Amsterdam SOEE2570 Fieldtrip
A group of seven staff members and 50 2nd year undergraduate students from our BSc Sustainability and Environmental Management and BA Environment and Business degrees spent the week learning about sustainability in Amsterdam. As part of their programme our students have been putting their research skills into action by conducting their own research projects on three sustainability themes: water management, sustainable transport, and waste management. The fieldtrip was a great chance for our students to apply their classroom knowledge to a real sustainability problem and to gain the experience of conducting their own research. Amsterdam has a city-wide sustainability programme and this gave the students an opportunity to learn how sustainability practice is implemented in a country that operates quite differently to the UK.
After an overnight ferry from Hull to Rotterdam our group filled a bus for a day trip around the Netherlands learning about how land was reclaimed from the sea. The first stop was the Cruquius Museum, which is one of the oldest water pumping stations in the Netherlands. While there, we met with Emeritus Professor Peter van der Werff who helped illustrate some of the unique challenges of managing water in a country that sits predominantly below sea level. We worked off a delicious lunch of traditional Dutch pancakes with a guided walk around the dunes, further illustrating water management and climate change vulnerabilities. The day ended with dinner, when the students got to work with their supervisors on their research plans for the week.
The second day was split into two halves. A number of the groups embarked on an early morning cycle tour of Amsterdam. Not only was this an educational experience about the history and culture of the city, but it gave the students a chance to learn about cycling in a country where bikes are the main form of transport. The rules of the road are very different than in the UK! While the first groups were getting used to their metal steeds, others were learning more about water management on a canal boat trip, seeing sustainable transport first hand on Amsterdam’s extensive tram system or discussing the future of transport in the city with Jupijn Haffmans from De Gezonde Stad. After a brief lunch, the waste management groups ventured to Westpoort for a guided tour of the AEB waste to energy plant guided by Susanna van der Heide.
Over the next two days, the student groups fanned out across the city collecting data through surveys, interviews, and observations for their independent research projects. Research projects spanned a broad range of topics. The waste management groups investigating how improvements in waste segregation by residents could enhance the efficiency of the waste to energy plant and how local businesses might more improve the efficiency of their waste management practices. The sustainable transport groups explored the conflicts between bikes and other road users, such as mopeds, in cycle lanes, and quantified whether recent immigrants to the Netherlands are likely to take up cycling; and the use of bicycles for transport in the food supply network. Finally the water management groups considered the vulnerability of the city to flooding
After two days of continuous data collection everyone looked tired but satisfied and there was a lot of talk of results and findings over our final dinner at a fabulous Middle-Eastern restaurant. A film crew from the University arrived to conduct interviews with staff and students .
On the final day, students were charged with the responsibility of showcasing their research results by leading a guided tour of the city, explaining their research findings and implications at relevant locations. This was a fun alternative to giving a PowerPoint presentation and the students embraced their creative capacities and led some wonderful tours.
It was a fantastic week full of great experiences, plenty of laughs and some excellent research insights. The results of the research conducted in Amsterdam will be written up into consultancy reports that the students submit in May. The reports will provide novel strategies for the Amsterdam region and will identify recommendations of how the Economic Board can improve sustainability in the three key areas of water management, waste to energy, and transport.
During the trip we tweeted our experiences using the hashtags #soee2570amsterdam and #bestfieldtripever if you would like to have a look at some of the things we got up to!