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  • Tropa Verde


    Kick-off meeting
    Final Conference

    Municipality of Athienou
    2, Archbishop Makarios III Ave.
    7600 Athienou Cyprus


    Municipality of Santiago de Compostela


    Tropa Verde is a Transfer network to encourage environmentally responsible behaviour that empowers citizens to reuse and recycle. Combining web platform and low cost campaigns, it is considered as a "civic movement fully committed to sustainability and circular economy". Citizens get vouchers and exchange them for rewards from the City Council and local retailers. It connects places where disposing waste (green points, civic and social centres, etc.) with local businesses providing gifts or discounts.

    Rewarding recycling
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  • Five great ideas for greener cities

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    These local green solutions are inspiring cities across the EU. Could they work in your city too?


    The New Leipzig Charter highlights three forms of the transformative city which can be harnessed in Europe to enhance people’s quality of life: the Just City, the Green City and the Productive City.

    URBACT’s latest publication is packed with sustainable solutions to address these three dimensions – all tried, tested and transferred between EU cities, with adaptations for each local context.

    To give a taste of the full stories in ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, here are five examples of local actions for Green Cities. We hope towns and cities of all sizes will be inspired to ‘Understand, Adapt and Re-use’ these participative, joined-up solutions, helping to drive a just transition to a green economy.

    1. Reward re-use and recycling

    The Zugló district of Budapest, Hungary, launched a reward scheme with the city’s waste company to encourage recycling – and slow growth in household waste. After an initial survey of local needs and attitudes, they built an online platform linking citizens with various ‘green points’ where they can drop off recyclable and reusable items, earning coupons for goods and services provided by local sponsors. Schools and other organisations – including Budapest zoo – are joining in with activities to promote the circular economy. This approach originates in the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela (ES), which motivated people from its so-called TropaVerde ‘rewarding recycling!’ initiative – including web developers – to transfer the good practice to their peers in other EU cities with support from URBACT.

    2. Bring in the bees

    A new ‘Bee Path’ guides visitors round local sites linked to bees and honey in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz. The sweet solution was developed by a group of beekeepers, teachers, entrepreneurs, researchers, tour guides and interested locals. Together, they identified 16 places in their city with apiaries and melliferous potential, from a university roof to the botanical garden. Bydgoszcz is one of six EU cities to enrich its urban jungle with bees, adopting Ljubljana’s (Slovenia) tried-and-tested ‘Bee Path’ as part of an URBACT Transfer Network. With education, tourism, biodiversity and business all benefiting, visible changes already include new bee-friendly flower gardens, city-wide World Bee Day celebrations, and the promotion of local honey.

    3. Link up art and culture with climate activism

    A movement of green cultural events and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, is growing in the UNESCO-listed town of Mantua, Italy, thanks to new synergies between the cultural sector and climate activism. As partners in the URBACT C-Change network, Mantua picked up its approach from the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (UK), which was formed in 2011 to explore how the arts and culture sector could contribute to the city's first climate change strategy. Mantua’s cross-sectoral scheme has sparked improvements ranging from re-usable cups to bio-gas buses, contributing to a new ‘plastic-free’ city strategy, environmental criteria in the city’s UNESCO management plan, and green public procurement for cultural events.

    4. Create a municipal farm to supply local canteens 

    With an ambitious sustainable food policy, the Bulgarian town of Troyan decided to build a municipal farm from scratch, and use the produce in school meals. After two years learning from Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) pioneering ‘Collective school catering’ work as partners in the URBACT BioCanteens network, Troyan’s farm has already started supplying organic fruit and vegetables. To achieve this, the town learnt new public procurement techniques and took a step-by-step approach, initially aiming to provide half of the vegetables required in local canteens, then expand production later. And the process was supported by an URBACT Local Group, involving heads of schools and kindergartens, civil servants and parents.

    5. Grow urban gardens together with communities

    Vilnius, (LT) is promoting urban gardening as a way to fight social exclusion and gather neighbours, even in high-rise ‘sleeping districts’. Working with local stakeholders and the Ministry of Environment, Vilnius developed a clear set of regulations for communities to know how – and where – to start an urban garden. The municipality also released an urban gardening guide as part of a broader environmental awareness drive – and has formally included the shared gardens model in the city’s urban development policies. Their inspiration? Rome (IT), whose resilient urban gardening project targets more than 50 hectares, involving NGOs, citizens, disadvantaged people and minorities. Thanks to the URBACT RU:RBAN network, shared gardens in Vilnius have already started to grow – and dialogue continues with private and state owners to free up access to land for more community gardens in the future.

