Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
For my project I wanted to study the development and design of a "sustainable" city focusing on the identification of perceived barriers to becoming "sustainable" along with the methods used to address these perceptions. I wanted to investigate how cities around Europe integrated sustainability into their development plans. I looked at four cities during my Easter break; Copenhagen (Denmark), Albertslund (Denmark), Heidelberg (Germany), and Graz (Austria).
Along with looking at how they integrated sustainable design into the city, I looked at how the citizens reacted to the environmental regulations imposed on them. I randomly interviewed 20 citizens from each city who used the public transportation systems and asked them: how far did they live outside of the city? How often they used public transportation? And did they have a car, if so how often did they use it and for what occasions? Did they consider their city to be an eco-city? What was sustainability to them? What improvements or suggestions did they have for the city? I asked these questions to get their perspective on how effective these policies and eco-cities were. I also took pictures during my time there to bring back visual representation.
Three of these cities (Albertslund, Heidelberg, and Graz) have been awarded the European Sustainable City Award; Awarded by the European Sustainable Cities and Towns Campaign. The Sustainable Cities Award recognizes the significant progress made by local authorities in their sustainable development activities. The award itself helps to raise awareness of the need for sustainable development and mobilizes support for sustainability. It highlights good examples and encourages exchange of experience and networking as well.
I specifically looked at these European cities because cities of this size often have been the most innovative and creative in their local sustainability initiatives and strategies. My observations support this statement as well. I found that public transportation i.e. electric trolleys, subways, trains, buses etc... were highly encouraged for citizens to use instead of personal vehicles. Also, in Copenhagen specifically, bike transport was pushed heavily. What I gathered through my interviews was that the governments have made public transit more appealing and convenient for individuals to use then their cars. In CPH, they have a system called "bluewaves" where in the morning bikes have major road lanes and take precedent over the cars. There are other initiatives that are being practiced in these cities such as alternative energy investments, greening projects, pedestrian strict roads, green roofs, and many more.
Much can be learned from these European cities because of their ability and need to adapt to the limited space and resources. Getting the chance to visit these European cities while I studied abroad in Denmark helped me to gain a better understanding of the different techniques implemented to become a more sustainable city. Getting a chance to carry out this research allowed me to observe the development of sustainable cities and has given me an understanding of how the citizens have specifically responded. I have planned on using the research I have collected in a research paper and hopefully an independent project in the spring of 2011. This experience has prompted my interest in green urbanism and eco-cities which I hope to explore in future studies.