My Quest

The trip to Venlo took about 11 hours – 10 hours on the bus and 1 hour on the train. I left at about 7:30 in the morning and arrived at about 6:30 in the evening. What was surprising to me was that the weather during the whole trip was the same, and I went straight across Germany. But it wasn't until I arrived that it started raining so it didn't give me a chance to see much of the city. I ended up waiting in front of a hotel for my host to pick me up.

That night I got to meet the really nice couple and their adorable 8 month old baby. I didn't end up chatting that much because it was already pretty late and I had that meeting with that guy in the morning who, by the way, wasn't the mayor, my mistake.

My meeting with the guy was set at 10, but he informed me that he would be in another meeting at that time so I would be received by his right hand man who turned out to be a 24 year old grad student. He was really nice and showed me a lot of the current C2C developments in Venlo. He first took me to this “Viewture Room” where they had information about future plans regarding C2C, but all of the information was in Dutch so it wasn't as fruitful as it could have been. The grad student wanted to show me this tool that he had been putting together and luckily there was a projector in the Viewture Room so I ended up having a power point presentation specifically for me.

The tool he designed was a software for architects to help determine how C2C their blueprints were. One would have to input all the relevant information of the planned structure e.g. the dimensions, what direction it's facing, the surroundings etc. It was actually quite enlightening and I can imagine it being very useful in the future.

After that he took me to another info center which was located in the center of the city. It had some more information about the renovations they have planned, but it was again all in Dutch so we didn't end up staying long. After 10 minutes of walking around in the city, we went to meet the guy who turned out to be the coordinator of C2C for Venlo. At first, I was really excited to meet him, I was smiling and being very optimistic, and I even said exactly what I wanted to say. He basically told me that if I wanted to help the C2C movement, I would have to be an entrepreneur; I would have to provide some service and find someone who would be willing to pay for it. That's when my smiles went away. Being an entrepreneur doesn't fit my character so I was saddened to hear his advice. He said that C2C is too early in its development to take on people who sit on the sidelines.

He told me that there was a group of companies that meet every month to figure out ways to implement C2C, but were not being very productive due to some conflicts. He said that they could use someone to help them get their act together obviously implying that it could be something that I could do. Unfortunately, the companies were not meeting during my stay in Venlo so if I were to take his advice, I would have to come back and probably move there before I could start contributing to the movement.

The meeting wasn't all negative, he ended up referring me to a person who organized a group of designers called the QreamTeam. I know, it's a pretty funny name. And although I had the information in my hands, I was reluctant to call him due to my fear of bothering strangers.

The meeting ended at about 1:30 and I went straight back to the house. I sat on the bed and thought for about 5 minutes. I looked at the information I had written down and ultimately made the phone call. The guy wasn't in Venlo at the time so he referred me to his colleague who was. I hung up the phone and immediately called his colleague. To my luck, his colleague picked up the phone and told me that I could come down right now and meet him. So I walked back downtown which took about 15 minutes and met the colleague who was the project leader of the designers. He gave me a really good vibe right when he greeted me.

He then introduced me to a couple of people and took me to a back room where they had a stockpile of random products. He showed me a few products that were C2C certified and then proceeded to explain to me his personal experience with the whole process. It wasn't all positive, but he did believe in the C2C philosophy.

I explained to him in the beginning that I was a person who was very passionate about C2C and who would like to learn as much as I could about it so that I could figure out a way to contribute. He was very informative during the whole meeting, but ultimately couldn't offer me anything which was understandable. However, he did refer me to another person who was a key player for C2C in the Netherlands, but the only thing was that his office was in a different city, Eindhoven. Not surprisingly, I was reluctant to go because of my lack of assertiveness, but I did gather up the strength to call the guy, which was good because it eventually led to my trip to Eindhoven.

A one way ticket to Eindhoven was about 9 euros and it took about 40 minutes to get there. I left the next morning to his office which was located at the International Center for Sustainable Excellence. The ICSE was a newly opened center that exhibited a variety of sustainable products and provided office space for sustainable companies. I'm still not sure exactly what the main purpose of the ICSE was, but it gave me a positive impression.

The guy himself also gave me a good impression; he was really nice, really cheerful. He basically acted as if everything in his life was going smoothly. I told him why I was there and he responded by telling me his personal story with C2C which was a bit long so I don't remember most of it, but through his personal story I could tell that he was a key player in the entire C2C movement. He, in the end, like the last 2 guys, could not offer me anything, but did refer to me another person. He printed out a few sheets of paper full of people in the C2C movement, but told me to contact this one guy who was head of personnel at the Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg. The EPEA does all the materials assessment for C2C in Europe.

After the meeting, I decided to walk around the exhibition to take a look at the products. Most of the information was in Dutch again, but they did display a couple of products that I could touch. As I was reading the description of a product, a random man came up to me and explained what he was doing there. He told me that he founded a business community called City of Tomorrow which basically helps different companies work together to build a sustainable future. He said the mission statement was to place the expiration date of human existence on infinity. He further explained that the community would take a more holistic approach to build a sustainable future. The chat ended shortly because he had some family matters to attend to, but I got his card.

After I checked out all the products, I went straight home and stayed in bed for the rest of the day. The next day was my first and only day to relax. I spent a lot of time contemplating what happened and what my next move should be. I joined the family for a pleasant dinner and got to know them better. At about 9, I went back upstairs and contemplated some more and then went to sleep.

Now that my trip is over, I feel as if I've grown up just a bit more. This trip really pushed my limits and I'm glad it did. I overcame the obstacles easier than I expected and I think I have my experience working on the election to thank for that. I think my next stop will be Hamburg, maybe in a couple of weeks or so.

So it seems that I'm going to stay in Berlin a bit longer, but how much longer, who knows? Now, I have to figure out what the best way is for me to extend my visa.

To conclude, I want to point out that all the people who I spoke to gave me the impression that most of the people in the C2C movement are businessmen and not environmentalists. Even though this isn't inherently a bad thing, I don't think it's ideal. I felt as if I were one of the very few who actually wanted to save the world.