The Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania's Highway to Sustainability

A blog by Dijena Drenova

The Netherlands has a strong image abroad when it comes to sustainability. We as an Embassy are trying to live up to this reputation by incorporating sustainability in our everyday activities. Three of the Sustainable Development Goals that the Embassy is strongly promoting are Gender Equality; Sustainable Cities and Communities; Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

Organic store in Tirana

On 1 February, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands launched “Rank Your Embassy-Mission Sustainable". The aim of the mission is simple: encourage embassies around the world to practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability, and thereby help to achieve the SDG’s. In this framework, a self-assessment was carried out by the Embassy, which was followed by a special session with the Rank Your Embassy project leader from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss the results.

We take pride in our efforts when it comes to embracing sustainable sourcing. The local shops selling organic products have the whole support of the Dutch Embassy. In addition, recycling is an issue close to our hearts and we already have implemented some steps on this regard. The Embassy takes care of the overall wellbeing of its staff by including yoga lessons in our schedule. Furthermore, we are performing well when it comes to sustainable transport, by using bicycles and public transportation or simply by walking to work.

With the bike to the yoga course

Was the brainstorm fruitful? Yes, it was! First, a variety of ideas was proposed, from using solar panels for outdoor lighting to composting garden waste and used ground coffee, from catching rain into water tanks with the purpose of watering the Embassy’s garden to regulating the air conditioner temperature in both winter and summer. Second, we committed to printing less paper, shutting of lights and computers when away for meetings, using clothing bags and recycled agendas and sticking to a vegetarian diet, at least once a week. In all, the session served as catalyst to improve our commitment towards the SDGs.

And why did we combine the session with a cake? The Dutch Embassy in Albania has already obtained the gold level and currently positions 8th in the participating embassies’ ranking.

It is important as well, to continue to keep the “competition” interesting, motivating and inclusive. We therefore decided to update our civil society and other partners with our sustainable steps and encourage them to follow our lead. Additionally, conducting peer reviews with other Embassies in the region will certainly be an added-value to our sustainability efforts.

We are aware that the earth we use today, we borrow from our children. Hence, the Embassy is taking action and we will start by dedicating a day to cleaning the beaches of Albania: everyone is welcome to join!