Netherlands Removes Tiles for Greener Cities

Updated: Mar 16, 2021

Healthy competition between Amsterdam and Rotterdam has universal benefits.

In the Netherlands, it's common to see apartment buildings, offices, and homes surrounded by tiles. They're not particularly beautiful and do absolutely nothing to help the environment. That’s why the cities came up with a competition to see who can remove the most tiles and replace them with plants and trees, involving their citizens in the country's green ambitions.

“The rivalry between the two cities is often something negative, but was used in a positive way this time around,” said Eva Braaksma, whose organization, Frank Lee, coordinated the event on behalf of several groups. In the head-to-head tile-popping competition, it was the port city of Rotterdam that emerged victorious, removing a total of 47,942 tiles in comparison with the 46,484 removed by the Amsterdammers.

Rotterdam has a goal of creating 20 new hectares (49 acres) of green space by 2022, and it's estimated that tile removal accounted for about a half hectare. The “difficult metres” of extra greenery have to come from elsewhere - the vast majority likely from green rooftops and public places.

While removing tiles and replacing them with greenery will help the Dutch sequester more carbon, removing these slabs has a bigger impact than just reducing carbon. It also helps to improve water management as more water can drip down through the added green space into the groundwater, where it is available to use.

The competition has the added benefit of serving as a tool for public education, inviting citizens to get involved with the green ambitions of the city. If we truly want to make our living spaces more green, then it’s important that people feel involved and invested in making that happen.



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