Our monthly SDG Meetups are a collaboration with SDG House and C-Change. For each Meetup, we focus on one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) and invite entrepreneurs, innovators and knowledge partners to share lessons learned from working toward that specific goal.

For our second Meetup, we dove into SDG #11: Sustainable Cities & Communities. Rapid urbanisation and related issues, such as adequate housing and public spaces, air pollution and emissions, are some of the biggest challenges of 21st century cities. Urban environments account for about 75% of global CO2 emissions, with buildings as one of the biggest contributors. And the combined effects of urbanisation and climate change can lead to flooding and droughts. So we asked De Gezonde Stad and ROEF to share how they are making Amsterdam more resilient and prepared to take on a modern city’s current and future sustainability challenges.

Transforming the city’s most polluting area into Amsterdam’s largest park
Jank Henk Tigelaar, Project Manager at De Gezonde Stad, shared how they are working together with Amsterdam’s communities to build a more sustainable and resilient city by creating more green spaces, which absorb rainfall, keep temperatures lower, and bring local communities together. With increasingly hot summers, green rooftops can lower inside temperatures by up to 8 °C! One of their projects is transforming the Knowledge Mile – one of the city’s most polluting areas – into a park. Together with a community of 60K students, 30K residents and 200+ businesses, they find creative ways to make the built-up area greener. Think green rooftops, turning unused spaces into parks, and creating green façades by growing climbing plants on a building’s outer walls.

Creating a rooftop landscape one festival at a time
ROEF Collective’s Jesse Jörg explained how green rooftops contribute to biodiversity, air quality, and accessibility of public spaces in an increasingly crowded city. But 98% of Amsterdam’s rooftops are uncultivated, which adds up to 25 times the size of the Vondelpark! That’s why Jesse and his team use creative ways to raise awareness of the potential of the city’s roofs, including their annual rooftop festival – this year held on 19 different roofs across the city. Through themed expeditions they illustrate interesting architecture, sustainable innovations and surprising ways in which rooftops can be used (like recreating a dune landscape). These are just a couple of examples of their events, through which ROEF show rooftops as a part of a bigger landscape and encourage people to find new uses for them.

Generating audience insights & solutions for SDG #11
After being inspired by the speakers’ work toward achieving this SDG by 2030, the audience broke out into groups to brainstorm about their own initiatives and ideas. One group explored the creation of portable solar panels for apartments without roof access, with the potential to sell power back to the grid to make it more financially attractive. Other topics included tackling food and plastic waste in the city. Solutions ranged from a food-sharing platform and awareness campaign at one of the city’s universities, to rain ponchos for tourists made from recycled plastic to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic. Many voiced a new appreciation for the role of community in making cities more sustainable and committed to working together with neighbours to create more green spaces – on rooftops and at street-level.

Want more? Join us on 20 October for our next SDG Meetup, during which we’ll explore SDG #3: Good Health & Well-Being with Philips, Amref Flying Doctors and Legbank.