Freiburg: A Green CityEuropean Union, Spring 2009

Before I moved to Freiburg on this four month sojourn, I did some research on the town and found that it was characterized as a “Green City.” I thought, “Sure, they probably just recycle a lot.” Was I ever wrong; recycling in just a small portion of the “green” endeavors that the city has undertaken.

They are pioneers in renewable energies. My apartment building has solar panels on top of it. Many of the newer buildings have a whole side that is covered in them. As Germany’s sunniest city, Freiburg uses every ounce (or should I say gram?) of sunshine it can capture. From my room, I can see a line of windmills perched onto of a very large hill (or maybe a small mountain. The ranges at home dwarf everything I have experienced here, so I’m not quite sure how to characterize it.). Freiburg loves renewable energy.

But they are also very active in the political sphere. From what I am told, Freiburg is the only city over 100,000 in Germany that has a Green Party mayor. This government has even decreed that any new buildings must be “low energy” (Thus, the massive amounts of previously mentioned solar panels.).

There was recently an EU-wide search to name the Green Capitals of the Union for 2010 and 2011. Freiburg was a front runner, but was beat out by Stockholm (2010) and Hamburg (2011). The residents of my little city are extremely upset about this; they were absolutely confident that Freiburg would win.

Now, news of the city is making its way to America. Recently the New York Times has reported on an innovative suburb of Freiburg, Vauban, that is practically car free; many IES students live here. While I don’t know if I’d call Vauban a suburb or even upscale, as the article dubs it, it is definitely a strong hold of green values.

At the moment with the change of season, Freiburg is becoming a new kind of Green City: a rain forest. The humidity here is so dense, I feel as if I could part the air with my hands. But I’m enjoying this extra added “greenness;” I will miss it dearly once I go home.

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