8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns (下)

“If we can get experts out of their silos and to understand the broad scope of what needs to be done, we can create cities that are multi-functional areas with the capacity to address their own needs.”                                                                                 —– Jeb Brugmann

Jeb Brugmann,

Founder of ICLEI and Managing Partner of the Next Practice Ltd.

  • Cities today are largely under-developed and we should work on engaging communities under circular economy principles.
  • New partnership is needed for innovation and its up-scaling in order to increase cities’ value.

“What’s scalable is what’s gonna win…”

  • The current effort on urban development is too specialized (“Healthy City”, “Eco City”, “Just City”, “Green City”…). We need to move out of these silos and to understand the broader scope, combine the practices and create scalable business cases to close the gap between ambitions and desired impact.  
  • “Urban productivity”: creating conditions for new economic value through optimization of urban assets, systems, places & communities

I found the speech very impressive. Mr. Brugmann proposed new concepts from an economic and systematic perspective that are clear and refreshing. Besides, he obviously had put a lot of effort on communication: from the well executed oral presentation to the visually pleasing and on-point slides which really helped conveying his ideas.

Mobile workshop-Añana Salt Valley

The program provided 9 interesting mobile workshops to choose from. From what I heard later from other delegates, most workshops showcased great sustainability work done on the city level. The one I attended was a bit different, in the sense of scale.

I got a tour to a 6000 year old salt mine. The very knowledgeable tour guide told a fascinating story of the history of the Añana Salt Valley. We learned about the geographical formation of the salt mine, operations of artisan salt production, its decline because of industrialization and recent revival thanks to increased awareness for culture preservation.


I had a fun discovery of circular economy principle in real life practice. The floor of the salt basins evolved from clay, to concrete to ceramic tiles. The use of cement was from the industrialization period and created a lot of issues because of its non-flexibility. Once a small piece broke, the whole floor needs a remake, which obviously cost time, energy and money. The locals recently decided to switch to locally sourced modular ceramic tile flooring so if a small piece broke, they would only need to replace that piece then it’s good as new. It’s a wonderful surprise to find the circular economy principle working not just for commercial products (ie: the example of “block phone”) but also at the least expected places like a recovering salt mine in the valley of Basque Country.


It has been an amazing event and I learned so much from it. And I have to mention another one of my personal favorites, conference facilitator Sally Kneeshaw. Being a moderator for so many panel discussions and juggling so many speakers from various background would have to be very stressful but she was so great at it. She was sharp minded, polite yet firm and has the right amount of humor. Just the perfect picture of a strong professional woman I would like to become.

I also came across her empowering advice to young women of today:


“…they should follow their hearts, pursue the subjects and activities that they love, whilst keeping an open mind, and choose options that open rather than close doors to them in future. It is highly likely that their career paths will include some bumps and unexpected turns along the way. They will inevitably face hurdles, and the best way to overcome them is to develop self-belief, good support structures, and the courage to not allow the possibility of failure to stop them from going for it and taking risks in the first place. I also recommended Lean In, the book by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, full of useful advice to women, encouraging them to be ambitious, and to be careful not to worry about things, like work-life balance, before they need to.”

Thanks for all the great inspirations!

To catch up on Day 1 8th European Conference on Sustainable Cities & Towns (上)

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