Contributed by Carol Ruiz
Here in the United States, we’re increasingly focused on how to “green” our lifestyles. We’re buying more efficient cars and appliances, installing solar panels, and making an effort to buy local foods and goods. But for all of our attempts, the American carbon footprint is alarmingly high; the annual CO2 emissions of the United States is greater than all 27 member states of the European Union combined. While we struggle to adapt, cities all over the world are lighting the way to a greener future.
The gold standard of green cities is Vauban, Germany, a planned community in the city of Freiburg. Designed for five thousand residents and 600 neighborhood jobs, Vauban’s buildings are ultra-low energy, many heated by burning wood chips and use of photovoltaic cells. The Solar Settlement section of Vauban is actually the world’s first positive energy balance neighborhood, every home producing more energy than it uses. These homes benefit not only the environment, but also the homeowners, as they sell the excess energy back into the grid.
I myself have experienced the greener life of a bigger German city, Frankfurt. With friends and family members residing there, I’ve had a front-row seat to the different mentality. It’s quite literally “greener” in Frankfurt, with 50% of the space within city limits protected green areas. Transportation is very different than in the US, with an extensive train, streetcar, and underground system. It’s a city crowded with bicycles, ridden by everyone from children to senior citizens. A dear friend of mine (and transplant from Los Angeles), Erika Andersen, once donned a long black evening dress and rode her bike all the way to the symphony. She loves the switch from long LA commutes to relaxing time on public transportation or her bicycle, and even finds it a faster way to travel!
In Frankfurt, new structures are designed to be “passive,” or use up to 90% less energy than the average, further reducing the city’s CO2 emissions. The city’s commitment is so great that they currently hold the title of most passive structures in Europe. Conservation isn’t an afterthought there, it’s instilled in very young schoolchildren. The comprehensive recycling program breaks trash down into four separate categories - paper, packaging, organic, and everything else. What we would view as a hassle is simply a way of life in Frankfurt.
Across the globe, many cities are taking huge strides toward combating climate change through shifts in everyday life. Stockholm, Sweden, the very first city to win the European Green Capital award, is working to end their use of fossil fuels by 2050. Curitiba, Brazil has used manmade green space as a natural way to combat yearly flooding and has incentivized recycling so effectively that 70% of the country’s waste is now re-used or recycled. And Melbourne, Australia, known primarily for its water conservation projects, is on target to become a zero net carbon emissions city in the year 2020.
Urban green living is a concept growing in popularity and if the international leaders in conservation are any indication, it’s a very green future indeed!
Posted: 10/16/2012 11:08:08 AM by
Mary Kestner | with 0 comments