Duluth leaders visit “Greenest City in Europe”On the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Duluth and Växjö, Sweden, Mayor Don Ness, five Duluth city councilors and several of their spouses boarded a plane and spent four days in a city that, according to Councilor Emily Larson, looks remarkably similar to … Duluth.
By: Patra M. Sevastiades, Duluth Budgeteer News
On the 25th anniversary of the sister city relationship between Duluth and Växjö, Sweden, Mayor Don Ness, five Duluth city councilors and several of their spouses boarded a plane and spent four days in a city that, according to Councilor Emily Larson, looks remarkably similar to … Duluth.
Its population is 80,000, it features a central lake and it’s surrounded by millions of trees, is located hours away from major cities.
“And yet,” said Larson, “its population grows each year.”
The reason for its urban success? The citizens of Växjö have made going green a city philosophy and an economic engine, according to the article, “Växjö sets sustainable example for Europe,” on the official Swedish website www.sweden.se. This philosophy impacts decisions as diverse as improving water quality to building with renewable resources and has allowed the community to prosper, the article states.
“They have figured out how to make going green economically viable. It creates jobs,” said Duluth City Councilor Patrick Boyle. “They even have future plans to capture the methane gas produced in their dumps to power city vehicles like fire trucks and squad cars.”
Växjö was in rough shape in the 1960s, with lakes so polluted that people could not swim in them. The city cleaned them up, but didn’t stop there, the article states. The oil shortage of the 1970s prompted city leaders to seek energy independence, and by 1979, they had transformed their oil-burning central power plant into a biofuel plant, making good use of the waste from their timber industry — bark, branches, and sawdust. In 1996, the city set itself a goal to make the city fossil fuel free by 2030.
In 2007, “the BBC declared Växjö the ‘greenest city in Europe,’” Duluth City Councilor Jennifer Julsrud said. This attracted the attention of international leaders, entrepreneurs and others who came to Växjö to study its techniques. Växjö developed environmental workshops to teach its model of sustainability and highlight its practical applications. Two or three foreign delegations per week visit Växjö to participate in green workshops.
“The workshops produce 60 percent of Växjö’s tourism income,” according to City Councilor Dan Hartman.
To date, the city has reduced the CO2 emissions per person by one-third, in part because environmental changes were also applied to the downtown, the article states. Where cars once filled the streets, pedestrian walkways now bustle with residents and tourists. Attractive paving stones replace concrete streets, the website article states, and restaurants extended comfortable outdoor seating into the open walkways. Window awnings were placed on office buildings and apartments to reduce the need for cooling.
Hartman noted that one of the changes Växjö’s leaders made was figuring out how to treat timber beams so that they would prove stronger and more fire-resistant than the steel beams predominantly used in Swedish building construction. That accomplished, he said, the city changed its building code and began to use timber framing instead of steel — simultaneously supporting the local timber industry and using renewable resources. The city has constructed “passive” apartment buildings that need no external energy source for heating.
The Duluth delegation included Mayor Ness and his wife, Laura, Patrick and Jennifer Boyle, Dan and Elizabeth Hartman, Jennifer Julsrud, Gary Krause and Emily Larson and Doug Zaun. The city of Växjö provided their guests’ lodging and most meals. The councilors and their spouses paid for their own transportation, not taking a dime from the Duluth coffers, they said, and Mayor and Laura Ness’ travel costs were the gift of Duluth Sister Cities. The entourage was rounded out by Glenn Peterson, current chair of the Duluth/Växjö Sister City Committee and his wife, Irma, as well as Irina Haller, Ph.D., past president of Duluth Sister Cities.
“I left feeling proud of how environmentally sustainable our city is,” said Hartman. He said the trip left him inspired to promote Duluth’s environmental assets even more.
Research source: http://www.sweden.se/eng/ Home/Society/Sustainability/Reading/Växjö-sets-sustainable-example-for-Europe/