Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by M.Štojs

European Green Leaf 2017 finalists

In May, the European Commission announced the three finalist cities of the 2017 European Green Leaf. Here's what you need to know about each of them.

Cornellà de Llobregat (Spain)

Inclusive sustainability

Cornellà de Llobregat

In recent years, Cornellà de Llobregat has made it a priority to promote comprehensive sustainable development. The projects that the city has implemented aimed at improving the town’s environmental, social and economic life and focused on benefits for the most vulnerable.

One of Cornellà’s most significant energy initiatives is the installation of over 150 square meters of solar thermal panels on municipal buildings. The panels will contribute to the reduction of 22 tons of CO2 emissions annually and were installed by individuals working in government employment programs.

Other energy-related programs concern energy saving and energy poverty prevention. Vulnerable households receive cost counselling and low-cost monitoring, enabling them to save up to 60% on their energy bills. The Euronet 50/50 project changed consumption habits at schools and municipal facilities. Through changing consumption habits, it accomplished average energy savings of 16% and costs savings of EUR 35 000.

Other initiatives include food waste prevention projects, such as the collection of surplus food that is then distributed to over 1,000 families at risk of social exclusion. The program distributed 12 tons of fresh food from markets and supermarkets in 2015. Another effort, which is aimed at eliminating waste, is the implementation of reusable dishes in over 30 events each year in a program run by individuals with mental disabilities.

In addition, the town has created community gardens on 165 lots for seniors and the unemployed. Schools using gardens as an educational tool form part of a network and each year over 4 000 students participate in environmental activities, including visits to the city’s river and parks.

The city’s plans include implementing the Cornellà Natura project in the next ten years, which will increase the city’s green space by 30%. The goal of the project is to create green belts in and around the city, strengthening urban cohesion and making the town more environmentally friendly, liveable and sustainable. Upon the conclusion of the project, Cornellà de Llobregat will have 1.018.254 square meters of green areas.

Galway (Ireland)

A move to sustainable transport and improved public space

Galway

Sustainable urban transport is one of the priorities for Galway City Council. The city has recently published the Galway Transport Strategy (GTS), an integrated transport management plan for the period 2016 to 2036.

The new strategy encourages a shift to more sustainable travel, reducing dependence on private cars and improving air quality. It is also meant to make Galway more accessible and better connected. In general, the plan should also improve public spaces and quality of life in Galway city.

The strategy builds upon the Galway Smarter Travel project, an education and awareness programme that has run for many years.

A main objective of the Galway Transport Strategy is the shift from car dependency to more sustainable modes of transport, and the promotion and enhancement of public transport. Residential areas, commercial areas, schools, colleges and hospitals will be connected by frequent, cross-city bus services.

Another objective of Galways’s new transport strategy is to reclaim the city centre from the car and, in particular, to actively discourage 'through traffic'. The model outlined in the plan is based on the model implemented in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz. The Spanish city was European Green Capital in 2012. Pedestrian prioritisation will be increased in the city centre to limit traffic through the centre.

It is the first time in Ireland that the National Transport Authority and a local authority have come together to produce a regional strategy based on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan principles.

Mikkeli (Finland)

Green technology amidst lakes and forest

Mikkeli

Mikkeli, a city of 55 000 inhabitants in East Finland, is a growing centre of employment and services. Nature, the environment and well-being are at the heart of town’s urban planning, and environmental technology plays an important role.

Striking characteristics of Mikkeli are its abundant forests and lakes. The town’s surface area is 21% water and 68% forest. Due to its numerous lakes, the city has the highest number of holiday homes in Finland (more than 10 000).

Water management, renewable energy, digital solutions and the use of cleantech are priorities in the town’s urban planning.

The municipal water company is preparing for the procurement of a new wastewater treatment plant that will feature the best available technology. Upon completion it will be the largest membrane bioreactor in Finland.

The city-owned energy company Etelä-Savon Energia Oy uses 85% wood-based fuels for the production of district heating, the highest share of wood-based fuels for an energy company in Finland.

Also energy efficiency is at the top of Mikkeli’s agenda. Mikkeli is among the first cities in Finland to sign an energy efficiency agreement with the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

Mikkeli’s ambition in green technology is evident in the EcoSairila centre which develops new concepts for the circular economy. The centre develops pilot technologies for the circular economy and aims at setting new standards in process management and environmental safety.