The 8th greenXchange seminar was held, for the very first time, in Eastern Germany. From 24 to 30 September 2018, nineteen young and very skilled professionals explored Berlin and its surrounding State of Brandenburg. Main topics investigated and discussed were the periphery, processes of structural changes, social and sustainable innovations and environmental restoration, food waste, and urban gardening and farming.

The 7th greenXchange seminar, which took place this year in Israel from September 6-12, was the catalyst for the generation of ideas and exciting partnerships between 24 talented and highly motivated young professionals from Israel and Germany. Organizers declared this year’s event as the most successful to date.
greenXchange is a program founded by KKL-JNF and JNF-KKL Germany to serve as a platform to promote cooperation between young Israeli and German professionals on their way to becoming future leaders in the field of environmental sustainability and protection. To get accepted to the program the candidates must either be studying for their masters or doctorates, or already working as professionals in their respective fields. Half the participants are from Israel while the other half are from Germany. 
The location of the annual seminar alternates between the two countries. Each candidate is committed to attend two consecutive seminars over two years (once in each country). 
The program consists of lectures and tours related to environmentalism throughout the designated country. This year, the seminar included a visit to the Knesset where the participants met Knesset member and environmental activist Yael Cohen Paran. They also toured places such as the town of Maale Adumim on the outskirts of the Judean Desert, areas along the seam line between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. Each site visit was accompanied by an explanation of environmental issues and solutions regarding sewage, water supply and water conservation.
One of the highlights of the trip this year was a visit to the Mekorot Water Filtration Plant at Eshkol in the Galilee, where the participants were presented with a close- up look underground at the activities of Israel’s primary water supplier. They learned about Mekorot’s crucial role in realizing the Zionist vision. In addition, Mekorot happens to be the 7th largest water company in the world.
The greenXchange participants also visited the Solaris Synergy Company plant at the Mekorot site. The Solaris system enables energy production from solar panels that can float on bodies of water. Solaris’s first commercial production faculty is in operation in Singapore. Company technical advisor Elad Betser told the group that KKL-JNF one of the system’s firm supporters right from the very beginning, and one of the project’s major investors.
Regarding the seminar and tours themselves, greenXchange coordinator Liri Eitan-Draisaid that the seminar participants played a pivotal role in deciding the program agenda and organizing the events.
“A big change that took place this year - the participants wanted to contribute some of their own expertise to Israel in general, and to their host KKL-JNF in particular. Anat Gold of KKL-JNF Planning Department welcomed the idea and asked them to produce suggestions for two new building projects in northern Israel that are currently in the design phase. She told the participants that, if accepted, there is a good possibility that some of their proposals would be incorporated into the plans.”
One of the building projects concerned is the planned center for young leadership at the KKL-JNF Field and Forest Center in Tzippori, and the other is the Visitor’s Center at the Hula Lake Park which will be entirely rebuilt.
The group enthusiastically took on the challenge. Members were divided into six groups of four, each group comprising of 2 Germans and 2 Israelis. 
Participants toured both facilities and were presented with in-depth explanations of the role of the planned structures and future expectations.   
Their proposals were presented on the last day of the seminar to a panel comprised of KKL-JNF Northern Region Landscape Architect Mor DinNoa Tal of the KKL-JNF Planning Division, KKL-JNF Education Officer at Hula Lake Park Inbar Rubin, Upper Galilee and Golan Heights Regional Director Aviram Tzuk, and KKL-JNF emissary to Germany Dr. Schaul Horev, who was the founder of greenXchange.
Horev said at the outset that he was thrilled to hear of this new development.
“This is the first time that such a group of highly educated and highly motivated individuals, who really want to have an impact on the environment,  have connected in this way with KKL-JNF and its goals, and I hope that this trend will continue for the benefit of all.”
Almost every participant made suggestions and offered ideas to further their group’s proposals.
For example, Martin from Berlin suggested that instead of creating a large car park and electric vehicle hiring facility at the Hula Lake Park visitor’s center, it would be better to create an offsite location, far from the Hula, where commuters would board electric shuttle buses to come to the Park. “The space that is saved”, he said, “could then be allocated for the benefit of the migrating birds”.
Another idea, concerning the car parks at both sites, was presented by Israeli Environmental Consultant Ester Peled, who suggested that the parking bays could be covered by solar panels, which would serve the double purpose of generating green electricity and providing shade.
KKL-JNF Northern Region Landscape Architect Mor Din said that the ideas she heard were way beyond what she expected.
“You all amazed me. I myself benefited greatly from hearing the ideas. I want to thank you all for making the effort to think outside the box and show us aspects connected to our planning that we had not taken into consideration.”
She promised to let the group know which ideas will eventually be integrated into the actual design.
German participant Philipp Aepler, a researcher in climate and environmental economics at the London School of Economics, said that greenXchange provided him with a view of Israel that he would never have seen on his own.
“Despite what one reads about Israel, taking into consideration all the other problems you have in this region, I believe that the country as a whole, and KKL-JNF in particular, is doing an admirable job in environmental protection.”
Ester Peled said that she benefitted greatly from the program.
“Israel lacks enrichment programs for environmental professionals. greenXchange provided a possibility for me to network and meet new people and hear new ideas. I met Shiri from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and together we found a possible solution to a problem that is bothering one of my clients.”
In turn,Shiri Hefer, who is a senior consultant at the Ministry of Environmental Protection, explained:
“One of my responsibilities at the ministry is to find a solution for glass bottle recycling. Today Israel exports its used glass bottles. We want the glass manufacturers to recycle glass here. I have just heard from Ester that Israel’s biggest road construction company Solel Boneh is interested in using ground glass for road surfaces. The problem is that there is no entrepreneur in Israel that has invested in machinery that can sort and grind recycled bottles into powder. With this new information that I received here at greenXchange it will be easier for me to arrange governmental assistance to draw investors in the expensive equipment. If that works, we will put an end to the export of Israel’s glass. It will be a win-win solution for all.”
German participant Nicole Glass, who works part time for KKL-JNF in Munich and is currently studying for her Masters Degree in Environmental Engineering at Munich University, said that she was thrilled to take part.
“Funnily I only found out about greenXchange several months after I started working at KKL-JNF. It feels like the program was tailor made for me. I now have a new perception of KKL-JNF that I did not know about, and also this been very enriching for my studies at university. It has been extremely interesting. I am looking forward to participate in part two, which will take place in Germany next year.”

