One of early medieval Germany’s five great Stamm (stem) duchies, the historic region of Swabia spans parts of southwestern Germany, eastern Switzerland, and northeastern France. Swabians have a reputation for being resourceful, thrifty, and inventive; no wonder then that residents of the region’s vibrant university city, Freiburg, readily embrace sustainable living.
Mainly known as the gateway to the Black Forest, Freiburg is remarkably green, both in appearance and in action. Woodland covers more than 40 per cent of the urban area. Renewables, such as solar, biomass, wind, and hydroelectricity, power the city, which converts its trash into biomass energy. Walking, biking, e-buses, and trams are the main modes of transportation, boosting chances Freiburg will meet its goals of cutting CO2 emissions in half or more by 2030 and achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
Best practices in green infrastructure—including cooperative housing with rooftop solar panels, urban gardens, and incentives for living car-free—were baked into Freiburg’s Vauban district, developed on a reclaimed brownfield site. Recognized as one of the world’s most sustainable city quarters, Vauban was shaped by a citizen-led vision of an ecological, self-organised, and socially just neighbourhood. Completed in 2016, Quartier Vauban has grown into Freiburg’s most densely populated district, demonstrating that if cities build sustainably, people will come.
—Werner Siefer, Nat Geo Traveler Germany
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