According to transition theories, successful transitions require behavioural changes, for which society as a whole needs to be addressed. Those lifestyle changes, in turn, depend on acute citizen awareness of the issue in question. With the development of their residential district “New South”, the Belgian city of Antwerp proves to be in line with those theories and illustrates an innovative approach for engaging its citizens.
With their project “Circular South”, Antwerp aims at turning its waste/materials, water and energy streams circular, applying a community-driven approach of two dimensions. Online, smart technologies will be used to raise awareness about consumption and encourage circular lifestyles. The block-chain technology, for instance, will allow for a so-called rewarding and exchange system which is expected to decrease consumption. The personal dashboard is also of interest. It will display real-time data-flows of water, waste bin and energy meters and will allow citizens to comprehend their flows. Finally, a local energy cooperative complements this online kit in facilitating experiments with smart energy exchange – energy from renewable sources, of course. This Circular South Energy Cooperative offers 80 citizens the opportunity to experiment with exchange within a collective energy system.
Additionally, the New South district will provide several offline opportunities for citizens to create their own circular economy while reducing the common resource footprint. Numerous events and activities are foreseen to take place in the community centre, enabling participants to share and exchange knowledge, experiences, skills, as well as ideas with respect to reusing materials. The centre aims to convince 4,500 participants while attracting 6,000 visitors a year. Inventive actions regarding sharing, repairing and reusing will be encouraged through creative incentives. Collective waste challenges, group purchases and sharing commons are activities, which will be promoted within the community and are expected to foster the social environment for community-buy-ins.
The city of Antwerp, signatory of the Covenant of Mayors since 2009, demonstrates the necessity of engaging citizens in urban planning. With its Circular South project, it forms part of the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. The project, which is considered to result in a first urban district for achieving collective circular outcomes with great citizen engagement, is expected to have major impacts on water, waste and energy consumption. The combination of the online toolkit on one hand, and the offline initiatives on the other hand, offers the community the possibility to establish its own circular economy.
For more information on the project, follow the link.