Edinburgh: "Most Sustainable City in Northern Europe"

Well, maybe not quite yet. But it is the aim of the City of Edinburgh Council to wear such a mantle by 2015. And whilst Scotland overall might be setting its sights on achieving 40% of all electricity coming from renewable energy by 2020, it's capital has even more holistic intentions. The city has a Sustainable Development Unit to guide it in reaching these lofty goals. A brief look at some of their work would suggest this is no half-baked greenwash job, but a serious attempt to green a metropolis. Take for example the SDU's publications, like the Sustainable Design Guide for buildings. Available as a series of free downloadable PDFs this is a most impressive document. Just the Materials chapter alone is 20 pages, and written in gorgeous plain language. Charts abound. I particularly liked the simple way designers are led through the decision making process. For example, materials are ranked by 'sustainable choices - in order of preference'. Less sustainable stuff is still noted, with accompanying notes on the toxicity and/or health effects of any non-sustainable options. The cost is referred to with words like: "little/no difference", "double", "half", "small saving". I've seen more green materials checklists than I care to remember, and this one is a true delight, compared to many. Then there is the Fair Trade guide (same link as publications above). 28 pages explaining the virtues of such purchasing, and listing those businesses, schools, universities, churches, etc, that provide Fair Trade products and programs. And it is even provided in Braille, in large print, and on disk. Very progressive.

Like their new administrative headquarters (pictured above). It reuses a city centre brownfield site. Includes green roofs for heat gain protection; rainwater filtering and flow moderation; waterless urinals; low water-usage appliances; natural ventilation; lighting responsive to daylight level, and to room occupancy; with all timber from sustainably certified sources.

The 'Fit for Future' furniture project, is where the City filled a shipping container with "42 old style blackboards, 700 school chairs, more than 20 school tables and some medical equipment ..." destined for the charity Missions Without Borders, who dispense such goods to communities in need throughout the Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Moldova.

Or the organic gardening allotments, where 60% of the 58 vegie patches have been let to locals who can walk to the site. Rainwater tanks harvest the sky's bounty to water the gardens, some of which are raised so they can be accessed by wheelchair bound green thumbs. A composting toilet is on site. Two horticulturists have been engaged to oversee social and therapeutic horticulture programs in the allotments.

And there is plenty more going on, but those few morsels should indicate the direction that the City of Edinburgh Council is heading down. May they inspire other to adopt their vigour. ::City of Edinburgh Council, via The Scotsman.

PS. We wonder where in Southern Europe is the sustainable city that stopped Edinburgh from pitching for "Most Sustainable City in Northern Europe"?

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