gxc1At the first excursion of the 2016 greenXchange program, 28 young professionals from Israel and Germany visited the Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Center – FZJ). The FZJ is part of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers, the largest scientific organization in Germany. Forschungszentrum Jülich was founded in 1956 as an "atomic research establishment" by the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Nowadays the research center with an annual revenue of over half a billion Euros is funded by the German Federal government, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia and third party collaborations and research grants.

During their tour, the participants received an introduction into the research that is done at FZJ and can be clustered into two themes: energy and environment, and information and the brain. The introduction was followed by a discussion about international cooperation at FZJ and new technologies that have been developed at the center. Participants were particularly impressed by the plethora of high-tech applications that have resulted from basic research such as environmental sensors, a supercomputer, and brain electrodes to treat conditions like tinnitus.

The focus of the second part of the visit was to learn more about the research environment and the current state of two projects at the intersection at bioeconomy and biotechnology: the cultivation of algae for bio-jet fuels and tools for soil analysis.

gxc2_kopieThe cultivation of algae for the production of jet fuels takes place at the Plant Sciences division of the Institute of Bio- and Geosciences. Doctoral researcher Charlotte Dietrich explained her research to the participants and introduced them to the cultivation facilities including proprietary technologies at FZJ, such as high-tech seeding robots and novel phenotyping systems using rhizotrons for tracking plant root development non-invasively.

Doctoral researcher Anne Klosterhalfen explained tools for soil analysis of the IBG-3 modeling project that have been developed to measure a wide set of parameters of soil properties to understand how to improve the soil to a maximum of efficiency for plant cultivation. The “HPSC” and “lysimeter” machines measure soil quality, the flux of water and CO-2 content, and thereby help researchers to establish an understanding to soil preservation. In the future, agronomists will be able to optimize their crop selection according to soil quality and adapt it to climate change.

Forschungszentrum Jülich inspired greenXchange participants to further improve their knowledge about the current state of basic research in bioscience and to look for opportunities of cooperation between scientific research institutions and the greenXchange network with the aim of introducing innovative technologies for sustainability.

In September 2016, the sixth greenXchange seminar was hosted in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – a region formerly known as Germany’s industrial center, which is now shifting towards green innovation. From September 11th until September 19th, this year’s participants toured Cologne, Jülich, Düsseldorf, Essen and Hamm visiting organizations as diverse as green start-ups, research facilities, city planning initiatives and a hard-coal power plant.

Find the detailed programme brochure here and read more about the seminar.



Research Centre Jülich

This year’s on-site seminar started at the “Natürlich für Israel” Congress, where the greenXchange participants had the chance to present their program to the public in a panel discussion and learn about various other activities in the field of German-Israeli cooperation. After welcoming the new participants and getting to know each other, the group set out on their first excursion to the Research Centre Jülich, a member of the Helmholtz Association. The participants were introduced to the broad spectrum of research conducted by the center and got a deeper insight into plant and agrology research. In the media center of Cologne, greenXchange participants met with the CEO and the nutritional scientist of Food Loop. The start-up aims to cut food waste in retail by integrating the grocery inventory systems into an application, which then offers discounts to customers for products that are about to expire.



Düsseldorf's city planning department


In Düsseldorf, the greenXchangers were invited to the city planning department, where they discussed structural obstacles that the city of Düsseldorf has to tackle when coping with the growing number of inhabitants. Measures such as revitalizing neighbourhoods, maintaining attractive housing standards, cooperating with other European cities and improved waste management were introduced to the participants.




