An aged salty Gouda and a peppery Zinfandel pair well together, like Sea Level Rise and Dutch Hydrological Engineering, or Dutch Skunk and Stroopwafels.  Welcome to my seventh blog about three of my passions, event planning, sustainability, and fine food and beverages. 

As you may have guessed, this blog takes us to Amsterdam. But before we dive into some heady conversation, let’s hop on our Yellow Bikes, and ride over to The Get Down To It cafe near the Leidseplein, so you can steep in a little Amsterdam coffeeshop culture.

Bolbewoners, Herman Makkink

“Bolbewoners” – Herman Makkink, found at Westergasfabriek Culture Park

If you have a high degree of anxiety about the state of world events, you may prefer a high CBD strain such as Lavender Kush CBD, or Somari CBD. If you want a more buzzy or energetic experience, try the high THC 24K Gold or Kosher Kush, both 50/50 sativa/indica blends. I’ll refrain. Sadly, it’s always been a one-sided romance. I’m entranced by the aroma and oily, crunchy texture. I’m delighted by the crafty art of rolling. I’ve been moved by the ritual of sharing and tacit communion with others who question the status quo…

But the effect is wasted on me. Today I’ll hang with a friend I can be myself with, a rich and thirst-quenching dark blonde IPA from Brouwerij ‘t IJ, one of the many outstanding microbreweries inundating this town in recent years.

Settled in? Here’s a question – have you ever really thought about the The Commons?  Quite a construct if you think about. The commons are things we have a fundamental right to share, like clean air, water, and land.  We all have a responsibility to protect them, so we all may enjoy them. We, the users, are all in this together.

Dancing houses on the Amstel River.

Dancing houses on the Amstel River. The houses were built on stilts and have tilted over time.

The Dutch have been into sustaining the commons for hundreds of years. Well before the electric motor, the first hydrological engineers of Amsterdam designed a wind-powered and gravity-based system of canals and catch basins to regulate water levels; preventing flooding and allowing for boat passage. For centuries, the Netherlands has claimed land from the sea, using windmills and other engineering know-how to pump water out of low-lying coastal marshes. Today, with sea level rise a major concern around the globe, many urban planners in flood prone areas are looking to the Dutch for their expertise. 

Amsterdam made creating a bicycle-friendly infrastructure a priority in the 1970’s, and today the city boasts 2.5 bicycles per capita. Getting to work or school by bike is the norm, creating a greener city and healthier population. Could a green event planner get any more excited about a location?

Amsterdam RAI

The team at the Amsterdam RAI makes sustainable event planning easy

Yes she can. Our conference took place at The Amsterdam RAI convention center. From a sustainability standpoint, The RAI is at the top of their game.

  • The RAI has achieved a 100% recycling rate, meaning all waste is diverted from landfills. We were able to recycle all our green conference signage and catering waste.
  • The RAI donated our leftover food and other conference materials to organizations who need them.
  • The RAI complies with ISO-9001 (quality), ISO-14001 (environmental) standards, and recently received ISO-20121 and OHSAS-18001 certificates.
  • The RAI earned the Sustainability Award at the 22th Association of Exhibition Organisers Excellence Awards. 

We were in excellent hands with the RAI event services staff. Edith Van Driel in particular was our rock and our rock star, and our team still talks about her with love in their hearts and fondness for her wicked sense of humor. If she ever doesn’t want to work in events, she would be an excellent delivery room nurse.

The event we produced at The RAI was an Open Source tech conference. What is Open Source? It is akin to the idea of the commons. Open Source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.( Wikipedia is a great example of an open source project. How can it be so comprehensively broad, deep, remarkably up to date and relevant? Because it’s created by us, the users, a global community of volunteers who contribute and monitor the content.

Open Source projects and open source software tools are critical part of analyzing complex systemic issues like climate change. Today there are many open source projects in the Netherlands addressing environmental issues, such as the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register and the Coastal Water Simulation – both curated by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. These projects collect data in a way only made possible by the collaboration of a wide, open network of individuals and organizations. 

Like open source projects, most large scale events take a village to produce. Here’s a couple shout outs to some folks who made our green event possible.

Ecodrukkers – experts in green printing, did a fantastic work printing our program guide.

Air Nightclub Pig

Air Nightclub, Rembrandt Square

Daan Van de Kamp – formerly with ITB Holland – did a süper job showing us an array of special event venues, including Air nightclub at Rembrandt Square, Jimmy Woo bar, The Heineken Experience and The Harbor Club. Most interesting is the Westergasfabriek, a former industrial brownbelt complex recently transformed into a greenbelt cultural park with many restaurants and event spaces.

Speaking of restaurants, are you getting hungry about now? Let’s pedal over to La Perla in the Jordaan, where you will enjoy the best pizza in your life, the one with the wood-fired crispy thin crust, the one you will still be talking about, like me, years from now.

Until next time – Proost!


Ams IMG_3096_Amsterdam_VanGogh Museum copy

Wheatfield with Crows, Van Gogh, (Detail)