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Metabolic Monthly: Science-based targets, nitrogen solutions, sustainable food trends

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Turning science into action in companies and cities

The last quarter of the year always seems to be the most hectic as we finalize running projects and start lining up our ambitions for the coming year. For us, it has been great to see the culmination of the past months of hard work in the formal launch of Metabolic Institute, which took place in mid-October. The Institute brings us a whole new toolkit and approach, complementing the work that we have been doing in our consultancy.

Working at the intersection of applied research and real-world experimentation, the Institute will be our vehicle for accelerating the adoption of the important insights being generated in academia through open, collaborative pilots. An example of this is our upcoming Food-E project, through which we are part of an EU consortium focused on scaling up urban food production systems. We’ll be building, operating, and disseminating knowledge about our urban aquaponics production facility and trying out exciting new automation features for nutrient recycling and plant management.

In addition to such applied projects, the Institute will spearhead many of our research efforts in analyzing the carrying capacity of our planet and developing methodologies for companies and cities to stay within the Planetary Boundaries. We have long been engaged in developing methods for setting Science Based Targets, through our extended collaboration with WWF and some of the pilot work we have done with companies. We’re also pleased to share with you this month a handy, short guide on how to approach setting Science Based Targets within your own organization.

I hope you enjoy the latest news and insights from our partners and ecosystem. Till next time.

Metabolic News & Insights

Metabolic Institute launches into an open-data approach to sustainability

This month marked the public launch of the Metabolic Institute, a non-profit think tank working at the intersection of academic research and real-world experimentation. In close collaboration with Metabolic, the Institute will tackle critical questions on how to build a regenerative economy guided by the planetary boundaries.

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Solutions for the nitrogen emissions crisis

Nitrogen emissions too often fly under the radar as an environmental problem, but a recent clampdown has sparked debate across the Netherlands. Our industries team lead Pieter van Exter crunches the numbers on whether nitrogen emissions are largely generated by farming or construction, and proposes a way out of the crisis drawing on circular solutions.

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Sustainable food and beverage trends: a world hungry for change in 2020

Plant-based diets, regenerative agriculture, Amazon deforestation, and the impact of cacao: there’s so much to keep track of across the sustainable food and beverage sectors, and so many solutions are ready to go. To mark World Food Day, our agrifood systems consultant Brian Shaw casts his eye across what’s trending this year – and what’s likely to be in store for 2020.

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Key Concept Explained

Science-based targets

To create a truly sustainable economy, organizations need to set specific goals to operate within planetary limits. Best known for climate action, science-based targets are being developed to help organizations reduce impacts across the interrelated planetary systems we cannot afford to undermine; from the nitrogen in our soil we need to grow food, to avoidance of toxic entities.

In order to be able to set and implement science-based targets, we need tools for identifying the critical boundaries in the Earth system, determining how much “impact” the dynamic system is capable of absorbing, and then fairly distributing this impact “budget” among participating actors. With WWF we’ve developed an eight-step process for organizations to get started.

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Project in the Spotlight: REFLOW

Metabolic Institute is working on this project, spanning 3 years and 6 European cities, to explore how key material flows such as plastics, textiles, organic waste, and construction materials move through urban landscapes. Once these flows are clearly mapped and their environmental hotspots understood, circular innovations and strategies will be developed to reconfigure them, and strengthen the participating cities’ regenerative capacities.

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Metabolic in the News

4 ways your company can build systems-based solutions for a sustainable future
Eva Gladek recommends a few ways your business can use a systems approach to build solutions for a sustainable future. (THNK)

Zijn er genoeg metalen voor de productie van elektrische auto’s? A Dutch language story on the report that we have produced with Copper8 and University of Leiden, exploring whether we have enough critical metals to produce the volume of electric cars we are predicting with the energy transition. (Duurzaambedrijfsleven)

Circular economy provides opportunities for businesses to be resource-efficient: Story on the CleanEnviro Summit in Singapore, highlighting the country’s focus on zero waste, and which featured Hareld van den Brink on behalf of Metabolic Asia. (FuturArc)

Coming up…

Amsterdam International Water Week: From 4-8 Nov, Amsterdam is celebrating Amsterdam International Water Week (AIWW), a global movement committed to a future in which a circular and sustainable water environment is achieved. We’ll be giving a tour of De Ceuvel, and sharing circular water solutions.

Disruptive Innovation Festival: On 11 Nov, we’ll be joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s DIF Festival to discuss the role of bio-based materials in our circular future, and some of the important pitfalls we need to watch out for.

Smart City Expo World Congress: On 20 Nov, our Cities Program Lead Tamara Streefland, will join city experts in Barcelona to talk about building circular cities through innovate waste management and closing resource loops in urban areas.

WasteBuild: On 5-6 Dec, we’re talking circular construction with the world’s leading architects, engineers, designers and technologists at the RAI in Amsterdam. Email us on info@metabolic.nl if you’re interested in receiving a discount code to attend!

For email updates on the latest in sustainable thinking, subscribe to Metabolic Monthly here.

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