Global warming, CO2 emissions, flooding, drought, the list goes on... The environmental dangers threatening our planet have become more and more extreme. Thankfully, environmental commitments have also increased in tandem. In Luxembourg, a broad range of associations are competing in terms of ingenuity to offer innovative and environmentally responsible projects. We have put together a selection of initiatives in this area which is taking shape across the Grand Duchy.
Äerdschëff: an ode to nature
In 2019, an unusual-looking building arose from the earth in Redange-sur-Attert. For two years, volunteers from across Europe took part in this project, piling up tyres, cans and glass bottles in order to construct a sustainable building. This innovative piece of architecture which looks like a spaceship is called Äerdschëff and belongs to the family of earthships.
The developers behind this project, in particular the Center for Ecological Learning Luxembourg (CELL), were inspired by the American architect Mike Reynolds, a proponent of ecological architecture based on the recycling of materials, who in the 1970s, designed the famous earthships in the desert in New-Mexico.
Äerdschëff is a ground-breaking and sustainable construction project, which delivers innovative solutions in terms of circular design. The structure is self-sufficient and manages its own resources. Its energy needs are sourced via solar panels, rainwater is collected and the heating comes from ventilation systems. Therefore, there is no need to pay extortionate electricity bills or go to the supermarket as the building is self-sufficient in terms of food and energy supply.
The tyres are filled with earth and pilled one on top of the other and become walls. The round shape of these rubber spheres symbolise circularity, however, questions may be raised about its ecological footprint. Nevertheless, the people in charge of the Äerdschëff are able to offer reassurance. The reason they use tyres is that they are the most economical means available and they claim that they are not in contact with the air. Moreover, they do not emit any gas. A study on air quality in 2016 in collaboration with the National Health Laboratory has backed up this claim.
As well as being a sustainable building, the Äerdschëff is mainly an educational space for learning, research and teaching about the circular economy, which offers young people vocational training in the field of renewable energy.
The goal of the workshops is twofold: to teach young people about climate change and inspire them to develop skills and possible solutions to our destructive lifestyle, stated the CELL officials.
The Äerdschëff initiative has received the support of the National Research Fund via the Promoting Science to the Public (PSP) programme.
IAMBAG: the canvas handbag
Protecting the environment and combating waste are issues that have attracted a lot of interest from the Luxembourg City Tourist Office (LCTO). Thanks to their IAMBAG project, the LCTO has filled two needs with one deed.
However, each year, after the events a huge amount of advertising material was left over. In order to ensure that they did not just become cumbersome waste, the LCTO had the idea of giving a second life to these old advertising banners and placards.
As such, the IAMBAG project was born! In cooperation with a communications agency, the tourist office started to make bags from banners and fabrics left over from their events, an initiative that is closely aligned with the spirit of the circular economy.
The shoulder bags and handbags created by this initiative are not only distinguished by their durable and unique material, they also contribute to the social integration of people who have been excluded from the labour market. These products were created by Kielener Atelier de l’ATP a.s.b.l. (Ateliers thérapeutiques et protégés) is an association which works with people with mental illness.
If you like original accessories and want to support a good cause, then the IAMBAG is made for you!
A cup to protect the environment
The best form of waste is that which is not produced! It was, without a doubt, with this idea in mind that the aldermen of the City of Luxembourg created the "Cup2Go" in order to combat "littering". The municipality now offers its citizens the opportunity to use a reusable cup when purchasing a hot drink to take away in town. At present, there are about 50 establishments taking part in this initiative.
The small porcelain cup is practical, waterproof and above all sustainable. As such, customers no longer need to utilise single-use cups and at the same time they reduce waste. Furthermore, shoppers can take advantage of various benefits when purchasing their drinks, such as a discount on the purchase of a hot drink to takeaway or stamps on their loyalty card, or even a small gift, such as a biscuit, cake, etc. To find a establishment taking part in this initiative, check out the interactive map on cup2go.vdl.lu which includes the location, a photo of the business and the reward they offer to their eco-friendly customers or just look out for a "Cup2Go" sticker on the shop window.
The interactive card can also be consulted in cityapp-VDL and via cityshopping.lu.
EcoLabel - promoting sustainable tourism
It is not always easy to find your way through the myriad of labels linked to sustainable tourism. In the Grand Duchy, the EcoLabel is mainly used for tourist establishments and it provides a clear vision of a commitment to sustainable tourism. Its goal is to promote accommodation establishments in Luxembourg which operate in an environment and climate friendly way.
