Garden of Eternity – the Future of Feeding Cities Locally and Circularly

Today’s cities are not fed locally. In the Netherlands, tomatoes are imported from countries like Spain, while locally grown tomatoes are shipped abroad. A growing challenge in urban development, is the prospect of feeding and greening the megacities of the future.

This challenge was tackled during the national hackathon circular economy in February 2021. A team consisting of three students from The Hague University and two students from Inholland University came up with the winning idea: The Garden of Eternity. Students Sharon Wijngaarden and Lea Alzanuerova (European Studies) and Bram van der Smagt (Spatial Development) reflect on the potential of their idea.

The Garden, The Challenges, and The Opportunities

 A garden that achieves diversity in food; made of a greenhouse in the centre that grows food year-round, surrounded by an open garden that greens the city and allows the growth of seasonal food, such as pears in autumn, and strawberries in June. This is the vision of the garden of eternity, the supermarket of the future where cities are fed locally.  

The concept of the Garden of Eternity is based on a polycentric model, where multiple gardens are present, fully integrating into cities, and locals visit regularly. This not only has a positive impact in terms of sustainability and circularity but can improve both the physical and mental health of locals. There is even the potential to improve the temperature in cities, and lower CO2 emissions from transport and packaging.  

This idea does not come without challenges; cities are packed and dense. The Hague, for example, has no room to expand beyond the boundaries of the municipality, so everything is getting denser and higher. It would not be circular to demolish buildings to make space for urban gardens, therefore, a balance has to be found. It is difficult to find green spaces in cities, as they are usually on the outskirts. The challenge then is in finding a big and green enough space to design the layout of this ambitious project.

Opening doors

The national circular economy hackathon was just the beginning for the students. The team will continue to collaborate for twenty weeks on a larger project, where Lea will work on researching plastics with Tiemen Klos, another Spatial Development student. Sharon will study food waste streams, and Bram will look at non-edible organic waste streams and what can be done with them.

Their task is to map material flows to and from the Waddinxveen and Greenport West-Holland region – a major food production area in the Netherlands. The aim is to contribute to the objectives of the different parties united in the project. For Waddinxveen, this contributes to the objective of having 50% closed cycles and 50% reuse of raw materials by 2025. For entrepreneurs within Greenport, this project contributes to preparing for continued production within a society that increasingly demands more attention for circularity. Entrepreneurs can also be given opportunities to create value by valorising residual flows, developing new business models, or reducing costs.

Participating in the circular economy hackathon allowed the team to meet new people, learn new things, and gain more in-depth insight on the circular economy as a starting point for the larger project at hand. For the team, winning the national circular economy hackathon means that they are starting their project off with some name recognition, opportunities for professional development, networking, and some confidence for a strong start to their internship.

“We would like to work towards a greener and sustainable world after this internship. Moreover, we would like to learn how to apply our knowledge of the circular economy to an interesting, complex and innovative region.” – Greenport West-Holland Team