    Read about these and many more sustainable solutions for cities, in URBACT’s latest publication ‘Good practice transfer: Why not in my City?’, with positive opening words from Elisa Ferreira, European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.

    Tagged with the three city dimensions of the New Leipzig Charter, our easy-to-search Good Practice database also provides more inspiration for greener cities.

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  • Tropa Verde in Opole Agglomeration (Transfer Story)

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    In 2018-19, in Poland they were facing many problems related to waste management, such as landfill fires often organised by the so- called "garbage mafia", illegal landfills, abandoned waste, etc. Also, the knowledge of sorting waste wasn’t good enough.

    The landfill in Zgierz fire, May 2018. Source: Wikime dia, CC-BY-SA-4.0, Author: Zorro2212.
    Source: Wikimedia, CC-BY-SA-3.0-PL, Images from Józef Burszta Digital Archive

    The cooperation with the city of Santiago de Compostela began in the second half of 2017. At that time, they received an offer to join the second phase of the project "Tropa Verde - rewarding recycling!". In January 2018, they got a message from Santiago that the application had been submitted successfully.
    In April 2018 the project received funding from EU under "Transfer Network" of the URBACT III programme. The first phase of the project was implemented   by   Santiago    de    Compostela (LP - Lead Partner) and two districts - Pavlos Melas (GR) and Budapest-Zuglo 14 (HU). In June 2018 they took part in our first PP meeting in Budapest. At the meeting it turned out that similar problems related to waste management appear all over the EU and some of them can be reduced thanks of our international cooperation. We also agreed on our common goal: promotion of more responsible behaviour of our citizens towards ongoing recycling.
    In December 2018 the project started in our agglomeration. They realised that we were receiving a complex, universal tool ready to be implemented but we also started to think how to adapt it to our local conditions.
    At the same time, at least 5 other projects related to waste management and co-financed by EU under the Regional Operational Programme Opolskie (ROP Opolskie), started. Those concerned the construction of new collecting points as well as information campaigns aimed at the public and fit perfectly into the activities undertaken within Tropa Verde project.

    Mission of Tropa Verde, Why ?

    The general aim: to create the local civic movement bringing together people responsible for the environment.

    Tropa = troop, group, pack of friendsVerde = green
    “Mondays are usually hard to survive, but the idea how to reward people and which system of recycling is the best, that’s heavier than I thought. Platform Tropa Verde started working in Polish. Now it’s closer than further”. – said Iwona Kowalczuk, Head of Waste Management Department, City of Opole.
    “Tropa Verde is a very good idea. Simple words „Rewarding recycling!” fully reflect the idea of this project. The project raises the awareness of the inhabitants in the field of selective waste management. The Tropa Verde platform is absolutely great. The French system of waste management is very impressive! Wow! Bravo! We have to learn a lot and implement some ideas asap! Minimisation of waste production is as important as segregation. Returnable packaging and rational consumption should be promoted everywhere to avoid the huge stream of waste” - said one of our key stakeholders Andrzej Brzezina – Second Deputy Mayor of Krapkowice Municipality.

    The Tropa Verde project has become an opportunity to increase the pro-ecological behaviour on our local level. The results of the activities undertaken by LP from Santiago de Compostela indicated that we are dealing with a comprehensively „well thought-out” project providing various activities (website, social media, street actions, campaigns, etc.).
    They realised that it can significantly help us in promoting collection points and idea of segregating waste. It also complemented the activities undertaken by other waste management   projects,   co-financed   by   EU   under: ROP Opolskie and URBACT („Resourceful Cities”). The Tropa Verde project fit perfectly into our realities, because it allowed the promotion of new selection points being currently created in our agglomeration. It became clear that the second outcome of the project would be the introduction of IT tools that will allow a fair calculation of waste amount transferred to the selection points. 

    The learning transfer has been very effective. This was due to the great involvement of LP employees, an external expert and NUP in Poland. All international meetings (Budapest, Santiago de Compostela, Guimaraes, Opole, Nice) were a great opportunity to get to know each other, exchange experiences and see good solutions applied by partners. During our meetings with local stakeholders, we always tried to keep members informed about good practices developed by our project partners.
    While our process of learning and transferring Tropa Verde Good Practice went quite smoothly, the Covid-19 epidemic started and, off course, caused some delays and difficulties. It made impossible, for example, direct meetings with sponsors that we scheduled for the period April - September 2020 as well others pre-planned local activities requiring physical encounters.
    Therefore, in 2020, we had to focus on online activities.

