To Richard Burger, it is a liberation to sit on a bicycle, instead of being stuck behind a wheel in a traffic jam. Like many other people in Amsterdam, he therefore jumps on his bike, when he leaves for work in the morning.
Richard Burger is the founder of Dutch Swapfiets, a so-called bicycle as a service company, which rents out bikes on a monthly basis. The company was founded in 2016 and is today present in nine markets. Scaling to new markets is not, however, on the agenda for Burger at the moment.
“We want to be fully circular by 2025. That means that everything in the production of our bikes should be made from recycled materials or bio-based materials, and that there is no waste in the bike’s life cycle. And with no waste, we mean that nothing will be incinerated or end up in landfills,” Burger says.
Swapfiets will therefore spend the coming years until 2025 on improving the bikes in collaboration with their suppliers. Because even though bikes are already a climate-friendly mode of transport, Burger believes that Swapfiets can do even more to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
“Ultimately, the bike still needs to be produced, which requires resources, and we still throw parts out at the end of the bike’s life cycle. If we can reduce the costs associated with that, we can reduce our carbon footprint even more,” Burger says.
GoBoat sails on electricity
If you have taken a walk by Copenhagen’s canals on a sunny summer day, you are probably familiar with the dark blue boats with the wooden table in the middle. The boats belong to GoBoat, and can be rented on an hourly basis.
“GoBoat is part of the experience economy, and our ultimate goal is to democratize the water so that it becomes accessible to all,” says Eric Ziengs, CMO of GoBoat, and continues:
“We try to create an experience that has as little impact on nature and the environment as possible, and therefore our boats sail on electricity.”
The power that drives the electric motors comes from the solar cells that sit on GoBoat’s pavilion at Islands Brygge. If the sun has not delivered enough power, GoBoat buys electricity from, for example, wind turbines. In addition, the boats are made of sustainable materials, while the pavilion and dock are made of sustainable wood.
“We do not speak loudly about our sustainable initiatives, because in many ways sustainability is more of a means than an end. If we did not take proper care of the water, the experience would be worse and fewer people would sail with us,” Ziengs says.
One of GoBoat’s missions is to instill respect for the water – this also applies to the boat’s smallest passengers. That is why GoBoat has created the concept Garbage Pirate, which equips children with a fishing net they can use to fish garbage out of the water. As a thank you for their efforts, they get a licorice treat when they are back on land.
Drones assist the wind industry
At the moment, Airflight is working hard to test the company’s drones in real life. Once the drones are ready to fly, they will help the wind industry repair and maintain wind turbines by transporting spare parts and tools from land or sea level to the turbine.
It is especially service technicians, who work on offshore wind turbines, who can benefit from the drones, says Mikkel Sørensen, CEO of Airflight.
“The drones can fly spare parts and tools from a boat at sea directly and in a straight line to the wind turbine, as the drone can land on the wind turbine’s helipad. It is much faster than the service technicians having to use the internal lifts and cranes. In the end, we can make the time the technicians spend at the wind turbine more efficient,” Sørensen says.
When the drones are ready in 2023, Airflight will focus on three customer segments in particular: energy companies, wind turbine manufacturers, and service operators. According to Sørensen, energy companies in particular are interested in reducing their CO2 emissions by involving drones in the maintenance.
“The boats and mobile cranes emit a lot of CO2, so if we can use battery-powered drones charged with green power instead, we can save a lot of carbon in the process,” Sørensen says.
Airflights flyvende bil
Airflight started out by wanting to create a flying vessel for passenger transport. It actually went quite well too. The quadcopter, as the vessel is called, went flying with a sandbag in the driver’s seat, which several media outlets reported on in the summer of 2020. But then Airflight was contacted by the wind industry, which had a different vision for the powerful drones. Airflight therefore made a complete turnaround, and the quadcopter project is, at least for now, on hold.
How big is the companies’ impact?
All three companies have incorporated several sustainable initiatives in their solutions. The question then is, how big are the companies’ impact really in terms of carbon footprint?
Richard Burger from Swapfiets points out that 60 percent of the company’s customers change their mobility after buying a Swapfiets subscription. This means that customers either bike more, or walk, drive, or use public transportation less.
“It differs from city to city and country to country in terms of where customers come from. In Milan, Paris and London we see, to a large extent, that our customers have previously used cars or public transport, but that they are now choosing a bike,” Burger says.
GoBoat’s competitors include the canal tour and the red double-decker buses, which sail and drive around Copenhagen on sightseeing tours. However, both are petrol-powered, and it can therefore be argued that GoBoat’s carbon footprint is smaller.
Finally there is Airflight. According to CEO Mikkel Sørensen, the boats, which are mainly used in connection with the maintenance of wind turbines, emit up to 1.8 tonnes of CO2 per hour.
“If we can save an hour in process time, we can save a lot of tons of carbon per drone,” Sørensen says.
Swapfiets’ customers want convenience and flexibility
According to Swapfiets’ founder, Richard Burger, it is better to rent a bike than to own it, as renting is both more convenient and flexible compared to ownership. Included in Swapfiets’ bicycle subscription are both service and insurance, so the help is never far away if the bike gets a flat tire or is stolen. The flexibility comes from the fact that customers can change their subscription to another bike at any time – if your commute gets longer, you can switch to an electric bike.
Green transportation is more than
Swapfiets, GoBoat, and Airflight each show in their own way that green transportation is more than just electric cars. Because if the electric car is not produced responsibly or does not run on electricity from sustainable sources, we have not moved an inch. Sustainability must be included throughout the ecosystem before it has an impact.
At the same time, Swapfiets, GoBoat and Airflight also prove that although transport is often about getting from A to B as quickly as possible, it can also be a way to exercise, have an experience or solve a bigger challenge.