Green up your life
Essen, is a city in transformation. It has changed tremendously within the last decades, from coal and steel industry to a city with a true green heart.
Located in Ruhr Area in Northrhine-Westphalia, Essen is well known for its ‘Zollverein’ coal mine complex, today holder of the UNESCO world heritage site and center of arts, education and recreation.
As a role model of structural change Essen has been honored as ‘European Green Capital 2017’ by the European Union. The award was founded in 2008 to underline the important role of Cities in the global fight against climate change, nature and biodiversity, water protection and sustainability. Essen seems to meet all these requirements. This is mainly because of successful structural change, new concepts for bicycles, mobility, park areas, sustainability and climate-friendly development. Thanks to people like Simone Raskob, who is head of the department for building and environment and leads the city’s European Green Capital team, Essen has become a trailblazer for sustainable urban development. Years before Essen applied for the “European Green Capital”, Simone Raskob has laid the foundation stones for urban change and sustainable development.
“The heritage of the industrial history of the Ruhr Area, the fallow land, means a high potential for park and green areas, as well as for residential buildings. This is the reason why Essen and other towns in Ruhr Area are greener than cities like Paris, London or Munich.”
In 2010 Essen was European Capital of Culture. Today Essen is the first city with a long history of coal, iron and steel industry, which is honored by both titles, European Green Capital and Capital of Culture
. Essen passed through an image change, from heavy and dirty industry to a town worth living.
In the year 2017 Essen has allowed swimming in Baldeneysee, a lake which is part of the Ruhr. Due to the heavy industry in the Ruhr Area, the water quality has been really bad for a long time, but today the water quality meets the strict requirements of the European Bathing Water Directive.
“Being able to swim in the Baldeneysee has been one of the most emotional moments for me because the Ruhr has now become one of the symbols for successful structural change and sustainability.”
Good things to come: Essen will increase the percentage of renewable energies by using solar energy, hydrodynamic power and geothermal energy. The tunnels of former coal mines can be used to produce water and geothermal energy. The engine of one of the ships on the Baldeneysee runs by methanol, completely carbon neutral. Postal service is serving the city of Essen with electric scooters. Essen will also install new routes for bicycles, as well as charging stations for electric cars and a better offer of public transport. With new mobility stations, which include car and bike sharing and the transfer to public transport, they are reducing individual traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. “Nobody expected it, but Essen has become a new center for innovation and inspiration”, Simone Raskob concluded.
According to her, the success of the ‘European Green Capital’ year is also linked to low obstacles for participation. “It has to be fun for citizens and visitors, to learn more about sustainable mobility, food and goods.” With guided bike tours to gardening projects, a new hiking trail or exhibitions, Essen offers a wide range of projects for a sustainable and livable future in the town. About 500.000 additional visitors and even more overnight stays, Essen has become a magnet for visitors, who want to hike on the new hiking trail, visit urban gardening projects or enjoy the green heart of the town.
Within the next few months Raskob and the team of ‘European Green Capital 2017’ will evaluate the progress made in this year. In 2018 Nijmegen will be the new ‘European Green Capital 2018’, but Essen has a leading responsibility for sustainable development in town. This is why Essen works together with former and future Green Capitals, to learn from mistakes and share ideas. “Essen will follow the path of sustainable development, to ensure a livable future”, Raskob said. In the so-called “Green Decade”, Essen will make progress, to reach twelve individual goals of sustainable urban development.
Following their motto “Green up your life” the city of Essen has truly proven that urban change is possible.
I love my city because… Essen is a city of short distances and I can reach every green area with my bicycle.
My second favourite city in the world (despite Essen)… is again Essen 🙂
Everyone can live more sustainable, simply by… rethinking their own lifestyle.
Every city should… consult citizens, to implement sustainable development.