    URBACT support

    “The outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic thwarted our plans to implement the project quickly at the local level. The most important tasks consisting of 100 meetings with potential sponsors and green points employees had to be delayed for an undefined future. Our plans were additionally complicated by the temporary closing of green points and people's fears of visiting such places. Therefore, we had to adapt to the new situation and focus on online activities.” – said Mateusz Huk, projects coordinator in Opole Agglomeration.

    The help of Yvan Corbat - our URBACT Lead Expert was a great support for the learning process. Our expert offered us full professional methodological and practical support. He was also the connection between us and the URBACT Secretariat in Paris as well as explained us all the details of the programme methodology.
    At the national level, they had significant help from Aldo Vargas-Tetmajer from National URBACT Point Poland (NUP).
    The help consisted in the ongoing support from the NUP as well as their participation in all ULG meetings.
    NUP representatives allowed us to establish cooperation with Polish partners of other URBACT networks and gave us the opportunity to broadly present the project at the webinars of the Association of Polish Cities ( participants from over 400 Polish cities).
    URBACT Secretariat experts also took part in the Poland Campus (April 2019) and workshops in Nice (December 2019). During Campus in Łódź, URBACT Experts conducted very interesting and practical workshops for Polish project partners. In June 2020, we took part in a meeting online with Polish partners of other pro-ecological projects implemented under the URBACT program. The meeting was organized by the National URBACT Point in Poland (NUP).


    The adapting and transferring process of Tropa Verde Good Practice was fully in line with our expectations. The only disappointments during the project were little interest from smaller towns and complications related to the outbreak of the pandemic.
    They are currently fully ready to implement the project within its sustainability period. They also have funds secured in our budget for the implementation of the project in this period. In our opinion, the results of the project can be easily transferred to other cities in the European Union.
    Tropa Verde is such a universal tool that can help to get people used to segregating and seeing waste as recycling materials and not rubbish or garbage.


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  • 2020, what we’ll be looking out for

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    The URBACT Programme Experts share their thoughts and expectations.

    Carbon neutrality

    The New Year is an opportunity to reflect on what URBACT will be working on in 2020. As the Transfer Networks start to share what they have learned and the latest generation of Action Planning Networks move into full operation, we asked the URBACT Programme Experts what they will be looking out for most closely over the year ahead.

    Sally Kneeshaw

    Starting in 2020, I am excited about the potential for us to truly enhance our understanding of gender equal cities across a wide range of urban challenges through the new Action Planning Networks. We did a lot of work already in 2019 with the launch of our Gender Equal Cities report. And now we are building on this by asking all the new networks to address gender-equality issues right from the beginning, including in their local stakeholder groups.

    No-one has all the answers. But now we have 203 cities in our 23 networks developing new thinking and ideas that will give us invaluable knowledge on how to tackle issues through a gender lens. We will also get particular guidance from the new Gendered Landscape network led by Umea (SE), which will specifically explore how gender inequality is manifested at local level and what cities can do to tackle it.

    I am also very much looking forward to the next edition of the URBACT Summer University for the new Action Planning Networks in Dubrovnik in July. It is always a great event, with loads of energy and really useful for building capacity. Together with the team we are busy updating the curriculum to create an interactive and stimulating introduction to integrated and participative action planning the URBACT way.

    Ivan Tosics

    One of my main topics of interest is metropolitan areas, so I am very much looking forward to seeing the work of RiConnect, an Action Planning Network led by Barcelona (ES) in 2020. Th

    is is a network of metropoles exploring how to rethink mobility infrastructure to better connect neighbourhoods and unlock opportunities for urban regeneration. I am particularly interested in how you can extend the territory of the local housing market if you make local transport systems more integrated and make the price less dependent on distance.

    I am also interested to see the findings of URBACT networks working on participatory governance and the use of participatory platforms. For example, Active Citizen, led by Agen (FR), is exploring important issues around the balance between representative and participatory democracy. Too many participatory initiatives still only give lip service to real participatory governance, so hopefully the network can show that participation means something more.

    I am also intrigued about the findings of the Transfer Networks and the possible relationship between the complexity of a good practice and the ability of cities to transfer it successfully.

    Eddy Adams

    2020 is an important year for the URBACT Programme, when we will hopefully get some more clarity on what the post-2020 European urban policy framework is going to look like. URBACT has been working through a series of City Labs to feed into the updated Leipzig Charter and we are pushing for more clarity from the European Commission on how we’re going to engage cities directly in the decision-making.