Media Harbor, Düsseldorf

A tour through the city’s Media Harbor completed the visit and provided the participants with a practical example of the city’s development. Another green start-up, the Bug Foundation, gave greenXchangers a chance to question their eating habits. The Bug Foundation is working towards overcoming the stigma of eating insects in Europe, which could potentially help to alleviate sustainability issues in meat production. Up until now the Bug Foundation has already started to sell its insect-based products on the Belgian and Dutch markets, and explained how it was preparing to enter the German market in 2018.



Business Angels Netzwerk Deutschland e. V. (BAND) in Essen


In Essen, greenXchange visited the Business Angels Netzwerk Deutschland e. V. (BAND) – an umbrella organization for business angels, i.e. informal risk investors who invest between €50.000 and €500.000 on average in early-stage companies. BAND representative talked in particular about the challenges faced by green tech start-ups and its approaches to match them with their associated investors






RWE's hard-coal power plant in Hamm

At a hard-coal power plant run by RWE, the biggest German energy provider, greenXchangers also had an opportunity to experience the more “traditional” side of the Ruhr area. During a presentation and a visit of this impressive industrial site, which has a conversion rate of up to 46 %, an employee explained the processes and obstacles the plant has had to face up until now. This also fueled a discussion about different energy scenarios for Europe, the role of renewable energy, its impact on fossil-fuel power plants, and the risks and opportunities of a possible coal phase-out.



Sorpesee lake, on the way back to Cologne

To get the most out of every visit, an Israeli-German team presented each project beforehand, giving the group some background knowledge and a chance to prepare questions. A daily recap session ensured that participants could share their views on the day’s schedule, give feedback and exchange opinions. The seminar also included a greenXchange lab and mini-workshops to work on participant’s own ideas and the further development of the greenXchange program. From time to time, the group also had a chance to appreciate the touristic attractions of the region, mostly during a guided tour of the Cologne Cathedral and Shabbat dinner barbecue on the shore of the picturesque Sorpesee.

Discussing urban planning at Tel Aviv municipality, learning on food forests, being inspired by research centers in the Negev Desert - and much more. The fifth seminar of greenxchange brought together young professionals from Germany and Israel to learn and exchange their ideas and knowledge on sustainability and the environment. 28 participants took part in the seminar that started on October 6 and continued for 8 days.

Tel Aviv

8-2-sde-boker-research-centreStarting point after the first meeting and mingling was the Dizengoff Center's Green in the City, where the  participants learned on urban Rooftop Farming and hydroponic agriculture. Later that day, the new greenxchangers met KKL-JNF representatives for a nice Israeli dinner in the old train station of Jaffa.

The next day started at the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection, where the group learned on the Israeli policy to enhance the use or renewable energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Later on, the group visited the Ariel Sharon Park, which was once an open landfill and today is a new park where visitors can learn about recycling and sustainability. At the end of the day the group visited a pilot site at Kfar Saba where runoff water is filtered and infiltrated into the groundwater reservoir.


South into the Negev Desert7-2-community-garden-shvuat-haadama

After two days in the city, the greenxchange group made its way south
to the Negev Desert. On the way south, the group visited the community forest in Shoham, which engage the nearby citizens with nature. Later that day, the group participants visited Ashdod municipality and the Bedouin village Um Batim, where it learned about Home-Biogas initiative to produce cooking gas from animal manure.

On the next day the group cycled through Yatir Forest, planted by KKL, and later that day, visited KKL project to rehabilitate the Beer Sheva River and create an urban park around it. In Beer Sheva the group also visited the community garden Shvuat Haadama. In the evening the group had a nice Shabbat dinner in Kibbutz Mashabei Sade.

On Saturday the group spent the day in the kibbutz enjoying the sun and the swimming pool and yet also discussing entrepreneurship and environmental collaborations between Israel and Germany. Dinner was held in a small hotel in Nahal Boker in the middle of the desert.dsc_0289

The next day the group visited the Midreshet Sde Boker, a research center for the desert and the environment. The group stopped in the beautiful view point near the research center for a group picture and then went on to the spectacular Kibbutz Neot Smadar to visit their school for building with mud. Later on the group visited the Paran Lookout to the Arava Valley and had a Bedouin Dinner at "Desert Days".

On the day after the greenxchangers visited the Vidor Center and the Yair Research and Development Center – both dealing with agriculture in the desert. Later the group learned on the acacia tree and its ecological importance in the Israeli desert, and the research being done to learn how to preserve those trees in Israel. On that day the group also visited the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training, and then went all the way north to Jerusalem.


In Jerusalem, towards the end of the seminar the group visited KKL headquarters for meetings and discussions. Later that day the group had a big farewell dinner in the botanical gardens.


Tel Avivdsc_0405

The last day the group departed back to Tel Aviv, where it met at Porter School for Environmental Studies a representative from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and from HeinrichBoell Stiftung. The group finished the seminar at the WATEC convention, one of the world biggest conventions of water technologies, held every year in Tel Aviv.