17 ideas that make the Dutch sustainability super-heroes

The Dutch are using their creative brain-power to create innovative (and sometimes fun!) solutions to save the climate. 💪🏽🌱

It might surprise some to hear that the Netherlands actually lags behind a bit when compared to similar countries’ climate efforts — ending up as number 11 on World Population Review’s ranking of the world’s most sustainable states. 😅

That means some real action is needed if the Dutchies want to keep up! Thankfully, the Netherlands has a proud tradition of creative innovation — the perfect breeding ground for new, sustainable solutions. 

Here are 17 of the best Dutch ideas to secure a greener future. 

1. Send residents an “Energy Box” to make houses more sustainable

The Dutch municipality of Eindhoven decided that a sustainable lifestyle should be accessible to everyone — regardless of the size of their wallet. 💰 

On top of that, they realised that energy poverty is a massive (growing!) European problem, resulting in as many as local 14,000 households struggling financially because of high energy bills.

photo-of-woman-holding-box
Nice and neat, all in one box! Image: Depositphotos

That’s why they’ve joined the European initiative “Energy Box”. The idea is simple: it’s a box containing tons of smart products designed to make energy-saving easier and more accessible. 

The box contains tools like draft strips, radiator foil, and general tips and tricks for optimizing a household’s energy usage. 🤑

2. Save the bees, one bus stop at a time 

We’ve all heard it — save the bees! Yeah okay, but how?? 

It’s no secret that bees are incredibly important to our ecosystem, but it’s not always easy to understand how we can help save the cute little buzzers. 

Therefore, Rotterdam and Utrecht have turned regular bus stops into flowery green ones — which the bees LOVE! 

photo-of-flower-bus-stop
The bees buzz with joy! Image: Depositphotos

In fact, more than 300 (!) bus stops have been turned into little bee oases, contributing to cleaner air, cute sights, and all-over gezelligheid

READ MORE | Bee-ing happy: how the Netherlands keeps its buzz

Who knows, maybe this little life hack is why there is actually a decent number of bees in the Netherlands? The year 2021 marked a record bee-year — finally some good news on that front. 🐝

3. Ban all single-use plastics

Sure, it’s not exactly a Dutch idea, but the Netherlands has gone joined the trend, and banned all forms of single-use plastic

That means all products (partially) made of plastic that are not sturdy enough to be cleaned and reused cannot be marketed or used anymore. 🍽

photo-of-single-use-plastic
So convenient, but so bad … Image: Depositphotos

If you just started panicking over the fact that you have some cheeky old plastic cups in the back of your cupboard — don’t worry! Private persons, producers, and importers can still use up their stockpiles, so you might still see some plastics here and there for a while.

4. Make solar power super attractive

Sure, the sun might have gotten a bit of a bad rep in the global warming context, but why not use it to our advantage? 

Despite being a land very much dominated by rain and clouds, the Netherlands is also riding the solar power wave (not the Lorde version, the other one). 🌞

READ NEXT | World’s first solar car launched by Dutch startup (with a sky-high price)

For example, within the next seven years, the municipality of Amsterdam wants to be generating 80% of its electricity from renewable sources. 

Several-solar-panels-on-the-roof-of-a-house
We love that solar power! Image: Depositphotos

Among the many measures implemented across the country is a handy little solar panel subsidy, making saving the planet even sexier than it already was. 💅🏽

But there are also tons of other cool solar-ideas popping up everywhere, from parking lots to bus stations, and train stations — all powered by the sun! 

5. Adapt housing to fit the future

You know that saying “everything starts at home”? Well, there is absolutely no shortage of green housing solutions in this (rather over-populated) country! 

For example, in Amersfoort the municipality has established a sustainable housing loan — specifically intended to help people update their houses to more sustainable standards. 🏚

photo-of-houses-with-greenery
Green living, quite literally. Image: Depositphotos

This makes it easy to get financial help to install a heat pump, better insulation, or solar panels. 

