Five extraordinary communities doing great green things
From carbon emissions to plastic pollution, the planet is facing some pretty hefty challenges. But these five inspiring communities prove that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
1. The Scottish island that went totally green
The green energy revolution is well and truly underway, with cities and countries around the world pledging to switch to renewable energy. But the Scottish isle of Eigg got there a while back.
The 30 square-kilometre island in the Inner Hebrides has been using off-grid electricity since 2008, with wind, solar, and hydro powering the homes of its 95 residents. The three hydro plants, four wind turbines and multitude of solar panels needed are all managed and maintained by the islanders themselves via a community-owned company called Eigg Electric. It’s a system that has made the tiny, remote island an inspiration for green energy researchers across the globe.
2. The city that banned rubbish bins
A big bustling metropolis creates a lot of waste. In most cities the trash piles up on street corners and finally ends up in landfill. But the capital of Taiwan has found a radical solution: it has banned rubbish bins!
In Taipei the recycling trucks don’t just come round once a week. They trundle the streets every night playing music like ice-cream vans, and when the residents hear the trucks approaching they come out with their special blue bin-bags. And because there are no public rubbish bins, everyone has to carry their lunchtime trash home with them.
The result has been a complete change in the people’s relationship with waste. When you can’t just throw something away, there’s a big incentive to use less. Before the bin ban, Taipei was producing 3,296 tonnes of rubbish per day and recycling only 5% of it. Now, they have reduced the rubbish by more than two-thirds and recycle an impressive 55%.
3. The Australian town that said no to plastic bottles
Thanks to David Attenborough we’ve all become aware of the problem of plastic pollution. And it’s fantastic to see innovations like Refill, the app that helps you find free places to fill up your own water bottle and so cut down on single-use plastic bottles.
But believe it or not, a rural town in Australia got there almost a decade before the rest of us. Way back in 2009 the residents of Bundanoon - population 2,5000 - voted in a council meeting to ban plastic water bottles. All the local shops supported the move, instead selling reusable bottles which can be refilled for free at specially-installed water fountains. Aussies rule!
4. The Swedes who swapped cars for bikes
The Cykelhus (‘bicycle house’) in Malmö, Sweden is a complex of 55 apartments designed for people who have chosen to live a car-free lifestyle. There are bicycle washes and a pool where you can hire cargo bikes or family ‘kindergarten’ bikes with room for six kids. Each resident has a huge delivery mailbox so they can do their grocery shopping online, while ramps and extra wide doors mean you can effortlessly wheel your bike right from the street to your bedside.
The building, by architects Hauschild + Siegel, also has solar power, self-irrigated planters for each apartment and a shared greenhouse. And there’s even a bike-friendly hotel called Ohboy attached, so you can try out the lifestyle for a holiday.
5. The Japanese zero waste village
We all make an effort to put our recycling into the different boxes. But the Japanese village of Kamikatsu takes it to a whole new level. The residents sort their rubbish into no less than 34 very specific categories, including aluminium cans, steel cans, electric razors and sake bottles! Then they take it along to the local ‘Zero Waste Academy’ where it all gets recycled. The village also has a special ‘freecycle’ exchange shop and even its own upcycling factory.
It all started back in 2003 when the villagers realised that the open incineration facility they used was hurting their health and the environment. Now 80% of Kamikatsu’s rubbish is recycled or re-used. And they’re aiming to make it a completely zero-waste village by 2020. You can watch a great video about Kamikatsu here.