Local, sustainable entrepreneurs at tourist hotspots are struggling. That is why The Green Light Experience has started since this week, to make the Dutchman enthusiastic about the Red Light District and the entrepreneurs there.

Drinks have freshly squeezed juices, locally brewed beers and chocolate bonbons ('produced slave-free'). "If possible, it can be done anywhere!" reads a large poster on the wall. The sustainable city tour along the Amsterdam Red Light District, 'The Green Light Experience' has started.

Before the corona crisis, the Amsterdam Red Light District, with more than nine million visitors a year, was the most visited square kilometer in Europe. In recent months it has been unbelievably quiet. Sex workers closed their doors, tourists stayed away and as a result local entrepreneurs also lost a lot of their business.

Rediscover the Red Light District

The Green Light Experience is a walking tour of six local companies, which have a link with sustainability. The tour starts at The Upcycle Store, around the corner in the Sint Annendwarsstraat. Participants receive a card with 28 sustainable hotspots in a bag - recycled from sunscreen residues. During the tour, the bag is filled with products from local entrepreneurs.

"No matter how nice it is to walk through all those nice shops every now and then, if you never buy anything, they cannot last." Steven Brakman, professor of international economics at the University of Groningen

"The aim of The Green Light Experience is currently mainly to allow the Dutchman to rediscover the Red Light District again," says Suze Gehem, initiator of The Green Light Experience and director of De Groene Grachten - two organizations that are committed to making sustainability more sustainable. the inner city. "This neighborhood has been taken over by tourism. Only when it came to a halt due to the corona crisis, many Amsterdammers saw how beautiful it is here."

Smartshops and Nutella stores

In The Upcycle Store, where new products are made from waste and residues, many of the participants in Amsterdam come for the first time. They also agree that they have avoided the Red Light District in recent years.

“Many people think that there is nothing else to be found on De Wallen than Nutella stores and smart shops.” Tim Spekkens, owner of The Upcycle Store

Owner of The Upcycle Store, Tim Spekkens, cites smart shops, prostitution and Nutella shops as the current showcase of the area: "Many people think that there is nothing else to be found."

Beware of anti-globalization

Sympathetic, Professor of International Economics at the University of Groningen, Steven Brakman, calls the initiative. "I see many of these initiatives calling for local shopping and support for entrepreneurs," says Brakman. "That is good in itself; creating awareness of your own purchasing behavior and learning where things come from."

Still he wants to make a comment. Brakman: "These neighborhood initiatives often have the aftertaste that international and global is always bad and that only buying locally would be good." According to him, that is not exactly true from a sustainability perspective.

Brakman: "Look at the orange trade. You would think it is bad for the environment to transport oranges from Spain to the Netherlands by truck. But research shows that locally producing oranges is much more polluting."

Exchange international talent

"As an international economist, I'm wearing pink glasses in terms of globalization," he agrees with a laugh. "But you have to realize that globalization means that we can make use of each other's strengths. If an orange can be produced with much less energy and detours, why would we do that in the Netherlands?"

Of course, Brakman says, you could argue in favor of only consuming locally. That would mean, for example, that you only eat fruit that grows in Dutch conditions.

"Then the offer becomes very scarce!" Brakman says. "We generally like variety. Different types of potatoes to choose from, but also all kinds of shops in the city center - to walk in and out."

Not a substitute for international tourism

Spekkens of The Upcycle Store also says that it is highly dependent on international purchasing power. In the early months of the corona epidemic, he turned only 3 percent of his sales, temporarily closing the store.

He does not see local tourism as a realistic replacement for international tourism for his company. He does hope, however, that the Red Light District will become more attractive again for Amsterdammers themselves. Spekkens: "This type of initiative can contribute to this."

'Our purchasing behavior influences the city center'

Brakman agrees with the latter. If you want your own city center to be varied and not to be taken over by international chains, you have to do something about it yourself.

Brakman: "No matter how pleasant it is to walk past all those nice shops every now and then, if you never buy something, they cannot survive. Your buying behavior not only influences the survival of the local economy, but also the cityscape. "