Does the word “loan” immediately make you go “ugh boring, can’t be bothered understanding such complicated stuff” (maybe it’s just me)? Don’t worry! Just ask the municipality’s sustainable energy counter — easy peasy. 💁🏽‍♀️🤙🏽

6. Revolutionise the entire food system (at least a bit)

Living up to the Dutch reputation of being innovative and hip, Foodvalley in Wageningen focuses on connecting SMEs and other establishments across the world in their efforts to develop sustainable and healthy food solutions. 

photo-of-new-food-systems
It’s time to think new around our food production system. Image: Depositphotos

The many market failures of today’s globalised food system have inspired this Dutch organisation to coach and mentor sustainable food entrepreneurs, and offer funding and working facilities. 💕

READ MORE | How sustainable are your groceries? Dutch supermarkets flake on sustainability promises

Not everyone has to go vegan, but it’s inspiring to see an organisation from one of the most mass-producing, agriculture-based countries on earth take a step back and analyse our food patterns. 

7. Welcome Dutch farming on city rooftops

This is probably not the first time you hear about rooftop farming, or urban agriculture. But did you know that one of the biggest open-air roof farms in Europe is located in our very own Rotterdam? 

photo-of-Rotterdam-green-roof
Wonderfully green, just above our heads! Image: Depositphotos

Yep. Across 1000m², DakAkker grows fruits, veggies, and flowers — yay for the bees! 🌷

They also make an effort to educate people about what they’re doing, for example, by inviting school kids to learn about urban agriculture and sustainability. 👩🏽‍🔬

8. Make schools green (while teaching the kids too)

Speaking of kids, it’s never too early to start learning about sustainability (as we’re all painfully aware of; we’re running out of time). 

That’s why the municipality of The Hague encourages schools to teach all things green, and provides handy overviews of how schools easily can become more sustainable. 

photo-of-school-child-with-teacher
Education is a key part of securing a green future. Image: Depositphotos

For example, in addition to the mentioned solar panel subsidy, schools (and other institutions and organisations) can get extra cash to build green roofs on their buildings! 

They can also get help measuring their C02 footprint, and heaps of other sustainability-focused initiatives. 

9. Make it (even) easier to bike everywhere

The Netherlands is, famously, the land of bikes. But there’s always room for improvement! 

The municipality of Rotterdam, for example, has admitted their shortcomings and is now really going hard on making the city more bikeable. 🚲

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The land of bikes is always trying to improve. Image: Depositphotos

One way they’re achieving this is by tweaking the traffic lights to turn green more often for cyclists — and they stay green for longer too! Very sneaky, but so smart and simple. 

READ MORE | 7 scenic bike paths in the Netherlands

In many places, the municipality also finances and organises biking lessons for people of all ages, and they help struggling Rotterdammers pay for their bikes — a Dutch initiative if ever there was one.

10. Put car charging points everywhere

“But what if I’m really really super-dependent on a car to survive” we hear you say. Fear not, for the Netherlands wants to make it easy peasy to have an electric car too! 🚗

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Just try not to end up in the canal! Image: Depositphotos

In Amersfoort, they’ve decided that you should never have to walk further than 200-250 metres from your home to find an electric charging point. 

That way, it’ll get harder and harder to argue that driving electric is too much of a hassle, and more people might end up changing their ways (vroom-vroom!). 💨

11. Clean the air the Dutch way: with bikes!

While on the topic of transportation, one of the coolest innovations to come out of the Netherlands over the past few years has to be the Smog Free Bicycle

Photo-of-people-cycling-Amsterdam-the-Netherlands
Bike, and clean the air at the same time? Yes please! Image: Unsplash

The idea is as simple as it is genius: the bike sucks up polluted air as you bike, cleans it, and releases fresh air around the cyclist in return. 

