What to do in corona-times with… Joan Kramer

In times of #socialdistancing, we’d like to introduce you to all those people at the wharf. We’ve asked them for their Monday motivation and how they’re getting through these unusual times. This week: Joan Kramer from the geWoonboot.

Born and raised in the northeast of the country, Joan Kramer later moved to Amsterdam where she became one of the owners of the geWoonboot after having worked at the NDSM for a few years. The geWoonboot is a unique, environmentally friendly meeting and training location where companies come for an inspiring session or training. Sustainability is central, both in the technology and construction of the boat itself as the business and the inspiring story of Joan and her partner Jan.

Hi Joan. The boat has been here for more than a decade, can you tell us something about it?

The boat was built in 2006 by a housing corporation deltaWonen in Zwolle. This was before the banking crisis and this housing corporation was doing well at the time and was very focused on sustainability. They wanted to develop a sustainable housing product of the future and ended up with a sustainable houseboat. This idea was born with the depletion of fossil fuels in mind and the fact that 25 percent of our land consists of water and we don’t really use it to live on. At that time, the vision was autarchy, which was considered very sustainable. Now there is more knowledge about energy sharing and smart grids, but then it was mainly about being able to provide everything yourself: water purification, generating energy, heating. As a result of the crisis, the vision with regard to sustainability was somewhat less high on the agenda at deltaWonen and eventually, at the hands of Pauline Westendorp, the boat was taken over by De Key in Amsterdam and moored at the NDSM shipyard.

Together with Eva de Klerk, Paulien Westerdorp was developing the Art City in the shed in a sustainable way, and with her foundation Opgevokt.nu she wanted to organise a sustainability exhibition at the shipyard to introduce people to sustainability and renewable energy. Paulien and her foundation used the boat for a number of years as a knowledge centre for sustainability. She has done this until 2011 and there Jan and I both worked for her foundation and so the ball started rolling.

What sustainable techniques do you use on the geWoonboot?

On the boat, there are solar panels of which the power is stored in batteries and which can be used to operate all appliances and lighting using inverters. The rainwater is collected on the green roof and stored in an IBC tank. With this rainwater we flush the toilet. It is a very closed system and that is made in such a way that you can turn that water into drinking water with UV filters, but we have disconnected that for safety reasons.

We also get the heating from the IJ so we are completely off the gas. There is a heat exchanger here in the water, so we use a bit of energy from the water in the IJ and at 1.50 deep it is always a constant temperature. The temperature doesn’t fluctuate with the seasons, so that basic heat is used by the heat pump together with electricity from the batteries to heat the whole floor of the boat. Drinking water has been coming from the shore for a year now.

And how did you end up on the NDSM yourself?

It’s funny because I ended up on the NDSM by accident. I had been here once or twice, at Over het IJ and at Noorderlicht, but I didn’t know the geWoonboot at all. At the time, I had been freelancing for two years and I had no projects at all. A friend of mine worked at a boat brokerage office in the city and he asked me if I wanted to come and work as a flex worker in his office. They already got a lot of calls and requests for Queen’s Day in January. I kept myself occupied with that, which went very well. I needed boats for rent and eventually got in touch with Jan Huisman. I called him and he had two boats that I could rent. These I eventually rented from him and so I ended up on the geWoonboot, because he was the caretaker and there we could board. That was very nice and it clicked right away. Only after Queen’s Day it became clear to me that Jan was still single, he can tell you how it went.

And one thing led to another.

And now we’ve been together since 2010. So it started here. Then Paulien quit the Foundation and I could take over. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about sustainability, and I had no experience with education programs and applying for subsidies. But Jan and I both come from an entrepreneurial family and we can provide services. That’s where the meeting location was born. Our division of roles is that, together with a number of freelancers, I take care of the sustainability and rental programming and Jan takes care of the technical side.

A true team! The last few months it’s been a bit quieter here. What has kept you occupied?

In the beginning, the first two weeks of that corona period, we only got calls with cancellations. That was a bit of a switch, and not such a nice period because we saw all the confirmations in the diary evaporate at once. But when the storm subsided I enjoyed the silence here on the shipyard and I was there every day. I started with my own vegetable gardens and also with the yard gardens I tipped my friends on. I am a country girl in the city and I actually miss my green; the forest, nature. That’s why, when there was room, I started to do some vegetable gardening.

The peace and quiet is nice too! Have you also had the time to read a good book?

Yes! I came into contact with Ilona Buddingh Maas before the crisis. She wrote a very interesting book called ‘Start with sustainability’. She regularly gave training courses on board to people who want to make a switch and integrate sustainability into their working lives. I was too busy for before corona, but since I had more time after that I started a 10-week course with her to get my own sustainability vision sharp, to form it well and to keep it very close to myself. I want to sharpen that vision, because it is important that when you want to make a contribution to society or to your environment in the field of sustainability, you know what your part in it is. Which piece are you going to take? If you know about yourself, understand what inspires and motivates you, you can keep that up in the long run. If everyone in a cooperation knows what his or her piece is, you can achieve it together. And this on the basis of equality. That is where I want to go; to make the world a bit more beautiful and greener.

How do you see the future of sustainability at the wharf?

What I would like to see with this radical greening on the shipyard, is more things happening on the water. We can see if we can start working with food supply and in particular including salty vegetables that can grow on the brackish soil that is here. In addition, unfortunately we can’t just take a few stelcon plates out of the ground to plant shrubs and trees there because it’s polluted soil. So we have to think together how we can do this in a different way. It would be very nice if we could have some kind of lab here where we could make things ourselves with green building materials. We could even make works of art from very weird biological building materials, just to show that we can already do it and what is possible.

Sounds like you’ve been able to keep yourself busy! Is there anything you missed?

Dancing! Yes, dancing, laughing and weekends away with friends. I also miss the NDSM-ers you meet at the yard, it was so quiet. Especially the meetings with the community here and exchanging ideas!

So you love to dance, do you also have special music that you’ve played a lot lately?

I love dance and disco with a groove. Before the corona I went to a concert of Underworld. That’s very 90s, but I loved that! What’s also nice is that Jan makes me discover a lot of new music. I’ve made a playlist myself with, among other things, music that I discovered because of him and it’s called “Once Upon a Mancave”. There’s also music from the band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Do you also think you have come to a certain realization that is central in this day and age?

I want to go deeper, and by that I also mean on the road to simplicity. Only then do you really become aware of the impact you make as a person on your environment (environment and people) based on the way you live, what you do.

 So being more aware of your actions?

Yes, but I already was. It would be nicer if it would be a bit simpler and a bit clearer. More focus on quality rather than quantity. I notice it’s important to get closer to myself. What exactly do I want? What am I good at? What do I want to convey? What positive things do I want to add to this world? That was my reflection.

Nice thought! And finally, what do you expect from post-corona time?

I’ve seen a very interesting Tegenlicht episode about trend watcher Lidewij Edelkoort. That lady always worked for the big fast-fashion companies and she predicts trends that are going to come years ahead. Her interview had stayed on my mind. She talked about the society that comes after corona that is going to be very different than it is now. It will be more about the importance of the community. It’s important that we produce food and share things with small communities much more. Less globalization and more of the local. I also started reading more about how communities (the commons) are doing all over the world. Of course, they all have very different approaches. I find that very interesting, also because we are part of a floating community Schoonschip. I think we are going to look for much more connections with each other. That’s a different movement than some of the people who live in the city in an individualistic and anonymous way and may not even know their own neighbours. The new normal is being on the way to local.

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