Go for the Unconventional Path

“To make education a force for peace and sustainability in the middle east.”

Humans are known for something: we pursue what we follow, and we achieve it. In this case, EMIS has a very strong mission statement mentioned above. Of course, bringing more than 80 students from than 35 nationalities is in itself an act that is promoting intercultural and international understanding.

This weekend, however, the second part of our mission statement – Sustainability- is being imparted to all EMISERS. I, fortunately, had the luck of participating in workshop about ZwischenZeitZentrale, in which two experts in the field of this organization, shared their knowledge and current practices with us.

At first, on Friday 13th, all students went to the large auditorium in order to get to know our lecturers, and the subjects and topics they will be covering these two days of Sustainability. Daniel Schnier, Paul Stillger, and Lisa Prantaeu were the three lecturers who spoke to us about their occupations, career experiences, and roles performed in their respective organizations.

After this, we proceeded to separate the groups from Fashion and Housing (ZwischenZeitZentrale), the workshop in which I was involved. Daniel and Paul then continued and elaborated on their explanation of what the organization they represent acts upon, what are their goals and practices. To summarize, this team has already expanded from Bremen – the German city in which ZZZ was actually born- to other two cities in Europe, one in Italy and the other in Romania. This is mostly due to the innovative nature of the concept of their organization, which facilitates the temporal use of abandoned public or private buildings or spaces by entrepreneurs and recently-born start-ups, or maybe even by people that want to make an art exhibition.

Although we might not connect immediately our intrinsic and closed concept of sustainability with this idea, ZZZ takes an unconventional (but very practical and even creative) approach to sustainability. It is the temporary use of second hand spaces that would otherwise be completely wasted and most probably demolished with no efficiency level, promoted by ZZZ that associates a lot with a sustainable development. It is important to emphasize that sustainability is a dynamic and diverse concept that might, and should be explored and exploited in as many ways as possible. Furthermore, the organization focuses on the formation of communities in which development can be achieved, in which new ideas can be born and taken care of.

Sustainable practices is not only the acquisition of solar panels for the production of energy from renewable sources, not only recycling bottles of plastic, but why not recycling buildings, and spaces that can be productive, and that after all, if used inappropriately can hurt either society or the environment. In the case of ZZZ, the second hand use of those buildings gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to acquire a physical facility that is economically accessible for the majority of their projects. In this way, economic activity is being fostered and promoted. In this way, entrepreneurs won’t really have to spend most of their capital in real-estate investments just in order to make their project run-on. Environmentally talking, all the energy, man power and resources that would be used in the construction of a new building or space, is saved in doing what ZZZ is currently realizing.

The social benefits are many, from creating jobs to the rehabilitation of the human activity held within an abandoned area. Daniel and Paul told us that despite all their altruistic efforts as an organization, it is left up to the owners of the spaces or buildings in mention to decide upon the future of these. Due to the fact that temporal usage of a building or a space is a very new (innovative) concept, many of those owners aren’t used to the idea of renting temporarily their property. It is because of this that sometimes, buildings after being temporarily used by someone, the owners of those facilities decide to demolish them. Nevertheless, this is not the majority of the cases; instead, most of the time buildings are consecutively reused by new people with new ideas and projects, making those buildings a space for creation and recreation.

If this wouldn’t happen, the efficiency that we as a society have achieved is not as it can or should be. Now, it is left for us as a people, as the youth power of this world, to start adapting to new ideas that take an unconventional approach on current events and global issues that will affect everybody in one way or the other. It is the time for us to promote and support organizations such as the ZZZ, filled up with new ideas, energy and innovation, help them grow and plant a seed of change in every backyard. It is left for us now to awake all those buildings that are sleeping (….zzzzz….), and wake them up for the good of all.

Written by Jose Morales

Edited by Tom Sagiv