As the spring weather gets warmer, the parks and streets in Amsterdam become greener and our moods get brighter. Many links have been made between exposure to green spaces and enhanced well being. People who experience daily doses of nature are proven to be happier, more generous and healthier. Green neighbourhoods are also seen to be safer and enhance community cohesion. Green spaces in cities also have multiple environmental benefits. Greenery attracts biodiversity, filters air pollution, reduces air temperature and helps with water retention. With this long list of benefits, it makes sense why the most livable cities are usually bursting with green. The best urban areas have diverse green spaces on all scales, from large immersive parks all the way down to little hints of nature on every street. Amsterdam has many spaces, diverse in size and function, where we can get our regular doses of nature.
Pot plant gardens and wild flowers
Amsterdam may not have many large front lawns or extensive gardens, but the creative sidewalk gardens and hints of green that pop up wildly provide constant exposure to small-scale flowers and greenery within the dense built environment. These random hints brighten up and add personality to the sidewalks, and makes streets feel cozy and warm.
Greenery on tram tracks
Many tram tracks in Amsterdam are covered in greenery, which has a number of benefits. The green vegetation is much more attractive than asphalt, and it reduces the loud grinding tram track sounds. These green spaces can be created in dense areas that do not necessarily have room for large-scale natural spaces. Greenery on tram tracks also helps water retention and provides a habitat for insects.
There are a number of fantastic parks in Amsterdam, from the famous Vondelpark to the quieter Westerpark in the west and Park Frankendael in the east. The parks in the city range in size and vegetation. One great aspect of many parks in Amsterdam is the frequency that they are used as thoroughfares for bike commutes. One can make use of the parks scattered through the city and get a daily dose of green whether it is a part of one’s commute, a place to read a book and listen to the birds, or spot to jog.
On one of the largest natural spots near Amsterdam, Amsterdam Bos, allows one to fully immerse themselves in nature. Forty-five minutes away from the city centre by bike, the Amsterdam Bos was designed in the 1920s with many trees, waterways, forest, grasslands and open water. This is the perfect place to get lost in a forest of green and let the positive mental effects of nature do its thing.
Taste Before You Waste is an Amsterdam-based organization that works to raise awareness and reduce food waste. Over 250kg of food is collected from supermarkets and grocers that would otherwise be thrown away each week. They redistribute this food to local charities and also use the food to host a dinner every Wednesday at De Meevaart in Amsterdam Oost. A three-course meal is served between 6pm and 8pm. There is often excess food up for grabs at the end of the dinner too, so you leave happy, full, and with some extra veggies and bread your next night’s dinner.
De Ceuvel is Amsterdam’s clean-tech playground, and its Café works to be as closed-loop as possible. The kitchen team experiments with the produce they collect, with the goal to cook with the most ecological, local and nutritious food they can get their hands on. As well as a multiple course “Farm to Table” meal, De Ceuvel also offers a “Dumpster Dish” – a simple meal made of market veggies that were saved before going into the dumpster.
De Peper is a not-for-profit café that is run on a volunteer basis open on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 7pm. The set menu changes daily, but is consistently vegan, organic, and delicious. It is located in the lively OT301, a legalized squat that always has something going on – whether it is a movie night, live band or theatrical performance. Although not entirely focused on using saved food from supermarkets, the meals are pay-what-you-can with a suggested donation amount, because De Peper believes that everyone should be able to afford healthy, nutritious meals.
It is estimated that at least 5% of fruits and vegetables are thrown away because of their imperfect looks, and Kromkommer is a product line of ready-made soups that are made from these weird shaped veggies that supermarkets do not sell. The first official soups were put on the shelves in the spring of 2014. Selling their different soups at over fifty stores within the Netherlands, Kromkommer (a play on words between crooked and cucumber) is helping combat unnecessary produce waste, one delicious soup at a time.
As mentioned in a previous post [for Sustainable Amsterdam], Instock is a restaurant in Amsterdam Oost (with a second, takeaway location in De Pijp) that transforms unwanted food from Albert Heijn into creative and delicious meals. Of the daily food that is served, 90% of it would have otherwise been thrown away, with the remaining 10% essentials such as spices and olive oil. The founders met while working at Albert Heijn and are committed to tackling food waste.