Establishments wishing to showcase their environmentally friendly credentials in this field must satisfy fairly strict criteria. Accommodation facilities that wish to receive the EcoLabel must take measures to save energy, reduce water consumption and waste, which have an impact on reducing environmental pollution. They must also stand out from other establishments on the market by offering a range of fresh, regional, organic and fair trade products. These businesses must also demonstrate their commitment to improving their environmental performance, through better management of waste, cleaning products and methods.
The EcoLabel is mainly awarded to hotels, campsites, youth hostels, group accommodation and rural bed & breakfast establishments. Applications for the label must be submitted to the OekoZenter Lëtzebuerg. The centre carries out an in-depth diagnosis in the fields of energy, water, waste, environmental management and procurement, setting out the criteria achieved and the areas for improvement. This diagnosis allows the application stakeholders to prepare for the certification audit.
If all the criteria are met, the establishment is then awarded the label by the Directorate General of Tourism, in collaboration with the Department of the Environment. Applications for the label are voluntary and may only be submitted by establishments offering overnight accommodation.
The EcoLabel is awarded in the form of a diploma and a plaque which must be displayed where it is clearly visible to customers. It is valid for three years.
Green events or how to organise eco-friendly parties
Whether it is an indoor or outdoor music festival, sports event, fair or exhibition, events for the general public often have an impact on the environment and the climate. These large gatherings consume a lot of energy in terms of heating, cooking or lighting, and the organisers as well as the guests or the public must also travel and eat. Therefore, they produce a lot of waste.
Nevertheless, these events are also the ideal opportunity to raise awareness of environmentally friendly behaviour. With this in mind and with the aim of reducing the ecological footprint of events, the Luxembourg government, in collaboration with the Oekozenter Pafendall a.s.b.l. and SuperDrecksKëscht, launched the "Green Events" project.
The objective of this initiative, which mainly targets associations, municipalities, unions, federations, clubs, as well as regional tourism offices and nature reserves, is to raise awareness of current sustainable development issues while seeking to reduce the negative impact on the environment and inhabitants.
To support the organisers which have adopted a sustainable strategy, the Oekozenter Pafendall a.s.b.l. and SuperDrecksKëscht offer professional assistance in order to deliver a more environmentally friendly event. On the greenevents.lu Internet platform, interested parties can find general information, advice and helpful addresses. Interactive workshops or tailor-made individual consultations provide direct contact with the organisers.
In addition to assistance, a logo is attributed to participants who undertake to organise sustainable and environmentally conscious events, as a reward for their efforts. An organiser who fulfils all the mandatory criteria for a specific event will be awarded the "Green Events" logo and will be eligible for a grant. Organisers who do not meet all of the mandatory criteria, but who satisfy at least half of the criteria, will receive the "Mir engagéieren eis" logo.
Ech kafe clever: the environmentally friendly way to go back to school
Each new school year means an endless list of new school supplies to purchase. It comes with the pleasure of filling a school bag with notebooks, markers, erasers, rulers or correctors in all colours. However, this exercise can also be done in an environmentally responsible manner, by filling a school bag with sustainable, recycled and chemical-free materials. This is where the "Ech kafe clever" initiative comes to the rescue! It helps parents who would like to adopt a greener approach to back-to-school supplies. The aim of this initiative is therefore to support families by offering genuinely ecological and sustainable school supplies.
What makes this initiative unique in Europe is that it also takes health criteria into account. Too often school bags are filled with new, disposable or plastic supplies, and they are also packed with chemicals, such as glues that contains toxic solvents, strong-smelling markers and even pencils that children can put in their mouths. If the products are harmful, the ech kafe clever initiative does not recommend them. However, products that have been tested and found to be non-polluting will be sold with the "Clever akafen" logo.
The "Ech kafe clever" initiative is also expanding into the workplace. All those little items that we use in the office on a daily basis are now getting on the green wagon! These supplies must not only be harmless to the user, but also have no negative impact on the environment. To this end, office equipment has also been included in the "Ech kafe clever" campaign to protect employees' health and uphold environmental standards.
The "Ech kafe clever" campaign was launched up a few years ago by Ëmweltberodung Lëtzebuerg, SuperDrecksKëscht, Greenpeace, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Education.