It’s Dutch, it’s green, it’s great. 🚴🏽‍♀️

READ MORE | Dutch innovation: Air-cleaning bicycles to help stop pollution

12. Help companies “greenify” by changing business laws

Sometimes, people just need an extra little push from above to implement more sustainable practices. 

The municipality in the Hague gets it — so they’ve enacted a so-called “energy saving obligation” for all companies that consume above a certain amount of energy (50,000 kWh of electricity, or 25,000 m² of gas) a year. 

photo-of-sustainable-company
All aboard, let’s go green! Image: Depositphotos

The obligation means that companies have to comply with a series of energy-saving measures, and regularly report back to the municipality on their efforts and progress. 

That’s one way of greenifying society — you can even get fined if you don’t comply! 👮🏽‍♀️

13. Ban cars in different parts of cities

So-called milieuzones (low-emission zones) exist in 15 Dutch municipalities, and are designed to improve the air quality of the cities. 

In practice, it means that trucks, coaches, and sometimes diesel cars are banned in certain parts of each city. 🚫

photo-of-car-free-center
Who doesn’t prefer biking to driving anyways? Image: Depositphotos

Where people are allowed to drive all depends on their vehicle’s “emission standard”. If you want to be up to date on where you and your car belong you can check out this neat overview. 🗺

14. Establish circular economy practices

An entrepreneur-hub in an old swimming pool? Yeah, sounds about right. The Netherlands is full of entrepreneurship hubs (like PLNT — the home of DutchReview!), and BlueCity in Rotterdam is one specifically focused on sustainability.  

photo-of-windmills
Renewable energy for the win! Image: Depositphotos

BlueCity brings together lots of people interested in a circular economy, to exchange ideas, inspiration, and expertise. 

With more than 40 circular entrepreneurs, lots of events, the so-called BlueCity Lab, and tons of other things going on, BlueCity is like Disneyland for any sustainability geek. 🌱 

15. Make furniture out of reclaimed plastic 

Have you ever heard of plastic soup? Although it might sound like it, it’s not a children’s toy. It’s billions of kilos of plastic that’s polluting and disturbing the ecology of our oceans. 

Plastic Whale is trying to tackle this issue by cleaning the seas, and using what they find to make new things — like furniture! 🪑 

photo-of-plastic
So. Much. Plastic. Image: Depositphotos

Among their other initiatives is an annual canal clean-up in Amsterdam, which mobilises thousands of people. 💪🏽

16. Catch all that dirty plastic

At the age of just 16, Dutch Boyan Slat started the Ocean Cleanup. They developed a new, super effective plastic-catcher, to clean up the world’s oceans and rivers. 🌊

photo-of-the-ocean-cleanup-removing-plastic-from-the-ocean
Now that’s a big boat. Image: The Ocean Cleanup/Supplied

With a team of over 120 people, plus tons of volunteers, this Dutch startup is definitely making a difference in fighting plastic pollution. It really makes you think about what you achieved at 16, doesn’t it?  

17. Play with kites and generate energy at the same time

Wind and kites are destined to be BFFs, so naturally, it was only a matter of time before kites were to be connected to renewable energy too. 🪁

photo-of-man-with-kite
Two birds with one stone, play and make the world greener! Image: Depositphotos

Kitepower is a hot new Dutch start-up in the Airborne Wind Energy field. And guess what, it deploys 90% less material than a regular wind turbine, with the potential to be twice as effective. Een kite voor mij please!


Do you have any Dutch initiatives to add to our list? Tell us in the comments!

Feature Image:Freepik
Juni Moltubak
Juni Moltubak
Juni moved to the Netherlands after realizing how expensive tuition fees in the UK are, and never regretted her choice of studying in The Hague. After three years of Political Science, she is ready for a new adventure — an internship at DutchReview! When you don’t see her typing on her laptop she can be found strolling around Haagse Bos or sitting in her lovely garden scrolling through interior design TikToks.

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