, oppression and materialistic consumerism. He realizes that this is a long-term process. That is precisely why it is vital that we as citizens continue to fight for it.

I feel extremely grateful for the commitment, inspiration and strength of young people like Arthur. He belongs to a passionate and intelligent generation of young people who are the driving force behind the necessary changes in our current society. He promotes activism over fatalism. Thanks to these activists, citizens and businesses will be constantly reminded to abolish common unsustainable practices in favour of building a better world.

Text: Anna Hermans

Photos, editing: Jennifer Timmermans

Design: Linda Vecvagare

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

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.


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

Local Goal Getter Roger Haan: interior architect with an eye for sustainability in an environmentally damaging sector

Local Goal Getter Roger Haan: interior architect with an eye for sustainability in an environmentally damaging sector

Our guest today, Roger Haan from the interior architecture firm InterAlter, expresses sustainability in all his words and deeds. This makes him stand out in a sector characterized by the intensive use of environmentally harmful goods and practices. In his actions he revolves against the suffocating feeling that we are more and more encased in plastic hermetically sealed buildings.

Fast fashion in interior

The company InterAlter, which is located in a beautiful historic building in the center of Valkenburg, exists for five years. During that time, our Local Goal Getter has gone through a steep learning curve in the field of sustainability. By leading several renovation projects, he came to the conclusion that the construction sector was responsible for a massive mountain of waste. Based on changing needs and changing fashion trends, he was confronted with assignments to replace one interior after another. The scrapped materials turned out to be hardly recoverable or recyclable. In the hotel sector, for example, the average life of a hotel interior is only 7 years. In an era in which sustainability is inevitable and is the point of discussion in many media and professional literature, he has thoroughly changed his vision and approach to interior architecture. In addition to the aesthetic, he focuses on the use of ecologically sound materials.

Biodegradable material

Because everything in our society is so temporary, Roger strives as much as possible to use materials that are easily degradable, biodegradable or easy to “clean up”. To make the alternatives visible and tangible, InterAlter is building a material library. Every material included in the collection must meet four conditions. First of all, it should cause as little damage to the world as possible. Subsequently, the production process of the material must meet humanitarian requirements. For example, it is investigated whether child labour or severely underpaid manpower is involved. Locally mined and/or produced materials are a third criterion for winning a place in the library. Affordability is a final condition for selection. By predefining these criteria, a number of SDGs are pursued: in particular, the pursuit of fair work (# 8) and responsible consumption and production (# 12).

Materials in the InterAlter library

Roger said that only a quarter of the total material arsenal survived this critical selection procedure. For example, they have to eliminate a floor tile made from shells. Although the product looked very natural at first sight, the substances used to compress the shells into a tile turned out to be toxic. On the other hand, he showed us some samples of a material that looked very artificial at first sight. But the basic raw material for these samples was recycled household waste and therefore, it fits perfectly in the library. Cardboard has also been able to conquer a place in the material collection in many sizes and shapes. For example, Roger and the InterAlter team have created a pop-up shop for shoes based on cardboard. Because a pop-up shop is by definition of a temporary nature, the maximum limitation of the waste mountain during the demolition was essential. The cardboard boxes stacked sideways served both as shelves on which to display shoes and at the same time as walls to compartmentalize the retail space. When the shop was closed, the waste mass was reduced to a minimum. Another sustainable material that Roger showed us was local Ardennes pine.

Well-being and health

The conversation with Roger showed that the pursuit of well-being and health is also close to his heart (SDG#3). In daily practice, he notices that consumers do not think critically about products that are offered on our Western market. For example, PVC floors are now very hip and also cheap. On the other hand, these PVC floors do not turn out to be as harmless as one suspects. The plasticizers that ensure that these tiles do not break are poisonous and these toxic substances are gradually released after installation. Roger emphasizes that as an interior architect he will inform the customer about this, but that the final decision always rests with the consumer.

Challenging search

Our Local Goal Getter admits that it is a great challenge to always present cheap and ecologically sound alternatives. After all, we live in a super-fast consumer society where every year innumerable new materials are offered whose intrinsic qualities nor the impact on the environment are known. Another challenge lies in construction regulations. The insulation standards are very high, but Styrofoam, the basic material of this insulation is extremely harmful to the environment. Regarding this, Roger is actively looking for alternatives as well, for example in the form of rockwool or even wool of Limburg sheep.


Roger also started creating a blog and podcasts. He is an erudite person and he wants to share his insights and have critical conversations with colleagues and material experts in order to share his knowledge with the world. This is in line with SDG#4, namely quality education in the form of knowledge dissemination. The professional association of Dutch interior architects (BNI) supports and sponsors this initiative. Partnerships are of fundamental importance in this complex world (SDG#17). For example, for a specific assignment relating to the ecological renovation of an eatery, he set up a partnership with a brainstorm team. That team was staffed by students with all kinds of different specialties who could provide advice in those areas in which he himself fell short.

