What can we learn from the Green City of Freiburg?

With green jobs, low-emission transport and bountiful green spaces, it’s no wonder Freiburg has become a role model for other cities that aspire to share its eco-credentials.

As winner of the German Sustainability Award in 2012, Freiburg prides itself on its revolutionary initiatives to promote a greener future, and is regarded as one of the birthplaces of the environmental movement. The city is home to a wealth of sustainable projects, activities and developments, so it’s safe to say we couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of the green action when we were invited to visit last week.

Here are just a few of Freiburg’s green claims to fame:

Economy: There is an unusually high concentration of specialist professionals working in sustainability, with some 12,000 residents employed in the environmental sector. Freiburg is also home to solar factories, consulting offices, energy agencies, and even a zero-emissions hotel, creating a hub of environmental economic activity.

Transport: Freiburg’s transport policy has attracted attention nationwide, and promotes environmentally-friendly modes of travelling. Compared with other major German cities, Freiburg has an extremely low density of cars with only 428 vehicles per 1,000 residents and the city has also developed over 400km of cycle paths.

Nature: 43% of the urban district of Freiburg is made up of woodland, and there are some 5,000 hectares of forestry surrounding the town managed sustainably and organically with certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. The City of Freiburg has done much towards creating new adventure spaces for citizens, while safeguarding the natural heritage for future generations.

Energy: Freiburg is on route to a carbon-neutral community, with plans to cut CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030. Waste levels have reduced by almost two thirds since 1988, with waste minimization, increased recycling (it’s easy to recycle everywhere!), anaerobic digestion of organic waste and the residual waste burnt for energy.

Built environment: In June 1995, Freiburg city council adopted a resolution to only permit construction of “low energy buildings” on municipal land, and all new buildings must comply with low energy specifications. Since, energy-saving concepts have been incorporated in designs at an early stage in Freiburg, and the most environmentally friendly energy supplies are contractually prescribed for all buildings.

Freiburg

As well as seeing the sights, we also had the pleasure of meeting the European Environment Foundation – an international network for laureates, projects and students to connect and share their environmental expertise and skills. It was great to visit the HQ to hear about their work and discuss plans in the run up to their next flagship event: the International Convention of Environmental Laureates. Here, the European Environment Foundation bring together some 100 winners of environmental awards and prizes from around the world to connect and collaborate.

Keen to hear more? Visit the Green City Freiburg website to read all about the city’s pioneering sustainability developments or if you want to connect with environmentalists across the world, sign up to EnviroNetwork and introduce yourself to a community of likeminded people.

You can also hear about other pioneering initiatives that have caught our attention such as World Green Building Council and Bristol Green Capital Partnership over on the Greenhouse PR blog. If you’re an organisation driving social and environmental change and need support with your communications, please get in touch.

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