Green Cities Fit for Life

Image by Ursula Bach

Teresa Deckert, Project Manager for greenApes App, Essen

Teresa Deckert moved to Essen five years ago to undertake her Masters in Urban Culture, Society and Space at the University of Duisburg-Essen – a fitting topic to have studied in a European Green Capital! After finishing her studies, she became a Communications and Community Manager for the greenApes App, a social network for sustainability, which then led her to work for the city of Essen during their European Green Capital year to promote the sustainability App.

Therefore, it’s probably no surprise that Teresa’s sustainable contribution to the city is twofold – professionally and as a citizen of Essen. Her professional contribution comes from her role as a Project Manager in Essen’s European Green Capital team where she promotes the greenApes App. The main objective of greenApes is to provide an online network for people who are interested in the area of sustainability. Whether you are cycling, buying food, exchanging clothes or separating rubbish, every sustainable action is rewarded in the App with virtual points, and these points can be exchanged for sustainable prizes in shops.

Teresa tells us more about her involvement with the greenApes App, “The concept of greenApes is to provide an online network for people interested in sustainability, while also providing our users with the possibility of meeting and exchanging stories and experiences face-to-face. This means that a large part of my role is organising monthly meetings to connect these interested users. For example, we joined Essen’s ‘transition town’ initiative on their walk through the city to discover more about sustainable shopping and we’ve also visited community gardens by bike. Another area I’m responsible for is finding and convincing green stores, like package-free supermarkets, to become partners in our network.”

Teresa 1

Her contributions don’t stop there. Teresa is also personally interested and committed to zero waste topics and the plastic-free movement. She explains, “I try to buy my groceries at the weekly market from local providers or at the package-free supermarket. When it comes to fashion, I prefer to buy clothes from flea markets or second hand stores. I also don’t have a car so I’m either using my bicycle or public transport. I know these are only small things, but I think in the end they make a difference.”

It is clear from the nature of Teresa’s work and her personal contributions that she sees the importance of contributing sustainably to her city. “As someone who is working in this area, I indeed feel responsible for communicating on the overall topic of sustainability and topics like zero waste, plastic and packaging-free shopping, and the responsible use of resources. I do so to help other citizens become aware of the topic and to hopefully get more people to start thinking about changing their behaviours and eventually their lifestyles. I believe that small steps are better than no steps in making a sustainable difference.”

She also has faith in the potential citizens have to make sustainable change: “I want people to realize that change doesn’t have to be forced on people from governments or municipalities, but that people are able to make a difference themselves by starting an initiative or coming together to reach critical mass. This is why I help spread the word and show people that it’s actually quite easy to get involved. In my opinion, a city can only serve as a guide towards more sustainable development, but in the end it’s the citizens that make a difference – we are the driving force behind change.”

We asked Teresa what her advice would be to someone living in Essen who wants to make a sustainable difference, but doesn’t know how: I would tell them to download greenApes. It’ll give them a good overview of small steps they could include in their daily life, they’ll get inspiration from other users and they’d also have the opportunity to meet other people who are interested in a sustainable lifestyle at our monthly meetings. If you are looking for other ideas, I would recommend becoming a volunteer for Essen’s European Green Capital programme or at the Repair Café, or even becoming a gardener at a nearby community garden. There are so many options!”

If you are curious to know what it feels like to live in a European Green Capital winning city and the benefits involved, Teresa tells us, “I’ve already seen a lot of benefits and I think it’s been a positive experience for Essen so far. We’ve had a lot of really great events and discussions taking place – either in public or between groups of friends. I think Essen winning the title has helped kick-start a whole new conversation around sustainability. The European Green Capital title brought the topic to its citizens and helped bring different groups of people together who I believe will continue to meet even after the year is over. I really think it’s helped pave the way to even more sustainable development in our city.”  

The media has spoken at great length about Essen’s huge transformation from an industrial city to a green city. Teresa agrees that this is one of Essen’s huge selling points and one of the many things she loves about Essen: “I love that my city still provides a certain amount of its former industrial roughness in the northern part of the city and that people realised that our industrial heritage is something extraordinary. I think that Essen managed to demonstrate that it is possible to hold onto this heritage, while still transforming its industrial sites into green spaces for everyone’s enjoyment. At the same time, I also really like the southern part of the city, which is more rural with a lot of farmers, big lakes and a lot of space. I guess it’s the diversity that Essen provides that I enjoy the most.”

Click here to find out more about the greenApes App in Essen.