An architect who looks beyond today

Rogers’ biggest dream is to be able to keep his ecological footprint to a minimum with every remodelling project. He is very self-relativizing because he emphasizes that he is more and more aware of the fact that he does not know much as he delves into matter. But he is ambitious and passionate and continues to brave the tide. He has a heart for his work, his customers and Mother Earth. He is open to communication and is very eager to learn and understand the needs of the customer. In short, he seems like an ideal consultant and designer to include in a renovation project, especially for a clientele that looks beyond today.

Text: Anna Hermans

Photos: Séverine Louf

Editing and Design: Jennifer Timmermans, Linda Vecvagare & Lars Wingerath

Local Goal Getter Marjon Heutmekers: nature as a mirror for sustainability

Local Goal Getter Marjon Heutmekers: nature as a mirror for sustainability

This week we are giving the floor to Marjon Heutmekers, the woman behind the local initiative “Olijfgroen.com”. Her personality can be summed up as decisive and creative, inspiring and optimistic. Nature is the primary source of inspiration for all her activities. In order to protect and make Mother Earth more sustainable, Marjon emphasizes the importance of the underlying motivation to lead people to behavioural change. Therefore, with each concept she tries to trigger us to take action for the benefit of the environment and the world in which we live.

Sustainability from nature

Marjon attended training in “Facility Management” and then broadened her horizons through the Erasmus program of “Corporate Social Responsibility”. During our conversation, she introduced us to the concept of “bio-mimicry”. That is the art and science that studies strategies from nature and uses them as inspiration to solve problems in our human society. She works as an independent consultant in the field of sustainability at local municipalities and companies.


It is not the lack of money or technology that stands in the way of sustainable development. That’s all there. What we need are superpowers like “trust, guts, cooperation and love”. From the idea that trees have superpowers, the concept of “boumkracht” arose. Marjon sells posters and cards on her website in exchange for planting a tree. The content and layout of these posters are unique. Each poster contains a poetic message about those superpowers, illustrated in the Limburg language by the trees themselves. In this original way, our Local Goal Getter makes a clear statement that she is carrying out this initiative with and for the local community. Since trees benefit our health, make the communities more sustainable and improve life on land, she actively contributes to achieving three significant Sustainable Development Goals (#3, #11, #15).

Moreover, Marjon is aware that the results of her actions will be even more meaningful when she collaborates with local partners. For example, for this project, she works together with “Trees for All”, the Utrecht organization that plants trees for individuals and companies, in the Netherlands and abroad. (SDG#17). In the same context, Marjon will develop a poster by the next Christmas period as an alternative to the traditional cutting of numerous Christmas trees. She is currently working on the children’s version of “boumkracht” which she will offer online as well. Beautiful as the gift of birth. With this, a new human life will be directly linked to new life in nature.

Wool concept

Marjon tries to make people think about system errors. We often do things because that’s how they go, not because it is smart or logical. She wants to break this habit. For example, the usage of wool. Because wool has no financial value, hundreds of kilos are burned every year, while wool has so much potential to be used for various purposes. Given the large sheep population in South Limburg, she sees an opportunity to work more sustainably with wool. She wants to increase this awareness with the wool concept. In doing so, she will make a concrete contribution to promoting responsible consumption and production (SDG # 12).

Ceramics concept

The following concept will try to contribute to good health and well-being. (SDG#3). She sees the loss of interpersonal contact in her own environment. She links the all-dominating career hunt to the fact that money in itself has become an end instead of a means to a pleasant life. That “rat race” is being sharpened by the ubiquitous smartphones. She sees that a great deal of attention and time is being devoted to these electronic tools instead of valuable interactive human contact. She has lifted the veil by saying that with ceramics she will directly strive to reduce the overuse of smartphones and support a related social cause. Our interest has already been aroused. How different and calmer the world would look if people succeeded in gradually shifting their attention from a tool to a person.

Princess Carnival

Lastly, our Local Goal Getter and her husband have become the princely couple Carnival. Marjon attaches great importance to the values ​​of carnival and she cherishes the principle of the liberating effect of carnival clothing. At the same time, she took the opportunity to discuss the theme of sustainability during the carnival. For example, they are looking at making party clothing more sustainable (SDG#12).

Sustainability for everyone

The enormous diversity of her initiatives show that Marjon is all-around with her heart in the right place. She succeeds in an accessible and original way to make our disruptive world a little more liveable. Through her actions, she wants to demonstrate that sustainability should not be difficult, but that actively working on sustainability can even lead to a happier life as an individual.

Text: Anna Hermans

Photos: Séverine Louf

Editing and Design: Jennifer Timmermans, Linda Vecvagare & Lars Wingerath