Germany Holidays: ‘greenest city’ Freiburg

Nestled at the southern edge of the Black Forest, in the southwestern corner of Germany, it’s perhaps no surprise that Freiburg im Breisgau lays claim to being the greenest city in the country. However it’s not just by dint of this location that it can make this boast. The self styled ‘Green City’ continues to lead the field when it comes to developing sustainable policies in housing, transport, energy use and leisure.

Ever since resistance to a nearby nuclear power plant grew in the mid 1970s, Freiburg has been at the heart of the environmental movement in Germany. From the 1980s onwards, as the Green Party gained its first seats in the German Parliament, the popularity of sustainability has been evident. This continues to the present day, with the Greens getting 21.2 percent of the city’s vote in the 2017 elections, the highest share anywhere in the country.

Early in the 1990s the city made a conscious choice to move towards creating a more sustainable future. The development of the Vauban district on the site of former French army barracks near the city centre was commissioned. This is now the most environmentally sustainable city district anywhere in Europe and has over 5,000 residents and provides 600 jobs. Guided tours of the district by bike and on foot are available.

Renewable energy

Being the sunniest city in Germany certainly helps, but Freiburg generates more solar energy than any other city in the country and indeed more than many other whole EU countries. Symbolically the Schwarzwaldstadion, home to Freiburg’s Bundesliga team, has over 2,000 m2 of solar panels on its roof.

Apart from solar energy, the city makes use of other renewable forms of energy, particularly biomass, which uses byproducts from commercial/domestic waste and the local forestry industry (over 40 percent of the Freiburg land area is woodland, another contributor to its green credentials). Overall Freiburg has set itself some very ambitious targets, aiming to have reduced its CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. By 2050 the intention is to be climate neutral, powered entirely by renewable energy.

Such pioneering actions have inevitably led to an accumulation of scientific and technological expertise in the city. Freiburg has attracted some of the most significant companies in the sustainability industry, which accordingly has become a major contributor to the local economy, with over 12,000 directly employed in the sector.

The city has taken other broad initiatives to increase sustainability. The Altstadt has been pedestrianised and cycle use is encouraged, with 250 miles (400km) of cycle paths criss-crossing the city. It is now estimated that at least 25 percent of all journeys are undertaken by bike. There is also an extensive and well subsidised tram and bus network. With around 70 percent of the city’s population living within 500 meters of a tram stop, this considerably reduces the dependency on cars.

All this, together with the opportunities to explore the southern Black Forest, contributes to the excellent quality of life in Freiburg and makes it a very appealing destination. As the impetus towards increasing environmental sustainability grows, it has certainly earned its ‘Green City’ soubriquet. – Mark Arrol


Looking for more? See other destinations in Southern Germany

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