World's First Off-Grid ReGen Village Will Be Completely Self-Sufficient Producing Its Own Power and Food
ReGen Villages, a completely self-sufficient village that can power and feed itself, is rising across Europe—and hopefully, one day, around the world.
A sustainable development in The Netherlands generates its own energy and food. Photo credit: EFFEKT
ReGen Villages Holding, B.V., a visionary real estate development company founded by entrepreneur and developer James Ehrlich, is piloting its first 100 homes across 15,500-square-meters in the planned city of Almere in The Netherlands with construction set for this summer. The company is also developing four other eco-villages in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Germany and has partnered with Copenhagen-based architectural firm EFFEKT as the global architectural framework company.
The village features a slew of already-existing green technologies such as energy-positive homes, mixed renewable energy sources, energy storage, organic food production, vertical farming, and aquaponics, water management and waste-to-resource systems. ReGen itself stands for "regenerative," an apt name for a village that aims to have its input and output entirely full circle.
"Today we spend 40 percent of the surface of our continents producing food," EFFEKT co-founder Sinus Lynge explained to DW. "Food production is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, the biggest driver of deforestation and responsible for 70 percent of our global freshwater consumption. We ship our food from one end of the world to another just to waste 30 percent of the total production before consumption."
The village's pre-fabricated homes are enveloped in a glass shell to protect the building from area's cold and wet climate. The units also include passive heating and cooling systems, built-in solar panels, a garden and water collection. Household waste can be composted or converted into biogas.
ReGen homes are encased in glass to protect itself from the elements. Now thats truly a greenhouse. Photo credit: EFFEKT
As for food production, the village will host aquaponic and vertical farms. Both urban farming methods require much less space compared to traditional farming methods, meaning they have minimal impact on the surrounding area's forests and fields and will help preserve its natural beauty.
Public areas in the village also include electric car stations, space for livestock, communal dining and community centers.
"ReGen Villages is all about applied technology," the company points out on its website. "Already existing technologies are simply being applied into an integrated community design, providing clean energy, water and food right off the doorstep. ReGen Villages adds not only environmental and financial value, but also social value, by creating a framework for empowering families and developing a sense of community, where people become part of a shared local eco-system: reconnecting people with nature and consumption with production."
According to Gizmag, funding for villages has come from investors who have been looking to divest from fossil fuels "into impact and knowledge-based investments." The company is also working with national and local municipalities that support the project.
On-site vertical farms produce hyperlocal organic food. Photo credit: EFFEKT
Lynge told DW that if all goes to plan, the first ReGen Village is just the beginning. "We are launching our prototype in Almere, Holland, but the big potential for ReGen lies in developing countries, where billions are moving away from rural communities in search of better living conditions," he said.
Ehrlich explained, "We tackle the first two hardest climate areas [wet and cold]. Then from there we have global scale—rural India, sub-Saharan Africa, where we know that the population is going to increase and also be moving to the middle class. If everybody in India and Africa wants the same kind of suburbs that we've been building so far, the planet's not going to make it."
The off-grid neighborhood is comprised of power positive homes, food production units, renewable energy facilities, water management and waste-to-resource systems, and community areas. Photo credit: EFFEKT
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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