Nightclubs hear the sustainability music

Rico Gagliano Jul 6, 2007

Nightclubs hear the sustainability music

Rico Gagliano Jul 6, 2007


Scott Jagow: Tomorrow is Live Earth, the day of rock concerts organized by Al Gore. It’s designed to get young people interested in global warming. In the Netherlands, some young artists and entrepreneurs have already gotten the message. Rico Gagliano takes us to Rotterdam, the country’s nightclub capital.

Rico Gagliano: One Friday afternoon, at a Rotterdam nightclub called Worm, I meet Mike van Gaasbeek. He’s, well, I’ll let him tell you.

Mike van Gaasbeek: I’m “chef de ping-ping” from Worm.

Rico: You’re “chef de ping-ping?”

Mike:“Ping-ping” is money. If you drop money it sounds like “ping-ping-ping.” Coins.

In other words, he’s Worm’s CFO. Mike, and the artist collective who run Worm, did not drop a lot of coins on building the club, though. And here’s why:

van Gaasbeek: This was all built, 80 to 90 percent, with recycled materials.

While a Dutch indie rock band sound checks, Mike shows me around. The club’s toilets are made of old oil barrels. The door handles are re-used bike handlebars. Even the ventilation pipes were salvaged from a demolished office building.

van Gaasbeek: We spent 300 euro per square meter. Normally you spend 1,500 euros a square meter.

But the idea wasn’t just to save money. Worm is Rotterdam’s most vivid example of an idea called “sustainable clubbing”— night spots minimizing waste and energy use.

Michel Smit works for a startup company called De Sustainable Dance Club.

Michel Smit: An average club uses 150 times the energy that a normal family of three people uses a year. If you look at water, it’s 170 times. If you add those things up, there’s a lot to gain in clubbing.

Michel’s goal: to open a Rotterdam club that uses every energy-saving resource available, including the clubgoers themselves. Michel rolls a video describing a dance floor that turns dancing into power.

[ Video: Certain materials produce electricity when squeezed. So a dance floor can become one big generator. ]

Mike: We’ve called it “harvest your energy.” With the electricity-generating dancefloor, we’re trying to use that power that you’ve got to power the lights.

Rico: I guess my question is: If you’ve got a club that’s even partially powered by dancers, what happens if the DJ really sucks, and nobody wants to dance?

Mike: (laughs) Yeah, that’s a lost night; you should go home.

Meanwhile, back at Worm, a band called Pourquoi Me Reveiller rocks a crowd of 100 people. Some might not know or care the club’s walls are made of recycled real estate signs. But Mike van Gaasbeek, chef de ping-ping, doesn’t mind. The only thing that bugs him is calling the signs “recycled.”

van Gaasbeek: It’s actually “upcycled” because it’s having a better life. It was in a dull office building, and now it’s in a cool club.

In Rotterdam, I’m Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

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