The Scandinavian region has always been one of the top destinations on my”to visit” list. Despite the very cold climate; their Viking heritage and mythology,along with the very high living standards, maximum level of personal freedom and the freedom for their press, the original and minimalist approach to design,and undoubtedly the healthy and beautiful people have always made this region in the northest part of Europe between the Atlantic Ocean, Baltic and Nordic Seas quite special. What has made it even more interesting for me is that Stockholm, the capital of Sweden that lies on the eastern part of the Scandinavian peninsula has been designated as the”Green Capital” of Europe in 2010. I believe it should not have been that easy to create the”greenest” city in a region where seasons are quite different than the rest of the world, with 20-hour nights during the winter, and the lively and colorful”White Nights” during the summer…
Maybe it is the peculiar course of these natural events and the demographic, or the high awareness level and individuals’ contribution that has set Sweden aside in realizing the environmental hazards that the Earth faces earlier than most of the other nations; but the country has successfully implemented a sustainable development program for years. The renewable energy resources are being used in the country at the maximum level; and the incinerable waste technology and the”regional central heating” system utilizes the steam and hot water,conveying them to buildings via an underground pipe system. This system provides heating for more than half of all residences and offices,and the carbon emission rate due to central heating has declined by more than 60% in the last 20 years.
Industrial waste is usually poorly utilized as an energy resource, especially when you consider that the amount of energy that could be stored by using the incinerable industrial waste is much larger than the amount that is needed to heat all buildings on the entire European continent. If the other European countries were to reach the same regional heating system levels as that of Sweden, the carbon emission reduction rates in Europe could increase by quadruple! The use of crude oil in the central heating system is reported to have decreased to 3% -from the previous 80%- recently, and 75% of waste is being collected for recycyling or to be used as incinerable waste,with a very high rate of 95% of these being domestic waste–collected from households!
I believe all these figures lead to a very fair designation of Stockholm as the first Green Capital of Europe; after all, the Swedish people have really deserved the title for their contribution on an individual level!
Hammarby Sjöstad, located South of Stockholm in a region of lakes,canals on the Baltic Sea coast is an environmentally friendly eco-city, with waste management facilities for air purification and sewage treatment plants, also producing all energy required for the city. The region, formerly an industrial port where a lot of factories were located, has undergone an urban transformation process with the support from local government, several investors and environmental organizations and has now become a favorite residential area with 20,000 inhabitants.
This large scale urban transformation Project,also known as the“Hammarby Plan“ and used as a model for other countries and cities, has been developed mostly due to the scarcity of housing in the city center, and around the failed attempt for Stockholm to host the 2004 Olympic Games. The buildings, previously designed to form the Olympic Village have been completed despite losing the Games to Athens; and an eco-city with a unique environmental program with solid waste, waste water and energy recycling systems has been created. Nature has also been protected and no woodland has been destroyed during the process, with public transportation being promoted using railways and encouraging inhabitants as well as daily visitors to park in allocated parking lots outside the city, and sea transportation being supplied for free by the local government.
The materials used in construction also reflect the environmentally friendly approach; and there are open spaces and lots of balconies in residential buildings, despite the rough climate. Streets only belong to pedestrians, with no waste bins or waste collecting trucks in sight; where a pedestrian has to only put the waste bag in a chute on any street! The waste is then decomposed using a computer operated system, is transferred to a waste treatment facility–along with waste water and rain -and converted to energy.
All of the above facts lead to at least 50% reduction of pollution and environmental damages, as well as a much more livable city with healthy and happy inhabitants!
Hoping to get together in my next entry,where I will be mentioning Hamburg, the“Green Capital 2011“