    2020 is also the big year for the Transfer Networks to share their results. We will have a series of events where we’ll hear about the content of the good practices and also what cities have learned about how you can transfer them effectively in practice. I am particularly excited to hear more about some of the small-scale innovation that I know has been going on to make ideas work in different contexts.

    For the new generation of Action Planning Networks, I also think it is really exciting that they have explicit scope in 2020 for small-scale experimental actions as part of their work. I think this can create some real lessons and inspiration from URBACT on what can be achieved by local-level action in cities.

    Laura Colini

    I am delighted that URBACT now has for the first time a network on homelessness (ROOF), that I hope to follow really closely in 2020. The ROOF Action Planning Network, led by Ghent (BE), emerged as a result of our work with the EU Urban Agenda Partnership on Urban Poverty and the City Lab we organised in Paris at the end of 2018.

    We are also currently working on a joint activity on housing with ‘Urban Innovative Actions’ that aims to share knowledge about municipal schemes for implementing the right to housing. It will be looking at: community-based models (such as cooperatives and community land trusts); ‘no one left behind’ models supporting the most vulnerable members of society; and fair financing schemes.

    I am also really keen to see what messages and lessons we can draw out in 2020 on topics of education, migration, anti-discrimination and integration of ethnic minorities, which are present to different degrees in several URBACT Transfer Networks, such as Rumourless Cities, OnStage, ON BOARD and Volunteering Cities.

    Marcelline Bonneau

    I am particularly excited that the circular economy is going to be such a strong focus for URBACT in 2020. We have two new Action Planning Networks focusing on issues that will support a real reflection on how cities can move further away from a linear economy to more circularity: Resourceful Cities and URGE.

    Resourceful Cities led by The Hague (NL) will be promoting ‘next generation’ urban resource centres that recover unwanted materials to create resource loops at local level. We need to see what can be learnt about integrating such resource centres into city strategies covering all aspects, including waste management, citizen involvement and behaviour change. Meanwhile, URGE led by Utrecht (NL) will be focusing specifically on the re-use of materials in the construction industry.

    I will also be interested in the ongoing progress of URBACT networks working to transfer good practices that incorporate important aspects of circularity. Tropa Verde aims to transfer a good practice from Santiago de Compostela (ES) on encouraging citizens to re-use and recycle. BioCanteens is working to transfer Mouans-Sartoux’s (FR) good practice on sustainable local food and reducing food waste.

    Ania Rok

    I am really pleased that the new Action Planning Networks will be making the environment a much stronger topic for URBACT in 2020. Networks focused specifically on the circular economy and climate are exciting new topics for URBACT. We can play a key role in sharing examples and lessons not just from the bigger cities with the most experience, but also from smaller cities and those working in a different context, including where the national level is not so favourable to climate action.

    Marcelline has already talked above about some circular-economy-related networks. I will also be interested to see the progress of the Zero Carbon Cities, Action Planning Network led by Manchester (UK) which is focused on climate action and specifically establishing science-based carbon reduction targets contributing to the EU’s strategic vision for carbon neutrality by 2050.

    I also want to mention Tourism Friendly Cities, Action Planning Networkled by Genova (IT), which is a great example of how URBACT can address crucial urban issues that can fall through the cracks between other programmes. It’s about so many social, economic and environmental aspects, including affordability of housing, safety and security, jobs, the local economy and environmental sustainability – with crucial impacts on the sustainable use of local resources and waste management.


    To keep up with the URBACT activities, sign up to our newsletter!

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  • Can Europe be sustainable by 2030? Only if cities lead the way

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    Spring Clean Up Campaign in Tallinn (EE)

    Take a trip down memory lane with us. Re-discover stories and reflections that we've captured over the last years.


    This article was first published in 2019 and, yet, is more relevant than ever. 



    Back in 2019 the European Commission published a long-awaited reflection paper, outlining the EU’s strategy for tackling two of the greatest threats of our time: poverty and climate change. It took three years in the making, this document confirms the union’s commitment to building a sustainable economy by 2030. Appealing to the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), the report identifies several areas in which to invest. Circular economy, digitalisation and green mobility, are all singled out as particular priorities that should be integrated into a broader ‘global crisis plan.’ As the paper makes clear, such a plan is not only about preventing catastrophe, but improving quality of life for all living beings.


