Greengroup - Ecosystem Droevendaal

And: the most actual version of the Droevendaal Groenplan (in Dutch)


Droevendaal is unique for many reasons. It is a gathering of 200 students all of whom have an above average knowledge about the environment. The place has one of the world’s older modern living communities, where people voluntarily live close to nature. Being a zone of ecological transition, Droevendaal is also one of the more biodiverse places in the region. In the light of its dense population, this is highly exceptional.


Now and then, people at droef are erradicating the Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum, ofte Reuzenberenklauw).
In case you are dealing with it yourself, note the following:

The sap/juice that this plant produces can cause severe blisters (like burning wounds) which heal slowly and can cause permanent scarring or staining.
Also, when the sap gets in your eyes, it can cause temporary or permanent blindness.
So, if you cut it away, you have to be fully covered with rainproof clothing and eye protection.
Avoid contact with it at all times. When you do get sap on your skin/in your eyes, cleanse thoroughly with water and soap!
I recently got a lot of the skin problems after dealing with the plant, even while I was wearing long trousers. The potential of causing blindness is new to me...

When you expose yourself to Giant Hogweed, wear full sap-proof-protection, including eye protection.

Roeland (47), Summer 2012

In that sense, Droevendaal is an ecology management pearl. With people living on it’s ground, Droevendaal hosts endangered bird species such as Picus viridis (Green woodpecker), Hippolais icterina (Icterine Warbler) and Paser montanus (Eurasian tree sparrow), plants such as the Dactylorhiza incarnata (Early Marsh Orchid) and the butterfly species Thecla betulae (Brown hairstreak). As you may know, zones of ecological transition are indispensable connections between neighbouring ecosystems, contributing to the quality of both. This unique ecological quality was a main argument for the refoundation of Droevendaal in its modern shape.

Droevendaal started as an emergency housing project in 1977. We can not tell how it happened, or when, but probably quickly after that, the “Droefgevoel” came into existence. On the verge of its destruction, this feeling motivated the inhabitants to fight for refoundation. It was Droevendaals exceptional open vegetation that convinced the municipality and the housing company to reconstruct it in a more sustainable way. More about this can be read (in Dutch) in the booklet “in gebonden anarchie”.

It was during this time that the Greengroep (“Groengroup”) was formed. The main objective of this group is to jointly decide about the management activities of the vegetation in Droevendaal. It consists of representatives of Idealis, representatives the tenants of Droevendaal, a gardener and an external advisor. It is a unique committee, because it serves a unique goal: to manage a students’ residence in an ecologically sound way.

So far, two big plans have been written with the involvement of the Greengroup: one in 2000 and one in 2011. These plans are written in Dutch and have about 30 pages each. It is especially worth to study the newest one if you want to know a bit more about these plans. But the old one is insightful too: it shows how open the vegetation originally was. You can find them on the website.

Responsibility of all Droevendalers
To live in the ecosystem of Droevendaal means to be responsible for it. We need to respond to its current demands. That means actively taking care of the green. You choose how to personally fill that in. You can be part of the decision making in the current business, set up new initiatives, or just be a helping hand here and there.
Know that the experiences you can gain by active participation here are not only unique on your CV, but they offer precious memories and great opportunities to learn. As an old Droevendaler, I know how easy it is to get used to the freedom we have here. What’s harder is to fully honour this freedom by using the possibilities. Use your imagination and you will see how you can contribute. Everything you need is there.

Common tasks
Coordinated by the Groengroep, Jeroen works hard to keep Droevendaal liveable, with healthy vegetation and of high ecological value. We pay him for that. But there are tasks he can not do on his own, so he needs our help in some cases. In other cases he can do them, but our costs get reduced when we take over some work collectively.

