23 May 2019
THUAS graduate Yvette Watson makes a difference with the circular economy
Saving the world and making a difference. That is the common thread in the life of Yvette Watson. “As a child I was very active making banners for GreenPeace.” The THUAS graduate founded her own company PHI Factory and was recently nominated as the runner up for the de ABN AMRO Sustainable 50, ‘the yearly thermometer for sustainability in the construction and real estate sector in the Netherlands’. “We can dig holes on Mars. We can operate through our veins. So shouldn’t we be able to fix the climate problem?!”
Living on borrowed times
“We are heading towards an unsustainable world. A world in which we can no longer live the way we do today. That is hard to comprehend, but in the next 50 years our quality of life will greatly deteriorate.”
“Worldwide we need 1.7 times the globe to meet our annual needs for resources. But to live according to Dutch standards we would even need 3.6 times the globe. Environmentally we are living on borrowed times.”
About toasters and grandfathers
“The other day I tried to get my toaster repaired. But it was impossible. Too complicated, too expensive. It’s easier and cheaper to buy a new product and just throw out the old appliance.”
“Somehow our system doesn’t make sense. We are taxing labour but not the resources. We are losing a great deal of value that way. And I am not only talking about environmental value, but also about social values. I want to live in a society where we reward people for taking care of their grandfather or neighbour.”
Is there hope?
“Fortunately we also live in an inspiring time. A time in which we don’t need to resort to warm sweaters and turning down the heater. This is a time in which environmental awareness and a trendy and innovative lifestyle go hand in hand. An approach in which everyone can make an effective contribution to a healthier world. Individually we may take small baby steps, but together we can make a giant leap forward towards a new world.”
What kind of step do you want to take?
“In 2016 my partner Geerke Versteeg and I founded our own company, PHI Factory. We help organisations speed up the process to operate a circular business. We work in the real estate sector, but I have very little affinity with bricks and mortar.”
“My story is about how to use the building, how to operate it and how to manage the business. Throughout the usage period the impact can be quite significant. Buildings not only represent 36% of our total CO2 emissions in the Netherlands, but these buildings are also one huge warehouse of resources. The building and the operation of it generates a huge demand for resources: energy, water, materials that are used by organisations. We advise companies and help them find sustainable solutions.”
A vlog made last year by Yvette Watson during a field trip to Samsø, the largest CO2 neutral residential community in the world
“Yes, amazing! We came in second place in the ABN AMRO Sustainable 50. A fantastic honour of course. And a compliment. They evaluate your involvement in actual change.”
You sound very driven…
“That’s true. When I began my degree programme in Facility Management at THUAS in 1999, sustainability was not mainstream yet. My logic was that as a facility manager I could have the biggest impact on environmental policies. In that role you are responsible for all support processes in the organisation, from purchasing and catering to cleaning and setting up the work environment. Now I can make an impact on the circular economy with my company. It’s a dream come true.”
Always the first?
“As student I certainly wasn’t a role model. Lecturers will probably remember me as an average student with barely passing grades. I didn’t get the highest grades and didn’t always attend the lectures.
“But if I felt I could make a difference I would be there. With heart and mind. I became a member of The Hague University of Applied Sciences General Council. I wanted to achieve real results. I believed it was important to represent student interests. Advocate for more budget for education to expanding grants to allow students to engage in other activities in addition to their studies.”
“I believe that anyone can grab these opportunities. You create your own life.”
“My advice to young people is to start with small steps. Experiment with something you are passionate about. Before you know it you can play a key role in fulfilling your ideals. Everyone can contribute to a better world. To the world of tomorrow.”