• Sweden edition
 
The Swedish city touted as 'Europe's greenest'
The Växjö Cathedral. Photo: Hanna Gustafsson/Flickr

The Swedish city touted as 'Europe's greenest'

Published: 24 Jan 2014 08:06 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Jan 2014 08:06 GMT+01:00

Nestled among glittering lakes and thick pine forests in southern Sweden, Växjö has gone further than most in renewable energy, clean transport and energy conservation, promoting itself as "Europe's Greenest City".
   
"We started very early," Henrik Johansson at Växjö local council told AFP.    
 
"Our politicians realized in the '60s that if the city was to develop the lakes had to be cleaned up -- they'd been polluted by the linen industry in the 18th century and by the city's expansion."
   
The restoration of the most polluted waterway, Lake Trummen -- infamous for its noxious smell as far back as the 18th century -- acted as a catalyst for more ambitious environmental projects, he added.
   
"When I was a kid you wouldn't have dreamt of taking a swim in it, but today you can," said the 39-year-old environmental officer.
   
"That very obvious change has stayed in people's minds -- it showed that if you really want to do something and set your mind to it, you will succeed."    
 
In the 1990s, before global warming was grabbing headlines, the city council announced plans to abandon fossil fuels by 2030 and to halve carbon emissions in less than two decades -- among a host of "green goals" that also encourage local farmers to go organic and everyone to reduce paper consumption and to use bicycles or public transport.
   
Today, Växjö's CO2 emissions are indeed almost half what they were in 1993 -- one of the lowest levels in Europe at 2.7 tonnes per person -- and almost half of Sweden's already low average.
   
Energy from moss and twigs
 
In the 1970s Växjö developed a district heating and power system -- pumping heat and hot water from a central boiler around the city.
   
That was not unique for Sweden, but the city-owned energy company went on to pioneer a changeover from oil to biomass -- incinerating leftovers from the forestry industry.
   
At the plant just outside the city, Björn Wolgast, the director, picks up a handful of tangled twigs, moss and bark, and breathes in the pungent pine fragrance as an excavator delivers a pile of the dusty material to a nearby conveyer belt.
   
"It's totally renewable energy -- Swedish forests still produce more than we take out," he said, adding: "And we send ash back to fertilize the forest."
   
Today almost 90 percent of the city's 60,000 inhabitants get their heat and hot water from the plant, which also supplies about 40 percent of electricity needs.
   
Thanks to a series of filters, the plant's emissions are almost negligible -- one-twentieth of the national limit.
   
But whether Växjö really is "Europe's Greenest City" is open for debate and the slogan irritates some locals,  including ecological restaurant owner Göran Lindblad.
   
"Why were we years behind other parts of the country in recycling food waste?" asked Lindblad, one of the first in Växjö to start recycling food two years ago.
   
Buses fuelled by potato peels
   
Nonetheless, when the local council did start collecting organic waste things happened quickly.
   
Two-thirds of households signed up voluntarily -- in return for lower charges -- and today the city's fleet of green biogas buses runs almost entirely on locally produced gas made from rotten food and sewage.
   
"It's difficult to compare cities of different sizes but I'd say it's one of Europe's greenest -- they're very advanced and ambitious," said Cristina Garzillo, a sustainability expert at the local government network ICLEI in Freiburg, Germany.
   
Ryan Provencher, a 39-year-old engineer, moved to Sweden from Texas just over a decade ago and could be described as a fervent convert to the green revolution.
   
"We recycle just about everything. I only use my car about twice a week and tend to run or cycle to work," he said.
   
Provencher lives with his wife and three children in Växjö's most environmentally friendly "positive house", which sends more energy back to the local grid than it uses thanks to a roof covered in solar panels and an array of other energy-saving gadgets.
   
He says the contrast with life in Waco, where his parents live, is like "night and day".
   
"Gas is so cheap there that nobody thinks twice about driving."
   
Växjö may be a world away from Waco, but many of its residents have a similar love affair with the car -- about 60 percent drive -- and it has proved hard to change that, making the city's fossil-free goal harder to achieve.
   
"We're dependent on national changes and on car and fuel companies to make alternatives available. We can't force people out of their cars," Johansson said.
   
"But we're making it more and more attractive to use bikes or buses and harder to drive shorter distances. And it's pretty easy to make quick improvements: gas stations are already blending biofuels into ordinary fuel so everyone can start lowering their CO2 emissions."
   
"By 2030 I think we'll be at least 80 percent there," Johansson said.    
 
"And that would not be so bad!"

