By Eric Schumann ’21, Hope College Office of Sustainability
Every global recession results in an economic restart. Governments flood stimulus packages to citizens to ensure some economic activity, but typically without regard for environmental consequences.
Our post-coronavirus economic recovery offers an opportunity to address environmental sustainability, especially with regard to the challenges posed by our changing climate.
But how should we make the proper sustainable changes after this recession? We can learn much by looking at the substantial actions some communities have already taken in their infrastructure, culture, and daily lives.
One example could be the “Green City” of Germany, Freiburg in Breisgau. I studied there in the fall of 2019. Many cities in Germany have modeled their policies and practices after Freiburg. Here are some examples of sustainable practices well established in Germany:
Fahrradstraßen (“Bike Streets”) To make transportation more convenient for bicyclists, Freiburg includes bike streets in its infrastructure. These streets give citizens the most direct mode of transportation throughout the city, with paths along rivers, through tunnels, and on bridges over train tracks.
Rieselfeld (“Leach Field,” a new City District in Freiburg) This city district was built on land that had originally been irrigated with sewage water. The top soil was stripped and then the construction of the district began. All the buildings were designed to be low-energy houses, with the opportunity to become even more energy efficient.
The district also adopted a heterogeneous social structure, meaning that higher- and lower-income residents were not separated into different areas or buildings. Last, a tram line was built to extend sustainable transportation to the new district. Rieselfeld is a model for how new residential developments can be constructed.
Der Waldhaus , Freiburg im Schwarzwald (The Forest House, Freiburg in the Black Forest) This institution is a center for sustainable forestry: Sustainably felling trees, educating the public about felling, and providing employment opportunities related to felling, hunting, instructing workshops, and helping run the Waldhaus.
For every tree cut down, two trees are planted, with an eye to maintaining a high variety of trees in the forest. Much of the wood from this forest is used by Freiburg and other neighboring cities.
Ein Experiment der Nachhaltigkeit auf Berlins Straßen (An Experiment of Sustainability on Berlin’s Streets) Although I lived in Freiburg for the semester, I was able to visit a lot of other cities in Germany, including Berlin. This large city has made many sustainable improvements.
They include facilitating an increasing number of bicyclists (eventually passing Freiburg to be the largest bike city in the country) with improvements like placing green circle designs on crosswalks and intersections with bike paths and by making wooden leisure areas and bike racks where cars previously parked.
Eric Schumann is a rising senior at Hope College, majoring in business and German and minoring in biology. This summer he is an intern for Hope’s Office of Sustainability and in the fall, he will be one of 10 Hope Advocates for Sustainability Interns.
This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Environmental Awareness/Action: Environmental education and integrating environmental practices into our planning will change negative outcomes of the past and improve our future.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.