Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, March 02, 2015

European Green Capital as an example of a best practice promotion program that the US could adopt

The European Union has a wide variety of technical assistance and best practice promotion programs to encourage subjurisdictions to perform better, to learn from each other, to promote "Europeanness" and to strengthen countries in the east to reduce outmigration to Western Europe.

For cities much of this work is organized through a program called URBACT (urban action), which links 29 countries and 300 cities across Europe.

Three programs I am somewhat familiar with are the Capital of Culture, Green Capital, and Youth Capital programs.

EU sustainability initiatives are organized through the rubric of the European Sustainable Cities Platform. In general, European cities are significantly further ahead on these dimensions compared to US cities.
A new program modeled after the Green Capital program is the European Green Leaf initiative, targeting smaller cities.

This year's EU Green Capital is Bristol, UK, which on a wide variety of metrics is probably one of the world's cities most focused on innovation and process redesign.

See the past blog entry, "Bristol in the UK seems pretty amazing" as well as "Barter, sharing, local currencies: formalizing the informal economy as a response to economic downturn," which discusses in part the local currency system created there.

There is a two-part selection process, each round is quite rigorous.  Cities are evaluated in 12 areas (see chart, right).  One obvious area is waste production and management.

Various assessment documents are produced for each selection cycle, such as for the 2016 entrants, which summarizes the state of practice for each applicant on each of the evaluated indicators.

As the previous entry discusses, DC fell down on recyclable collection over the weekend.

It's a good example of the how a very public Green Capital promotion program in the US could help cities re-set and adopt high standards and expectations and truly best practices concerning a comprehensive set of urban environmental indicators.

For example, in waste production and management, Essen, one of the 2016 applicants--Ljubljana, Slovenia was selected--two initiatives that stuck out for me are (1) a biomass heating plant using waste wood as a feedstock and (2) a sorting facility for "waste" construction materials--in the US, close to 40% of the waste stream is comprised of construction materials.

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