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Cleantech Innovations in Freiburg Germany

June 28, 2023 Presentation with Oekogeno’s Thomas Baver

Today I started the day bright and early, going out for a morning walk around the city of Freiburg. The streets were quiet and vendors for the farmer’s market were beginning to set up their booths outside the Freiburg Minister. It was a good thing I didn’t bring my wallet with me because I would have ended up spending all my money on all the fresh goods they were selling. Once I got back to the hotel, I enjoyed a nice hotel breakfast with the other Burch students. Although I have been eating the same food for breakfast for the past two weeks, the Nutella pancakes never fail to satisfy my appetite!

Our first task for the day consisted of a presentation with EWS Schönau, a German company that specializes in renewable energy and works as an independent energy supplier in a town known as Schönau. The speaker, Dr. Eva Stegen, gave an amazing presentation on the foundation of the company and how the citizens of Schönau took control of their city’s electricity grid and power supply from regional monopolies. Today they have their own solar technologies and wind farms and are engaged in their district heating. One of the things I thought was really cool was that they have a community solar financing system where EWS Schönau works with local banks, financial institutions, and government programs to help communities access affordable solar panel installations. Once the presentation came to an end, we were given a 15-minute break where I made myself a nice cup of green tea. The next presentation was given by Thomas Baver, a representative from Oekogeno Cooperative. Oekogeno primarily focuses on developing projects related to social and inclusive living as well as regenerative energies. Members of the cooperative can invest and loan their money into projects that they are specifically interested in, and it was stated that each project collects about 2-3 million euros (that’s a lot of money!!!). Baver explained a variety of different projects Oekogeno has worked on, many of which have involved the construction of communal living spaces. One particular project that stood out to me was one in Vauban, Freiburg which involved creating a communal space that included people with special needs. Oekogeno works to enable the participation of people with mental and physical disabilities which I think is an amazing concept!

After our final presentation for the morning, we were given some time to shop for lunches. A group of us went to the Rewe center, which I would say is the German version of Whole Foods. The store was huge and there was so much to choose from. I was tempted to buy this delicious-looking mousse cup from the bakery section but ended up going with a katsu chicken rice bowl (probably the healthier option). We took our food back to the hotel and ate out on the terrace. The food was delicious, and I cannot tell you how much I missed having rice!

Once we were finished, we hopped on the bus with our guide Steffan and went over to our next company visit with IKA Werke. IKA Werke is a family-run company that specializes in laboratory and analytical equipment. Fun fact, one of their distribution partners is located in Wilmington, NC! One of the coolest parts of this visit was their equipment lab. I would describe this experience as a laboratory carnival! There was so much cool software equipment including mixers, stirrers, homogenizers, and more. My favorite was these stir plate cubes that could magnetically connect with each other and share electricity with one another only using a single USB cord. This equipment was definitely not the kind you would find in Morehead Labs! After the company tour, they offered us a snack break with lots of delightful pastries.

Snack break after IKA Werke tour
Snack break after IKA Werke tour

Our last stop was an organic farm called Luzernenhof. Luzernenhof is part of a CSA project which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it involves a partnership between farmers and consumers, where consumers invest in the farm and receive a share of the produce in return. The farm was huge as it owned about 100 acres of land and had an amazing view of the mountain range. Our group got a close-up experience with the farm’s dairy cows. The cows didn’t seem to mind the company as we wandered through their large green pastures. The number one rule was: don’t step in the cow patties!! Luzernenhof practices regenerative agriculture where they rotate cows on land used for growing crops. The cows will inhabit the land for 5 years and the vegetables for 2 years. After our tour, we got to visit their produce shop which was filled with so many goodies. Of course, I couldn’t leave empty-handed! One other person and I decided to split a small basket of the farm’s freshly picked strawberries. We both agreed that these were the BEST strawberries that we had ever eaten!! I don’t think I will be able to go back to strawberries from the grocery store.

Dairy Cows at Luzernenhof Farm
Dairy Cows at Luzernenhof Farm

After our long day, we finally returned back to the hotel where we said our final goodbyes to Steffen before leaving for the Netherlands. I truly appreciate everything he has done for us on this trip and will miss him dearly when we leave Freiburg! That concludes today’s blog, and I cannot wait to see what these next few weeks have in store for us!

About the Author

This article was written by Mia Iwakura ’25, Majoring in Environmental Science QES B.S.