In the last plan the agreement is that the Droevendaal collective takes up the following tasks. It is a result of the experience of the last ten years. This agreement can change, we can do more and pay less or vice versa. But it needs to be done.
- Remove invasive exotic plants. We have identified three plant species that threaten the Droevendaal ecosystem. They are the Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica), the Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and the Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) During the season, small groups of people gather once a month to remove these plants and avoid them from taking over the place. But feel free to pull some of them out yourself. The Goldenrod is medicinal, so you could use it for tea.
- Remove grass and pose them on predefined piles. This happens after Jeroen has mowed. Either he or the Groengroep will guide you.
- Remove the other organic waste posed at public spots by the gardener. This happens after either Jeroen or the Groengroep have cut back vegetation, possibly with your help.
- Prepare organic waste for fire places. This is the cool thing of Droevendaal: we can burn stuff! Be the first and you will have a lot of firewood for the summer.
- Clear the pond for 50 % once a year with a hook for 50 %. Small task.
- Top all willows once every 5 years. Willows get topped in the Netherlands. This used to happen because we used the branches to make all kinds of stuff. Nowadays it’s a cultural thing, but feel free to use the branches!
- Manage the common compost of Droevendaal in a proper way. This will be coordinated by the Groengroep.
- Remove branches of trees that disturb the traffic. Keep an eye on the big trucks.
- Keep trees in gardens under eight meters (except for designated trees). This is every houses own responsibility. You can always ask the Groengroep for help.
- Keep Droevendaal waste free. We currently have no caretaker, so we are responsible for the waste treatment. Gather the waste on the streets if you find it. Besides, we have a trash removal system for those who join.

Groengroep Responsibilities
The Groengroep plays a key role in the future of the vegetation of Droevendaal. The Droevendalers in the Groengroep are first of all the communication channel between Droevendaal and Idealis between Droevendaal and the gardener. We actively attend meetings and we have e-mail correspondence, talk on the streets, go by the houses and organize meetings for opinions. If you have a question about something that concerns the green, feel free to contact us.

When tasks need to be done, we make sure they are. For that, we motivate Droevendalers with letters and by going by the houses. Sometimes we use more creative ways. We always keep in mind how important it is to take care of Droevendaal. It reduces the living expenses, and it helps the local ecology.
Another responsibility is that of the chainsaw, which we bought in 2011. With good treatment, Droevendaal can enjoy its benefits for many years. Chainsaws are dangerous (e.g. it takes about 0.5 second to saw your own leg of) and it is forbidden by law to use them without a license. The Groengroep therefore regularly organizes chill cheap chainsaw courses for young Droevendalers who’d like to use it.

The ecosystem of Droevendaal is beautiful as it is, but it has more potential than is currently used.

As said before, Droevendaal lies in a transition zone, meaning its If we want to understand the local ecosystem and consciously increase the biodiversity in Droevendaal, it would be great to get more detailed information about the vegetation, the birds and the insects. One could think about creating very detailed GIS maps. This type of information would benefit all parties in the planning, but can also raise the interest of the Droevendalers for their living place. Indeed, pre-generated maps would make it easier for individual households to contribute to the vegetation data base, and could therefore stimulate Droevendalers to monitor the biodiversity in and around their garden. If published in a scientific paper, this information, showing an example of how humans and nature can co-exist could be a motivation for scientists and small scale landscape planners world wide. I can think of three easy pathways to reach this: through practical research courses, through a Master Thesis and through an ACT project. With the increasing multidisciplinary character of the WUR, the idea would be easy to sell.

The common vegetation of Droevendaal produces about 0.7 tons of organic waste per year. That’s without the private gardens. While I write this, Droevendalers from the platform Organic Village are working on plans to get a bioreactor in Droevendaal. It is a reservoir that converts organic waste into energy by anaerobic digestion. Organic Village plans to do tests on how different organic materials digest and how much energy they produce. The results of these tests will serve diffusion of this bioreactor on the Dutch and European markets.

The details of the social implementation of this sustainable device have not been thought through yet, they are currently working on safety, but it is likely that they could use your help. It is a great opportunity for you to think along in a pilot testing of a novel technology designed to collect energy from vegetation waste.

Droevendaal is what you want it to be. It is a great place to live and to chill, but it is definitely also a place to treat with respect. It is a place where people have an enormous freedom to learn and create a lot of new things. When I came to Droevendaal I did not see the enormous potential of the place. But I while I did things I really enjoyed, I learned that I am able to do a lot more than I know. I wrote this text in the hope that it will help you as a reader to see the bigger picture of your stay. Don’t be afraid to take up the tasks that suit you here, there are many. They will energize you. Use your imagination, be creative and you’ll see. Think big but take small steps. Together we make Droevendaal an example to the world.

Gilles Havik, ex - barrack 35

version: May 2012

Raw data observations (June 24, 2012)

Last edited: 2014-03-27 12:38:42 by Luc