Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach


The Irish city of Galway has been awarded the European Green Leaf 2017 in the second year of the competition which recognises cities commitment to better environmental outcomes. Galway was praised for its measures regarding mobility, biodiversity and land use and waste and the green economy.

KirwansLane_DecMoon_webGalway is a harbour city on the west coast of Ireland. It is sited where the mouth of River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean and has 12 km of coastal area and four beaches, two of which have been designated as Blue Flag Beaches complying with the 2006 EU bathing Water Directive. The city of Galway is a vibrant, diverse, cultural university city and has always been a landmark location for the creative arts in Ireland. It is a city of learning, a city of youth, a city of rich cultural heritage, a city of exciting contemporary and traditional food and of stunning natural environment and quality of life. Galway is also a popular tourist location due to the aforementioned attractions and its proximity to some of Ireland’s most impressive landscapes. As a gateway to the west, Galway city embodies the ethos of the European Green Leaf Award.

Galway particularly impressed the judges with its initiatives in the themes of mobility, biodiversity and land use and waste and the green economy.


In 2012, a 1.7 km section of one of the primary access roads to the west of the city was widened. The widening allowed bus and cycle lanes to be installed in both directions, allowed wider footpaths and increased cyclist and pedestrian priority at junctions along the corridor. The installed cycle lanes were raised and separated from the vehicular traffic. The scheme was designed using the Irish National Transport Authorities Cycle Manual, the first such scheme in Ireland to be designed in this way. The new corridor was also the first in Galway to be connected to the city’s Urban Traffic Control Network, a system based on the UTOPIA/SPOT system utilised in Turin, Italy. The upgrade has resulted in three of the city’s bus routes being re-routed onto the corridor and improved journey times by three to six minutes. Galway is currently developing it’s integrated transport plan.

Biodiversity and Land Use

Contrary to its compact size, Galway has a large and diverse range of habitats and wildlife. Diverse underlying geology, extensive urban woodland and close proximity to the River Corrib all contribute to the extent of its biodiversity. In 2008, the Irish Heritage Council commissioned a draft Local Biodiversity Action Plan in partnership with Galway City Council and all relevant stakeholders. This consultation is an essential part the preparation process and serves to maximise productive input, stakeholder participation and local ownership. This current plan is a result of extensive consultation. Following this in 2012, the Galway City Biodiversity Website was created with corresponding social media accounts to communicate to the wider audience.

Waste and the Green Economy

Diversion from landfill in Galway has been encouraged by a central composting scheme and the application of ’the polluter pays principle’ by introducing pay by weight waste disposal services. Whilst the city authority initially focused on the implementation of such measures its focus is not on regulation and enforcement which will encourage long term behavioural change.

To minimise the amounts of food waste being disposed of in landfill and prevent significant impacts on the environment, Galway city takes part in a number of interactive education and awareness events. The annual Galway Food Festival incorporates cookery demonstrations showcasing recipes which use food leftovers and waste taken from the cookbook. Positive feedback regarding the initiative is generated and it proves a popular attraction at the food festival. Information regarding food waste is provided to members of the public in an attempt to reduce food waste going to landfill.

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Galway Application

EGL 2017 Good Practice Report

EGL 2017 Technical Assessment Report