Sailing trip brings the circular economy closer to home

The circular economy is the future. At least, if it were up to Esmée Amsen. She will soon be graduating on this sustainability theme. The fourth-year student in Process & Food Technology found a lot of inspiration during a February sailing trip from St Maarten to Amsterdam.

The sailing trip was an initiative by Clean2Antarctica, an organisation committed to the circular economy where we reuse as much as we can. Eighteen millennials from different fields of study were selected and invited to find viable solutions for a concrete case study. They did this during a so-called quest for change over a period of four weeks in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Without any distractions or interruptions whatsoever. Our student Esmée Amsen was keen to participate and passed the selection process. What were her experiences? How did her degree programme help her?

Ultimate vacation trip?

Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean on tall ship de Morgenster. From Philipsburg on St Maarten to Amsterdam. 24 days without any land in sight. 21 days without even spotting a bird. “One day you are swimming in a 5 kilometre deep ocean. The next day you are battling nine metre high waves. It sounds like the ultimate vacation trip. But one with a purpose.

Joining the energy transition

In complete remoteness and isolation, Esmée Amsen and seventeen other students worked on a case study from the Technische Unie, the wholesalers from installers. The assignment was as follows: ‘Think about a way that we can encourage our vendors, such as installers, to participate in the coming energy transition’.


Esmée explains, “People sometimes ask me: why did you have to work on a case study on a boat? Why couldn’t you do this at THUAS? As a THUAS student I went out on a ship with a group of students from other universities of applied sciences. There were no distractions: no social media, no news. Everyone had a different study background. We all contributed from our own perspective. Everyone was also very motivated. In that splendid isolation it’s easy to spend two days brainstorming and then come up with 86 solutions!”

City of the future

The number was then reduced to four solutions that underwent an in-depth analysis and further development. On 6 March the students presented their solutions to the Technische Unie. To stay on theme, the presentations were held at the Maritime Museum.

One solution was to change the service model of the Technische Unie from linear to circular. Another noteworthy solution was the city of the future: a series of houses where installers could use the newest innovations.

Well-developed solution

Esmée explains, “In my study, Process & Food Technology at THUAS, I learned how to think in processes. But an anthropology student approached the case study from a whole other perspective. By combining the various perspectives, you arrive at an incredibly detailed and well-planned solution.”

Making great strides

In the circular economy, waste provides us with resources for new products. Esmée is convinced that the Quest for Change on the Atlantic Ocean has brought the circular economy another step closer. “Once the Technische Unie transitions to circular products, the vendors will follow suit. I’m very motivated to do the same for other companies.”

Plastic ship

Her final paper will also address the circular economy. “I’m researching how to use recycled plastic to build ships. The first plastic ship should be finished in 2026. I hope that we can sail a prototype at Sail Amsterdam 2020. The right companies have to work together for this project to succeed.”

Change starts from within

One of the direct outcomes from the sailing trip is that Esmée, together with two participants, established a company. “We are going to assist other companies in making their business processes more sustainable.”

“I am also trying to create a support base for the circular economy. This hits a lot closer to home than people think. There are many small things we can do. Why do you need to wash your hair every day? Buy shampoo that doesn’t contain plastic. Make sure you separate your waste.”

Change starts at the core. It starts from within. In other words; the change from linear production and consumption to circular begins with you.”