Time to see Sustainable Development in action!
On Monday morning, getting up with the sun, the group boarded the coach that was to become their home for the next two days. Itineraries were handed out, detailing the upcoming visits, and so the journey began to the first stop, the village of Bollewick.
The mayor was to be our tour guide around what appeared, from the outside, to be a beautiful, large barn. Once inside, we learnt that there was a great community-oriented, sustainable story to the barn…
Having been hailed as a ‘miracle’ when first built in 1881, the barn has been transformed through use by small-scale farmers, cooperative ownership and finally its adaptation to working with the free market. Now, visitors have the chance to see production in action, with a transparent approach to using local produce to create sellable products, local people can hold events here e.g. weddings, theatre productions & markets, and visitors can make use of the hotel created inside.
Remarkably, this locally driven project has been supported by the small surrounding population of only 370 people, with the ultimate goal to create a self sufficient building and environment.
‘ARGE Bioenergie Bollewick Gbr’, a local energy group, helps to collaborate green technology with nearby villages, having already completed 2 farm biogas plants, 1 district heating grid & solar panels on public buildings.
The group then travelled down the road to another project, an Organic Pig Farm. After dressing in overalls to help maintain the pig’s healthy environment, the group was herded onto a truck, to then be pulled by a tractor around the spacious farm. We were given a guided tour by one of only two workers on the farm, who explained that to her, organic meant more space, organic food, alternative veterinary treatment & only antibiotics when needed and to who needs them.
The group were impressed by the measures taken here to create a sustainable environment, not least the music and entertainment provided to help relax the pigs…
The final visit was to highlight the economic situation in this area, a visit to a teaching and training college. Despite being a great college, with numerous resources e.g. training in stone, metal, electric and timber, the demand in the area was too low to make this project sustainable. We were told that certain departments may have to close, as young people, specifically women, move to urban areas for employment, education and social possibilities. (The college was also able to discuss with us their woodchip fired heating system, and their mobile solar panel, that moves itself according to where the sun is!)
The group proceeded to their accommodation for the night, a beautiful house in Karnitz, owned and built by KMGNE, a partner company in this programme. Our day was summed up by Dr. Adolphi, who highlighted the importance of local for certain elements e.g. food, energy, services, and relayed to us the importance of the force of the vote and the consumer in making changes. We were treated to dinner from a very musical chef, followed by a night walk, to get us ready for sleep.
Our second day began with a visit to Fritz-Greve-Gymnasium, an exemplary school in the field of sustainability. The group were invited to hear from students and teachers involved in their projects, the results of which have gained them 3 stars in the eco-school programme. The presentation prompted many questions from the group, keen to learn how a school could foster the enthusiasm and organisation needed to make it successful. Projects such as school gardening classes and waterbird counts, led by an experienced ranger, were of particular interest.
A long drive followed, to take us to our final stop – SolarZentrum in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania.
Here we were welcomed into another large house, this one having been built to nurture the practical implementation of sustainability. It is an Energy+house – it creates surplus energy by the green systems it has put in place. The potential is here to create 8x more energy than is needed for the locals nearby, bringing with it a profit for the area.
The idea began planning in 1990, and now aims to provide information, demonstration, education, investment, operation and production in the sustainability sector.
Facilities include solar water tanks, a very efficient greenhouse, windows designed to leave little need for electricity and a glass barrier around the North and East sides of the house, to limit the effects of cold winds on their heating requirements. The group were impressed by Dr. Schmidt’s enthusiasmand forward thinking approach to this house. It was clear that he had many plans for the future, to continue the good work already achieved.
N.B. In discussing costs, Dr Schmidt told us that the facility had cost less than the construction of 1km of highway in Germany…. the group definitely left feeling excited at the possibilities in their own countries. As Alfonso from Mexico explained, if such great work could be done with such little sunshine here in Germany, imagine the energy that could be harnessed in Mexico!
The group got back onto the bus, and headed back towards Berlin. It was so refreshing to see Change Agents in their natural habitats, sharing what was important to them, and giving hope to the participants that, despite any obstacles which may appear, great things are still possible.