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Freiburg Case Study

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Freiburg Case Study

Guten Tag! Are you ready for a trip to Germany's most environmentally friendly city? If the answer is yes, then let's hop on board a flight straight to Freiburg airport! Seeing as we're talking about being more environmentally friendly, perhaps it's better to avoid planes altogether. Let's try a train instead. After arriving at Freiburg Hauptbahnhof (main station), you're going to explore some of Freiburg's sustainable transport, take a look at the town of Vauban, and maybe even learn some German words along the way! Los geht's! (Let's go!).

Freiburg Case Study sustainable city

Before you begin your trek into Freiburg, let's quickly dive into some geography. Our topic is sustainability and sustainable cities, so let's define these before heading out into the city.

Sustainability is all about finding ways to live that reduce the impact on the environment and provide what is needed for current and future generations, without endangering the future. This concept of sustainability can be applied to cities; cities are pretty environmentally unfriendly, so finding ways to combat this is vital.

Sustainable cities are characterised by their aims to reduce environmental damage and make cities comfortable and liveable spaces for populations without causing risks for the future.

Make sure you read the explanation on Sustainable Cities before carrying on here. It'll tell you more about sustainable cities and their features. Remember, this is just a case study and example!

Freiburg Location

You're a geographer, you've probably got a pocket map with you. But, let's just make sure you know a little about where you're travelling to!

City Profile: Freiburg
  • Population: 215, 966
  • Location: Southwest Germany
  • Language: German
  • UK partner city: Guildford, Surrey

Freiburg is known for its medieval characteristics, wine, tourism, and of course, the Black Forest. Alongside this, Freiburg is a super green and super sustainable city. From 1970 onwards, Freiburg had its eyes set on sustainable urban development. By 2035, Freiburg aims to be using completely renewable energy, and by 2050, aims to be entirely carbon-neutral.

Sustainable development can be understood as developing somewhere without negatively affecting the future. The UN created 17 major goals for sustainable development; number 11 focuses on moving towards sustainable cities and communities.

Freiburg Case Study Map of Freiburg StudySmarterFig. 1 - location of Freiburg, map data: © 2022 Google

Freiburg Case Study sustainable living

Now that you know more about the city, we can start to explore some of the characteristics that make Freiburg so green and sustainable. As you explore the city, these features will become evident.

Green is good!

Freiburg is known as the green city. Walking around Freiburg, there is a lot of green! Both the colour green and the environmentally friendly kind of 'green' can be spotted just about everywhere. What are you going to come across in Freiburg that is greener than usual?

Alternative transport

As you make your way through Freiburg, you'll probably be greeted by great public transport, like trams, and you can use the city transport card to get around. You most likely won't see many cars, though. Most favourably, cycling on the network of bike paths, or just walking, are the best ways to get around the city; in some areas, cars aren't allowed! Environmentally friendly alternative transport is a great example of sustainability in cities, helping to reduce emissions and pollution in the city.

Traffic congestion is often a major issue in cities, causing problems, such as air pollution. Freiburg's method of reducing congestion essentially wanted to reduce the use of cars dramatically, through incentives for public transport and by making it more attractive to choose anything except a car.

Green space

Green spaces are a key characteristic of sustainable cities. In Freiburg, it's no different. There are plentiful green spaces around the city, such as parks and forests, and even an animal nature park! Green spaces help to improve air quality and reduce pollution, protect ecosystems, as well as provide social and exercise spaces for the people living there. Interestingly, things like shops are actually on the bottom floor of residential buildings, so that extra green spaces aren't used for building. Typically, these green spaces are the most important thing during urban planning, meaning green spaces have protection.

Did you know, that forests cover 40% of the city of Freiburg?

Freiburg Case Study Botanical Garden Freiburg StudySmarterFig. 2 - the botanical garden at the University of Freiburg

Food

Freiburg has a food market every day, where local sellers can provide their produce. Farm shops and allotments are also characteristic, which help to produce more local food, and therefore reduce food miles. Food miles are the distance that food travels from production to consumption, which often produces a lot of carbon emissions. Locally produced food helps to reduce this and therefore environmental impact.

Resources and conservation

Renewable energy comes from sources that are continuously recharged, i.e., they won't run out. This can be exampled by things like solar or wind power. Interestingly, Freiburg is known as the 'solar city' of Europe for its use of solar energy. The city hall is described as zero-energy, which means, the renewable energy it produces (from hundreds of solar panels), is enough to power the whole building! Freiburg's football stadium also has a solar panel-covered roof. Solar power is a major characteristic of the Freiburg town of Vauban; we'll visit this town a little later.

The German language is known for its interesting words. Germany has been slowly transitioning to reduce the use of carbon. The word energiewende is used to describe this movement toward carbon reduction. Freiburg is a great example of this energiewende!

Solar isn't the only form of renewable energy that Freiburg is proud of; the city is also powered by biomass, wind energy, and also hydroelectric power. The rubbish in the city is transformed into biogas to power the city, and wood can be turned into biomass for energy too! There is also a hydroelectric plant just outside the city centre. Freiburg also has a pretty extensive wastewater system, which means that less water is wasted, and more is conserved. Rainwater is either kept and reused, or it's able to be absorbed by the ground. Recycling systems are another sustainable aspect of this city.

