A few interesting personal things that happened during my experience of attending the Sustainable Cities conference in Bilbao.

Academic notes on the conference see:

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

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

Pre-conference. April 25th, 2016

I’m on my way to Bilbao for the EU sustainable cities and towns conference. Super excited now about the conference, hoping to get the latest insights especially on urban resource consumption to add some weight and relevance to my thesis; and to get a sense of the current focuses and trends in the field of sustainable urbanization.

My journey to Bilbao has been extremely pleasant despite the miserable weather (hail and snow in late April?! Who can still deny climate change…). One reason was my 8 hour planned layover in the Netherlands, which meant that I got to go to Leiden to meet with my fellow Industrial Ecologists from last year’s studies. Always wonderful to catch up with people who are passionate about sustainability in my second home (the Netherlands) and to discuss our hopes and plans (and stress and uncertainties)  at this pivotal time of our lives as young sustainability professionals…

Another fun discovery was KLM’s biofuel program. I have always had a special interest in bio-fuels since my years as a cell biologist so the program caught my attention immediately when I came across it on the KLM plane reading their magazine. Just had a brief look at their website and it seemed that they have a lot of sustainability stories to tell, would have to look more into it later…

Got to Bilbao near midnight, super nice, quiet and clean city, now excited for all the great programs tomorrow!

Notes on the conference, under “conference journal” category.

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

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

Personal favorites:

Day 1 Cocktail reception at Guggenheim Museum

Probably the coolest location for the best networking experience I have ever had. Since the start of the day when I realized the level of this event, I felt a bit intimidated hanging around the mayors, politicians and famous speakers. By the end of the day, I have had a few conversations with people I previously saw as “high power people” and realized that they are actually people, and actually quite nice ones, I felt a lot more relaxed and got to approach them more in this amazing museum with wine and fine food 🙂

You can walk inside these massive steel structures. With the wall leaning inward and outward at various angles, it created a drunk feeling which was quite interesting.

Day 2 Añana Salt Valley

6000+ years old salt mine, which is now in recovery and a great example of sustainable salt production and tourism.


Favorite speakers

Arab hoballah

-UNEP Chief of sustainable lifestyle, cities and industry

He brought a dose of reality and confronted the uncomfortable topic of modern “lifestyle” that I found refreshing.

Jeb Brugmann

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

He brought a perspective from a whole new level which was inspiring; the clarity and professionalism of his presentation set the bar for me.

Sally Kneeshaw

 -Conference facilitator, has her own consultancy focusing on cities

She was a great facilitator with a clear mind, as well as polite but firm manners when moderating various speakers on stage. Found her blog and really resonated her 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.”

Being exactly at a pivotal point of life when I am trying to figure out a career while many friends are starting to get married and start families, this is really a dose of courage to go after what matters to me.

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