    As the urgency of tackling environmental devastation becomes ever more apparent, though, with studies revealing the scale of destruction to biodiversity, many have criticised the commission for not going far enough. From school strikes, to the extinction rebellion protests, to proposals for a green new deal, citizens across the world are demanding a roadmap for change based on concrete measures. Sadly, the report offers few of these. As Patrizia Heidegger, Deputy Secretary General at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said at the time:



    The time for reflection was in 2015, when the EU and its Member States signed up to the SDGs. Now is the time for ambitious commitments […] the EU has one of the world’s worst environmental footprint per capita, with our unsustainable lifestyles based on resource and labour exploitation in other parts of the world. The economy of the future needs to take into account the environmental and social impact beyond our borders rather than living in the illusion of a low-carbon, resource efficient Europe that exports resource-intensive production to other parts of the world”.



    There are other concerns closer to home. While the paper reiterates that SDGs will serve as a compass for future strategy, a more detailed inspection reveals that it will in fact be largely at the discretion of member states as to how to implement them. There will be “no enforcing” of national governments, says the report, adding that, on the contrary, the latter will have “more freedom” to decide “whether and how they adjust their work” based on the plan. Given the tendency of governments to bypass EU laws – let alone non-binding targets – there is little to suggest the measures outlined here will be sufficient to face challenge ahead.


    What does this mean for urban practitioners?



    As national and transnational institutions jostle over their respective responsibilities, cities will play a vital role in the eventual success or failure of the paper’s target. By 2050, 80% of Europeans will be living in urban areas. This fact alone demonstrates how significantly the capacity of cities to adapt and innovate will determine global trends. Arguably the multi-stakeholder platform response to the reflection paper emphasises this more than the commission’s own document. While transnational institutions have a vital role in shaping strategy, it states, cities alone have the appropriate democratic structures to enable change is implemented in an effective manner. By “carefully building ownership among inhabitants” and “taking into account territorial specificities, cultural patterns and expectations,” urban actors can, they conclude, serve as vanguards for change.


    The overall picture, though, is far from rosy. In fact, one of the most worrying takeaways from the reflection paper is the relative unpreparedness of cities to face the challenges to come. The numbers are stark. As the associated research makes clear, only 26% of EU cities and 40% of large cities (those of over 150 000 inhabitants) have adaption plans for the future based on sustainable models. Without a huge change here, any attempt to implement larger targets at a transnational level seem doomed to fail. One might reasonably have expected a robust set of guidelines from the commission here, outlining how to avoid such a disaster. Once again, though, the advice is rather muted. While the reflection paper does direct urban practitioners to existing initiatives, like the Covenant of Mayors: for climate and energy, the European Sustainability Award and Urban Agenda for the EU, it falls short of providing more structured policy recommendations. Given the scale of the emergency we face, the absence of any systemic protocol is, without doubt, a disappointment.



    What is to be done?



    Throughout 2019, Greta Thunberg has dominated headlines with her frank and uncompromising call for action over the climate emergency. Her message, “our house is burning” is a reminder that none of us can stand still. As she put it at that time in a speech, “We must change almost everything in our current societies […] the bigger your carbon footprint is, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility”.


    This was not just a media soundbite. It was an imperative targeted directly at policy makers, including urban practitioners. Just as individual citizens must alter their behaviours, so cities must take the initiative. This cannot mean simply mean respecting SDGs and the programmes highlighted by the commission. It will also require the spontaneous adoption of innovative sustainable policies.



    URBACT is filled with examples of cities that have gone above and beyond the criteria identified in the reflection paper. The BioCanteens#2 Transfer Network is one such example. By implementing new sorting line processes and encouraging locally sourced, organic food, the network has enabled schools to find alternatives to industrial food production. For some participants this has resulted in a reduction in food waste by 80%, with no additional cost to municipalities. Another case is BeePathNet Reloaded, a network designed to tackle damage to biodiversity by encouraging bee keeping. As numbers dwindle across the world, Ljubljana (SI) is now home to 180 million bees thanks to this initiative.


    The Commission correctly emphasises the role technology can play in facilitating sustainable policy. Digital tools, though, are never just a quick fix and cannot be used as a substitute for community organisation. Cities like Tallinn (EE) provide good models of what the balance should look like. Since 1991 the municipality has been organising a highly successful annual Spring Clean Up Campaign. Using a combination of TV, posters, social media, they have been able to synchronise a mass ‘tidy-up’ across districts, tackling the accumulation of waste across the urban area as a whole. A more tech-savvy initiative of a similar vein is the multimedia platform Tropa Verde Santiago. By rewarding ecologically conscious citizen behaviour with vouchers that can be exchanged for real-life rewards, the city has successfully galvanised a new culture of recycling.