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Russian jets violate Swedish airspace: report
Russian Su-24 medium-range bomber, known by Nato as 'Fencer,' flies at undisclosed location in Russia in 2002. File photo: AP

Russian jets violate Swedish airspace: report

Two Russian fighter jets violated Swedish airspace on Wednesday, prompting the government to request an urgent report from the Armed Forces. READ  

Business
Sweden’s growth 'better than expected'
Strong household consumption is helping Sweden's growth. Photo: Mona-Lisa Djerf/SvD/TT

Sweden’s growth 'better than expected'

Sweden’s gross domestic product grew 2.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014 compared to the same period a year earlier, with the economy performing much better than previously thought. READ  

Presented by West Sweden
West Sweden prepares for lobster premiere
Sweden's lobster season starts on Monday. Photo: Jonas Ingman

West Sweden prepares for lobster premiere

It's almost time to catch your own dinner off the west coast of Sweden. The lobster season gets underway on Monday, with fishermen and tourists taking to the seas in the hope of stocking up on the traditional Swedish delicacy. READ  

National
Gas leak leaves Sony staff in Sweden hospital

Gas leak leaves Sony staff in Sweden hospital

An Ozone gas leak at Sony Mobile's offices in Lund has put eight people in hospital, with nine others needing to be checked by doctors. READ  

Elections 2014
Social Democrats get permission to govern
Stefan Löfven is set to become Prime Minister. Photo: TT

Social Democrats get permission to govern

Sweden's parliamentary speaker has given Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven the all-clear to form a government. On Friday Löfven is expected to meet the heads of the Liberal and Centre parties. READ  

Elections 2014
Vote quirk gives Sweden Democrats extra seats
Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson celebrates his party's election success. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT

Vote quirk gives Sweden Democrats extra seats

The Sweden Democrats, who became the third largest party in Sunday's election, have learned they will get two more seats than expected due to a quirk in the country's election system. READ  

Tech
Ericsson to axe modems and cut jobs
Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, pictured here presenting the comapny's quarterly report in July. Photo: Annika af Klercker/TT

Ericsson to axe modems and cut jobs

Swedish telecom giant Ericsson has confirmed it will cut jobs in Sweden and abroad after the company announced on Thursday morning it would stop developing modems. READ  

Elections 2014
Centre party laughs off Löfven's advances
Annie Lööf speaks after her meeting with parliament's speaker on Wednesday. Photo: Fredrik Persson/TT

Centre party laughs off Löfven's advances

UPDATED: Centre Party leader Annie Lööf has reiterated her reluctance to cooperate across bloc lines with Social Democrat leader Stefan Löfven, as he renews his attempts to form a fresh government. READ  

Elections 2014
Sweden Democrats want prized speaker job
Sweden Democrat party secretary Björn Söder celebrates Sunday's election result. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Sweden Democrats want prized speaker job

UPDATED: As Sweden’s third largest party, the Sweden Democrats "assume" they will be given one of a handful of prestigious parliamentary speaker jobs, party secretary Björn Söder tells The Local. READ  

National
Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'
Photo: Peder Skrivares school

Teens in intensive care after school 'initiation'

School inspectors are investigating after an initiation ceremony at a high school in Varberg in south west Sweden left four girls in hospital. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
What's on in Sweden
Politics
How Sweden Democrats went mainstream
Politics
Scandinavia and Scotland: closer links?
Gallery
Property of the week - Eskilstuna
Sponsored Article
How to start a business in Stockholm
Blog updates

17 September

Deep election analysis (Blogweiser) »

"You think you’re bad? Well I’m American. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFbomLID0vU Deep deep analysis on Swedish election results. Vlog post: https://t.co/tjQgfa5Yie #svpol #val2014 #politics pic.twitter.com/oEK5ADFT8L — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) September 17, 2014 " READ »

 

15 September

Liten, litet, små & lilla (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej igen! Have you ever been confused about when to use “liten”, “litet”, “små” and “lilla”? Today I’m going to sort out how use the adjective “liten” (small) and the different forms of it. Liten or litet? “Liten” is the form we will use when referring to a noun with the gender “en”. For example: Min pappa har en..." READ »

 
 
 
Society
How I became a surf blogger when I moved to Sweden
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Society
Why is Stockholm's Södermalm so cool?
Gallery
People-watching: September 11th
Gallery
People-watching: September 13th
Politics
Five possible election outcomes
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Politics
Sweden elections: Who's who?
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden
Gallery
Property of the week - Hornstull, Stockholm
Analysis
Five differences between the UK and Sweden
Welshman Jonny Luck is now a chef in Sweden
Society
How I opened my own restaurant in Sweden's Malmö
Sponsored Article
Stockholm tech fest: relive the magic
Gallery
People-watching September 8th
Photo: TT
Politics
Feminists fight for first seats
Politics
Immigration cut push from Sweden Democrats
Sheryl Sandberg says women have "low expectations"
Tech
Facebook exec talks women's limits in Swedish business
Politics
Left Party calls for justice and equality
Politics
Green Party wants 'better world' for kids
Lifestyle
The five best Swedish songs of the month
Sponsored Article
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

872
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN