The European Green Capital Award recognises EU cities’ efforts to raise public awareness of ‘Green’ issues through innovations aiming to improve the local environment and citizens’ quality of life.
This year, the Slovenian capital Ljubljana was awarded the prize as the first EU capital to adopt a ‘Zero Waste’ strategy. The city recycles two-thirds of its waste, having installed street-level collection points which temporarily store discarded paper, packaging, and glass underground, while residents can use an electronic card to open containers to deposit (and monitor) their biodegradable waste. The city-centre is car-free, with Slovenes using a smart card to access both public transport and bike-sharing facilities (as well as their local library), whilst an electric taxi service (the Kavilir) offers free trips to those who have mobility issues.
Bristol became the Britain’s first European Green Capital in 2015. The city’s often quirky environmental schemes include a 40-seater bio-bus, which can travel almost two-hundred miles on one tank powered by methane from Bristol Sewage Treatment Works; an art installation and solar power source in Millennium Square known as the ‘Energy Tree’, which provides the public with free phone charging and WiFi (but only if they pass a special ‘Energy Quiz’); and a community fish farm producing not only fish but vegetables fertilised with fish waste (a process named aquaponics).
Copenhagen, which won in 2014, has built a reputation as one of the greenest cities in the world – aiming to be carbon-neutral by 2025, nearly half the population cycles to work or college, and citizens are able to swim in its harbour’s clear water. Bike-friendly credentials have seen the city develop a system (‘Green Wave’) to coordinate traffic signals for cyclists so they don’t hit red lights in rush hour; draw up plans for a cycle bridge 213 feet over the city; and fund the ‘Cycling Without Age’ initiative in which volunteers on cycle rickshaws ‘pilot’ elderly care home residents across the city so they’re able to enjoy ‘the right to wind in your hair’.