    These are simple changes which can be easily implemented. EU strategy continues to evolve, but the institutions need pushing, including by cities. In the immediate term, there’s still time to give feedback to the commission regarding the reflection paper, using the Europe Direct platform. This a good start to ensuring gaps are communicated as well as ideas on policy priorities and practical tips. More profoundly, though, the reflection paper reveals the ongoing need for an organic spread of knowledge. This does not mean re-inventing the wheel. As the URBACT networks show, there are already blueprints out there that are just waiting to be redeployed in other cities. Adapting and spreading these examples would surely be a useful start in promoting sustainable practices at a pan-European level.





    The recently approved URBACT IV Programme (2021 -2027) pays particular attention to build the awareness and capacity of all programme actors to better include cross-cutting considerations such as green cities, digital transition and gender equality”.
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  • How cities can accompany consumer change practices

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    Marcelline Bonneau makes a case for changing habits, innovative incentives and the benefits of a circular economy.

    Abandoned Spaces

    Who hasn't tried to get rid of old habits, whether in relation to the way we eat, sleep, interact with each other, work, travel, or do sports? Who hasn't ever faced the difficulty of moving away from anchored routines to newly adopted ones? Who has ever struggled to unravel the complexity of the psychological but also social, technological and infrastructure-related mechanisms that make it difficult to transition?

    Changing is, indeed, difficult. Adopting new consumption practices in order to support transition towards a low-carbon society is even more difficult in this “Consumer Society”. As Zygmunt Baumann detailed in the 2007 “Consuming Life”, our space is an entangled web where social life politics and democracy, social divisions and stratification, communities and partnerships, identity building, the production and use of knowledge, and value preferences are entangled. Yet, it is crucial that we now, as citizens, change the way we consume according to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 and as recently emphasised in the IPCC Special report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.

    Supporting citizens in their consumption transition has been at the core of public policies for decades and is a constant challenge - as well as a realm for experimentation. 3 European initiatives: URBACT, UIA and the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy give an insight into key approaches in the way European cities are frontrunners, supporting citizens in their transition towards more sustainable consumption practices.

    Identifying a key topical entry: a food story

    Mouans-Sartoux (FR) is the lead partner of the BioCanteens URBACT network, transferring its practice of a 100% organic canteen. One key element for this shift is behavioural change and the education of children, as well as of their parents. This is done thanks to food education which includes making choices between portion sizes at the canteen (to empower them in identifying the right amount of food they require), tasting and cooking classes, gardening activities and visits to the municipal farm, as well as a special food and health program aimed at shifting families’ habits to eating local and organic food. With the support of a survey of consumers’ habits, it is part of a more integrated method.

    By focusing on school canteens, we are trying to develop a comprehensive approach to support new food habits of the children of Mouans-Sartoux, as well as for their parents: combining fighting foodwaste, training of kitchen staff, reducing costs, developing local economy, supporting sustainable urban planning and agricultural land use, and with a complete governance system composed of a food territorial management - as well as the creation of the Centre for Sustainable Food and Education (MEAD)”, says Gilles Pérole, elected representative of Mouans-Sartoux.

    Let’s play! Using gamification as an incentive for new ways of consuming

    Making recycling and re-use fun but also rewarding is the approach Santiago de Compostela (ES) is developing in its Tropa Verde URBACT transfer network. Citizens recycle and receive tokens (green points, civic and social centres, recovery points, etc.), they can exchange for sustainable – non production intensive – gifts, such as public transport tickets, haircuts, or meals. Partner shops are integrated in the daily lives of citizens, making participation easy, interactive and fun. A multimedia platform enables them to identify local shops in which the exchange can take place: it is the central point for interaction, easily accessible, but also transferrable to other cities to adapt to their local circumstances. Finally, this practice is making citizens responsible in their recycling habits, but also in a move towards more circular attitudes in other areas of their lives.

    Combining online and offline activities

    In Antwerp (BE), the City Administration took the opportunity of the development of a newly created district, the New South district, to position circularity as a community challenge. The plan? To engage its new residents in co-creating both online and offline initiatives to change their behaviours, in relation to energy and water consumption as well as to waste management. The UIA Antwerp Circular South project has enabled developing technical solutions such as photovoltaics, storage batteries, smart grids, smart meters and individual dashboards too. Local inhabitants experiment behavioural nudging, while receiving cues to adapt their consumption behaviour of energy, water and waste in the most ideal circular way. Circular behaviours will be automatically rewarded by an alternative online currency, the “circular coin”, through a blockchain - based reward and exchange system. Some of the most engaged Circular South participants will form a local energy community co-owning an innovative collective energy system. In addition, a Circular South community centre – the so-called CIRCUIT, has been set up to host a number of initiatives related to sharing, repairing and reusing activities. As Gabriëlle Van Zoeren, former project coordinator, said “nothing of what we do is new: our innovation is to bring it together and especially to combine the online and offline activities!”.

    Developing new ecosystems

    The city of Oslo (NO) has led the work on the Urban Agenda Partnership on Circular Economy including a series of meetings and projects within the frame of the multi-level governance, as well as a catalogue mapping existing Urban Resource Centres: the “local approaches to waste prevention, re-use, repair and recycling in a circular economy” (to be published and shared before the Summer 2019).

    The catalogue presents and reviews critical success factors and transferrable qualities, of the resource centres. Their functions can be social (job creation, engaging the community in responsible consumption and disposal, or improved quality of life), economic (transformation of industrial sectors, entrepreneurship and new business models or co-creation in a circular economy) or environmental (waste prevention, waste management or boosting the market for secondary raw materials). They can be public, private or public-private. Creating such resource centres entails developing new ecosystems that can be useful for citizens. Yet, they are facing barriers such as access to space, legislation, waste quality, communication, reporting or funding. At the same time, they benefit from technology, stakeholder engagement, co-location, political support and strong links to the social economy. The city of Oslo is currently seeking to take this work forward with a follow-up network of peer-learning and exchange.

    Is a circular economy approach the way forward?

    Grassroots initiatives, market-based solutions and research are the bases for the above-mentioned cases. Yet, public authorities are steering these processes by experimenting new approaches, bringing them together, and supporting learning across the EU. As such, local public authorities have a key role to play in ensuring that an increasing number of projects are developed and evaluated for the concrete and operational change of consumer practices.

    All 3 cases also show the need to adopt integrated approaches: in terms of topics, methodology, governance, stakeholders and territories. Circular economy is more than a buzzword. It is an overall encompassing approach. It could help cities develop projects, which support citizens to adopt new consumption habits and which encourage transition towards a new economic ecosystem, with the potential to offer long-lasting economic, environmental and social benefits.

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  • EU Green Week inspiration: 5 networks to watch

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    Ania Rok, URBACT programme expert, takes a close look at URBACT's 5 most environmentally friendly networks.

    Climate adaptation

    Have you heard thousands of young people all over the world calling upon us to get serious about the climate crisis? It’s high time we stopped making excuses and started acting. URBACT transfer networks offer concrete examples of how each and every city can contribute to a more sustainable future.

    1. Bee-friendly cities - good for nature, good for people

    Did you know that bees are one of the best indicators of environmental health? This is why the city of Ljubljana (SL), European Green Capital 2016, originally decided to support urban beekeeping and then things got a little out of control! It turned out that the bees (or was it honey?) had the power to bring so many people and activities together: from biodiversity protection to tourism, from corporate social responsibility to open source design. As part of BeePathNet network, Ljubljana and 5 partner cities are (re)discovering urban beekeeping as a way to co-create greener cities and stronger communities.

    Visit the network's page: BeePathNet


    2. Sustainable food - one school meal at a time

    Think only big cities can afford to go green? Think again or, better yet, find out more about the incredible work that the French city of Mouans-Sartoux (FR) and its BioCanteens partner cities do to promote sustainable food systems. Imagine school canteens with 100% organic meals that do not cost more thanks to reduced food waste. They are also better for the planet thanks to an increased share of plant proteins. And now, imagine the food is also grown locally, creating jobs and raising awareness about sustainable lifestyles. Sounds tasty, right?

    Visit the network's page: BioCanteens


    3. Urban gardens – looking to Rome

    Urban gardening projects have become widespread in European cities, but are we making the most of the opportunities they offer? Urban gardens are not just places to relax and grow some zucchini; they can be experiments in citizenship and democracy, social innovation and inclusion too. They can also promote new, healthier mind-sets and lifestyles. Partners of RU:RBAN network are getting inspiration from the city of Rome (IT), home to over 200 community-run green areas that fulfil social, environmental and cultural goals.

