Fresh Eyes

Zurich

by Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Whether through food, architecture or design – sustainable energy pulses through the city of Zurich.

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The energy that courses through Switzerland’s largest city is one of efficiency, functionality and problem-solving, with occasional stops at its proverbial watering hole, Lake Zurich, to rejuvenate and refresh before pulsating onward again. Yes, Zurich is a city driven by solutions — and that includes its commitment to protecting the environment.

With sustainability on its residents’ minds, it’s no wonder that eco-friendly living and conscious consumption have fostered sustainable practices throughout the city. From urban farming enclaves and solar powered installations to space management and eliminating food waste, preference often gives way to creative solutions that, in turn, solve problems.

Science’s Place in Society

As a professor of climate physics at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, Reto Knutti develops models to predict weather pattern changes. For him, his job is a reflection of a longtime passion.

“I wanted to do something that is meaningful,” says Knutti. “Science should serve society in solving actual problems. People should be informed and take the facts seriously, with a long-term view on change.”

Much like Knutti, many of Zurich’s architects and designers are answering that same call to advance Zurich in a sustainable way.

Ralph Meury, the architect behind design and architectural firm Meury Architektur, wants to change people’s imaginations when it comes to physical space. With more than 25 years of experience working as an architect, he has witnessed Zurich scale skyward.

Like most major European cities, Zurich has faced limitations when it comes to expanding its size. As a result, the city has grown upward over the last decade. “This has meant a new character, new energy and new skyline for Zurich,” says Meury.

Whether in the sky or at work, Meury has made a career out of turning his clients’ desires into spaces they love. In addition to reimagining the city’s skyline, he is the mastermind behind WorkPods Zurich, movable work cubicles used to optimize office space. The unique and sustainable interior design allows companies to scale or retract their workspaces with ease.

Food of the Future

When it comes to nourishment, Christian Bärtsch, who founded Essento, an insect-based eatery, is playing with Zurich’s gastronomy. From worms to grasshoppers and other creepy-crawlies, Bärtsch wants to get people acquainted with a new type of nutrition to prepare them for the future.

“If we’re talking about the food of the future, we have to drop the past,” Bärtsch explains over mealworm burgers at eco-friendly fast-food joint Hitzberger.

In line with Zurich’s problem-solving DNA, Bärtsch aims to address three issues all at once: expand the culinary repertoire as resources become limited, improve overall health through insect-fueled vitamins, and protect the environment through reduced carbon footprints from production. (Bärtsch says that farming insects uses far fewer resources than traditional meat-production processes use.)

Essento’s insect-based cuisine has transformed into culinary masterpieces, including grasshopper skewers for more adventurous foodies, now served at more than 20 restaurants. Yet for him, the sustainability secret is really just a return to something quite natural.

“Over two billion people eat insects on a regular basis, and there are over 2,000 edible insect species,” — talk about an environmental buzz!

A Shared Community

Mindful societal engagement also runs through artist Marisa Burn-Pichler’s work with her spiritual lifestyle brand, Burning Lights. Growing up in the countryside just outside of Zurich, Burn-Pichler always harbored an interest in the interconnectivity between people and place.

After studying design at an art school in Basel and starting Switzerland’s first fashion and design blog, Hopehope, in 2007, a different kind of force began to pull at Burn-Pichler. She shifted her focus from fashion to lifestyle, moving beyond the trappings of consumption and baring down to a minimalist approach. Featuring words like “Breathe,” “Free,” “Grateful,” and “Love,” the mantras of her artful products highlight simplicity and thriving in each moment. (These sentiments are also echoed through the melodic songs she releases with her band, Pine & Stone.)

“‘What do we all need now?’ is what I focus on,” says Burn-Pichler. “We need more positivity, personal contact with each other and social compassion. It’s easier to work with people, connect and talk when you slow down.”

In addition to her own art, Burn-Pichler’s Burning Lights studio also works with local artisans to make handmade organic crafts. Inspirational posters and soothing scents are meant to spur positivity and connection. Her “Peace Club” community, too, was invented as a campaign for love and compassion; she organizes events that bring people together based on shared interests such as craft, music and art.

“Why does bad energy and fear always get the spotlight?” ponders Burn-Pichler. “With a little bit more kindness, compassion and resilience, we can give the spotlight to positive energy.”