For the majority of us, recycling has become a natural part of our lives. We separate household waste, putting it into different containers, we re-use plastic carrier bags, and we are aware of the benefits of using public transportation. However, a neighbourhood in Stockholm has gone a step further. Hammarby Sjöstad is a new district where environmental regulations have been imposed on buildings, technical installations and the traffic environment, among other areas. This might be one of the reasons why in 2010 Stockholm became the very first city to be designated European Green Capital by the EU Commission.
Three important bodies (Stockholm Water Company, Fortum, and Stockholm Waste Management Administration) have designed a new recycling model that integrates various technical supply systems to support one of the greenest neighbourhoods worldwide. According to their website “the overall environmental goal is that the impact placed on the environment by emissions from Hammarby Sjöstad shall be a massive 50% lower than the corresponding level for newly constructed housing areas dating from the early 1990s in Stockholm”.
Although the district’s commitment to sustainability is present in many other areas, we find the existence of a 100% green district heating to be remarkable. District heating is their main source of heat, and it comes entirely from sustainable sources: 34% from purified waste water, 47% from combustible waste, and 16% from bio fuel.
You might be wondering if this is a realistic and feasible approach. Well, the answer is yes! The most recent information we have access to is from a published 2009 report. The full report is available on their website, and it shows improvements in many areas. For example, the total environmental impact from buildings and building plots has fallen by 32-39% for emissions into the air, soil, and water. Other notable areas of improvement are overfertilisation, which has decreased by 49-53%, and water consumption which has been reduced by 41-46%.
The personal implications resulting from the project deserve a special mention with regard to transportation. Personal transport accounts for the biggest reduction in the environmental impact for the zone. The percentage of car journeys for private use has fallen, while the number of journeys made using public transport has increased in comparison with the 1990s.
We shouldn’t forget that, apart from being sustainable and eco-friendly, Hammarby Sjöstad is also a great place to live, full of green areas and open spaces. Is this the future of urban development? Perhaps, but if one thing is for sure it’s that “it is important to realize that we all have an impact on the environment, and we can all contribute to reduce the impact by the way we live, our choice of transportation, and our consumption patterns”.