The town of Vauban

You're about to enter what is said to be Europe's most sustainable town. The town was built on an old military base. Solar panels can be seen everywhere, in what's called the 'solar settlement', which is a collection of 59 houses, made of wood with colourful exteriors.2

Freiburg Case Study Vauban Freiburg StudySmarterFig. 3 - Vauban in Freiburg

So much solar energy is produced, that these buildings become 'plus-energy', which means that more energy is produced than is needed, so residents can sell the energy back to the national grid. Most of the people who live there don't own a car, as it's pretty expensive to pay for a car parking space, and the road design makes it difficult for cars to drive there. Vauban is also a great example of water conservation; residents, here, are paid money to reduce their water usage. Roofs are covered in vegetation, the tram routes are grass-covered, and permeable pavements all allow rainwater to be conserved.

People

During the time that sustainable urban development planning was occurring in Freiburg, people were prioritised. Residents were given opportunities to have their say and impact on how the city was going to be developed, and that included children too. People who invested in renewable energy products were even given free football tickets! There have been numerous employment opportunities for the people of Freiburg, as sustainable development became the ultimate goal; for example, 10,000 people have received employment from the solar energy sector, or 'solar valley'.

Freiburg Case Study importance

Now that you've explored the incredible city of Freiburg, it's time to think about why this city is so important. Let's bullet point some of the major factors.

  • It's important for the city itself, bringing benefits to the people and the environment.
  • Because of the eco-city that Freiburg has built, it's become a tourist hotspot, especially for sustainable tourism.
  • It's created a vision city, which the rest of Germany, and the world, can take notice of and follow in its path.
  • Freiburg shows that sustainability is entirely doable.

Freiburg Case Study - Key takeaways

  • Freiburg is a city in southwest Germany, that is nicknamed the green city.
  • The city is characterised by its alternative transport, green spaces, renewable energy, water conservation, and people-oriented approach to sustainable development.
  • The town of Vauban is an incredible visionary for future eco-cities.
  • Freiburg is important, as it demonstrates the future of sustainability and the possibilities that are available for Germany, and the rest of the world.

References

  1. Figure 2, botanical garden in Freiburg (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Botanischer_Garten_der_Universit%C3%A4t_Freiburg_04_2018.jpg) by PantaRhei (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:PantaRhei), Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en).
  2. Oliver Pieper, 2022, Deutsche Welle, The 'Green City' of Freiburg: Is this Germany's future?, https://www.dw.com/en/the-green-city-of-freiburg-is-this-germanys-future/a-60438622
  3. Figure 3, Vauban in Freiburg (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sonnenschiff_in_Freiburg-Vauban_7.jpg) by Andreas Schwarzkopf (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Andreas_Schwarzkopf), Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en).

Frequently Asked Questions about Freiburg Case Study

Freiburg is a sustainable city, as it has many of the characteristics and features that make up a sustainable city, such as green spaces, alternative transport, locally produced food, renewable energy, conservation, and prioritising people.

Freiburg is reducing congestion by limiting cars in the city; pedestrians, cycling, and public transport are all prioritised, incentives are offered for these alternative transport methods, and in some places, cars are even not allowed.


Green spaces help to reduce pollution, protect the environmental ecosystems, and also provide recreational spaces for people.


Freiburg has large infrastructures in place that help to harvest rainwater, such as permeable pavements, green roofs, and also a wastewater system that recycles the rainwater.

Final Freiburg Case Study Quiz

Question

Sustainability is _____


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Answer

finding ways to reduce environmental impact and provide for current and future generations without endangering the future.


Show question

Question

True or false: cities are generally environmentally friendly.


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Answer

False

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Question

What is the population of Freiburg?


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Answer

215,966


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Question

When does Freiburg aim to be carbon-neutral?


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Answer

2050

Show question

Question

How many sustainable development goals did the UN create?


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Answer

17

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Question

What are some of the sustainable features in Freiburg?


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Answer

  • Alternative transport
  • Green spaces
  • Local food
  • Renewable resources and conservation 
  • People priority 
  • The town of Vauban

Show question

Question

The best ways to get around Freiburg are ____


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Answer

cycling or walking.

Show question

Question

How much of Freiburg do forests cover?


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Answer

40%

Show question

Question

Because of its renewable solar energy, what is Freiburg also known as?


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Answer

Solar city of Europe

Show question

Question

What does energiewende mean?


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Answer

The German word for the transition to low carbon.


Show question

Question

What is the rubbish in the city transformed into?


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Answer

Biogas

Show question

Question

What does ‘plus energy’ mean?


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Answer

When more energy is produced than is needed, so people can sell that energy back to the national grid.


Show question

Question

True or false: residents in Vauban are paid to reduce their water usage


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Answer

True

Show question

Question

How many people were provided with employment in the solar sector?


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Answer

10,000

Show question

Question

Why is Freiburg so important?

Show answer

Answer

  • It brings benefits to the city, for people and the environment.
  • The city has become a tourist hotspot.
  • It's a vision city for the rest of the world.
  • It shows that sustainability is doable.


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