Occupation: Sustainability Consultant
Length of time in Amsterdam: 4 months
What brought you to Amsterdam?
I studied in Germany for nine months and then came to the Netherlands to visit. I didn’t want to leave, so I got my Masters at the University of Groningen before finding an internship with Metabolic.
Tell us about your work
I work as part of the consulting team on several projects, coming up with new ideas and pitches. What’s really exciting is that what we’re doing is going to have an impact. It’s progressive. We look at things in a really holistic and systematic way. There’s nothing specific about what we do. We have the knowledge about how to build and develop sustainable technologies, urban areas and business models while also having the technical expertise and capabilities to bring them to fruition. De Ceuvel is a prime example. Metabolic came up with the ideas on how the park could be largely self-sufficient in regards to resources and then we were able to realise those ideas. Since we have this open way of thinking, people hire us. Every time we come up with an idea and present it, people are excited. There’s a lot of future in what we do.
What would you like your near future to look like?
I hope I can continue on this path. My internship ends in January and there is talk of continuing but nothing is finalised because I’d have to get a new visa. I would like to stay in this field of innovative urban planning and strategies.
How is Amsterdam impacting your field?
Amsterdam has always been ahead of the times. This city has a really big future in being a guide for how a city should be organised and planned. What other cities need to be doing Amsterdam already does. The cycling infrastructure is huge and done well. Also, the Netherlands adopted planning practices from the beginning that are only now being promoted elsewhere – like delineating between urban and natural areas. And if you look at villages here on a map, there is a distinctive line where the village ends and nature starts. And that’s how urban planners think today. But if you look at other cities around the world, they’re just not set up like that. It’s inspiring, especially when combined with the polders and dykes, how the Dutch fought the sea back.
In what way would you like to see Amsterdam change?
I would love to see Amsterdam become a smart city, which means integrating smart technologies into the entire environment so the city would be able to function better. One example here would be buildings that can sense the utility usage and could also utilise what’s called preventative maintenance; they could sense that something’s about to go wrong before it actually goes wrong. It’s upgrading current technology with newer technology. That’s already happening in a lot of places. I’d like to see Amsterdam be a leader. The Netherlands has a high potential for the integration of smart grids, electrical grids that have sensors to regulate output based on demand. Because it’s a really dense country, there’s not a lot of space between the major cities and the infrastructure is already well organised, they could have a nationwide smart grid in a reasonable amount of time with minimal cost.
Lastly, there needs to be a European Silicon Valley. It doesn’t exist yet. Amsterdam, because it’s already a tourist attraction, draws in a lot of people. One of the things I think the city should focus on is attracting these kinds of companies. By implementing the smart grid technologies, they could easily draw them in. Europe is missing a hub for these companies. There are a few cities looking to do this, but right now it’s mainly Berlin, Paris and London. Amsterdam should be it.
What has networking as an international been like?
I’ve gone to a few meet-ups in Amsterdam and everywhere I’ve gone, people have been really accommodating in bridging the language barrier. It’s so much different than in Groningen, where at these meet-ups it’s 95% Dutch; I felt like an outsider. I don’t find networking difficult here.
"Amsterdam has always been ahead of the times. This city has a really big future in being a guide for how a city should be organised and planned."
What’s your mode of transport?
Where could we find you on a weekend night?
Here, in Cafe De Ceuvel, especially in the summer, is amazing. There is good music, good DJs, and a lot of people enjoying it all.
If you had a friend visiting next week, what are a few things you wouldn’t let them leave without seeing?
Go get lost somewhere. Just start walking. It’s one of the best cities to do that.
Are there any stereotypes of the city that you’ve found to be true?
That riding a bike here can be dangerous. I’ve had two accidents already, one with a car and one with another bike. It’s important to point out that neither was my fault. If my mom is reading this, then I wear a helmet when I cycle. And elbow pads!
Anything you can’t find here but can’t live without?
Good fried chicken. I’m from the South. I love fried chicken. But I guess I’ve replaced it with kebab and other European junk foods.
Amsterdam is a city of characters. Who’s the quirkiest person you’ve encountered?
There’s a man who lives near me who wears a suit made completely from duct tape. He’s a mystery man. It’s a quirky city, so there are a lot of quirky people around.
Close your eyes and picture home. Where is that?
Home is, honestly, still in the mountains in North Carolina, in Boone. It’s where I got my dog. Hiking up to a waterfall with my dog is home to me. I never would have pictured myself being happy somewhere like the Netherlands because it’s so flat, but I am. It’s just not home yet.