Europe’s Greenest City

Posted by: David Shafie

Just a short train ride over the bridge from Copenhagen is the ultra green city of Malmo, Sweden.  The former shipbuilding town reinvented itself as a model of sustainability after falling on hard times in the 1980s.  When its main industry collapsed, Sweden’s third-largest city lost over 10 percent of its population.  Opening a new Saab factory failed to turn things around, and in the 1990s city leaders began to redevelop brownfields to build new waterfront housing and a new university, which opened in 1998.

Malmo's Turning Torso

Several information technology and telecommunications firms have become established in Malmo.  These have become Malmo’s major employers, along with higher education and the green building industry.

Malmo has set a goal to be carbon neutral and have 100 percent of its energy generated from renewable sources by 2030.  Malmo’s buildings are covered with a mix of solar panels and PV cells and much of its electricity is generated by offshore windfarms.  City vehicles run on biofuel, and it is not uncommon to see people driving hydrogen-powered cars.  The city has embraced a green lifestyle: more than 95 percent of household waste is recycled, and organic meals are served in Malmo’s schools.

The Turning Torso is the symbol of Malmo’s success is also its most famous landmark.  Architect Santiago Calatrava designed the 54-story tower to mimic the human body in motion.  The organic and food waste from every apartment is collected in a single system and converted to biofuel, which is used heat this iconic tower.

The Turning Torso sits adjacent to the newly-redeveloped Western Harbor, which has become the city’s most desirable place to live.  City leaders saw the opportunity to transform the former industrial sites and shipyards into a showcase.  New mixed-use development with green housing and pedestrian-friendly storefronts were constructed on the site for the European Housing Exhibition in 2001.

Green Housing in the Western Harbor

Malmo boasts that the Western Harbor gets 100 percent of its energy from local renewable sources and that, all the houses completed in the first phase of the Western Harbor development were powered by one 2-megawatt turbine and the pv cells on one building.

Each of the houses is green on the outside as well as energy efficient.  Some like the one in the foreground of this photo, have green roofs, bird houses, or bat houses.

Since 16 different developers were used in the first phase, planners had ample data and were able to learn from their mistakes. They made adjustments, and the result was higher energy efficiency in the second phase, completed in 2008.  Construction on the third phase of this waterfront neighborhood is underway.

A residential waste tube

Malmo’s progress is possible because its residents are committed to their sustainability goals.  For example, walking around in the Western Harbor, we saw residents taking some elaborate steps to dispose of trash.  Household organic waste and non-organic waste must be carried out in small bags and fed into vacuum tubes.  The organic waste tubes carry the trash away to be converted to biofuels that power the city’s buses.  The other wastestream is incinerated, which generates electric power.  To ensure that no mistakes are made, and that waste will not be dumped into the wrong tubes, residents must carry keys to unlock them every time they take out the trash.

All this dedication is paying off.  Malmo expects its current level of carbon dioxide emissions to be 25 percent below its 1990 levels.

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One Response to Europe’s Greenest City

  1. Don Will says:

    What do you folks make of the resignation of Connie Hedegaard as President? The official line we get is that the switch was for protocol reasons so the PM could take over when the heads of gov/state arrive. The back story is that the conference is in such trouble that she needs to be free to get down on the floor and get involved in negotiations, given that she is the one with the details in her head.

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