    Visit the network's page: RU:RBAN


    4. Recycling – re-use and reap the rewards!

    Learning from the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela (ES), Tropa Verde partners are encouraging citizens to reuse and recycle by proposing a reward system managed via an online platform. Local government works closely with local businesses and partners to make sustainable choices easier and more fun. The trick is to set the rewards in such a way that the system promotes genuine behaviour change and does not simply fuel more consumption, e.g. by supporting sustainable businesses, promoting services over products or encouraging a healthy lifestyle. We can all learn from the Tropa Verde network!

    Visit the network's page: Tropa Verde


    5. Climate emergency – helping artfully

    The arts and culture sector is far from being the biggest contributor to the climate emergency we are facing. However, when it comes to sustainability, artists and institutions can lead by example, bring critical issues to the public agenda and change mind-sets. The partners of the C-CHANGE network are learning from the experience of the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team how to better involve the arts and culture sector in developing and implementing ambitious local climate policies. Who knew that the local arts and culture community could be the best allies in creating a cultural shift and a sense of urgency needed to address the climate emergency?

    Visit the network's page: C-CHANGE

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  • Tropa Verde: recycling - the gift that keeps on giving

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    Yvan Corbat, URBACT Lead Expert, says rewarding good behaviour still works! Case in point, in Santiago de Compostela (ES) local citizens are rewarded for recycling.

    As part of the “Tropa Verde” Good Practice, encouraging environmentally responsible behaviour, citizens recieve  gifts and discounts from local shops, restaurants or public services from different local sponsors through a multimedia platform.

    Carbon neutrality

    Recycling and the circular economy

    The European Union’s fundamental values include the respect of human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. Furthermore, looking back in time to the creation of a united Europe (after WWII and further to the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community), I like to bear in mind that the promotion of peace and of economic growth is also among key European values.

    Lately, further to different political, economic and migrant crises - Brexit included - many people are arguing about the meaning of European values? I, myself, am not sure I have a clear answer to this question, but am quite convinced that, one of the key differences between Europe and the rest of the world is the awareness of its citizens with respect to the protection of environment and cultural heritage. Within that framework, the different efforts and challenges towards waste management and recycling are also clear examples of real commitment from European citizens and their public and local administrations.

    Urban waste management: common objectives for European cities

    Waste management is typically a local competence and therefore local actions are critical for an effective implementation of the “EU Waste Strategy”. This strategy, which has been developed by different EU regulations and guidelines. It has evolved towards the prevention of waste, the increase of product re-use and the improvement of waste separation as well as recycling in order to reduce the volume of waste and increase the efficiency in the use of resources.

    As part of Europe’s effort to transform its economy into a more sustainable one, in January 2018 the European Commission has adopted the so called “Circular Economy Package”. A concrete and ambitious EU Action Plan that  covers the whole cycle: from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

    Among the package’s targets, several are challenges that directly affect Urban Waste Management (UWM) and, consequently, the citizens and neighbourhoods, among them:

    • Recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
    • Recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030
    • Reducing landfill to a maximum of 10% of municipal waste by 2030
    • A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste
    • The promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling

    The Tropa Verde Good Practice and experience from Santiago de Compostela (hereafter, “Santiago”) (ES) contributes to reach these common European objectives. The transfer of Good Practices between cities could significantly contribute to reach these goals, especially for some waste streams, such as used cooking oil and electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

    But what is Tropa Verde, the “St James Way to recycling”?

    Background information

    Like many European cities, Santiago has been committed to improving the environment of its inhabitants and developing green campaigns and strategies for several decades, including through public awareness activities to improve its ratio of recycling. Despite its efforts, in early 2015, the municipality carried out a survey that highlighted, among other conclusions, that:

    • 36,6% of citizens do not recycle due to a lack of habit
    • A lack of information and environmental motivation was clearly palpable

    It was considered that these attitudes damaged the beginning of the recycling chain, promoting low recycling rates and increasing the costs of Urban Waste Management. “Tropa Verde” was born in May 2015 to achieve the goal of creating a more sust

    ainable city focussing on optimising the management of waste.

    It was awarded the URBACT Good Practice Label in June 2017, and selected in December 2018 together with another 23 Transfer Networks, to be transferred to other European cities.

    Santiago then built partnerships (networks) with the district cities of Zugló (HU) and Pavlou Mela (EL), and extended it to the Municipality of Guimarães (PT), the Agglomeration of Opole (PL) and the Metropole of Nice Provence Côte d’Azur (FR).

    Tropa Verde defined

    It is important to highlight that the idea of Tropa Verde was created and promoted first by a local technological spin-off, Teimas. The company’s CEO Miguel Varela would define it as “an online gaming platform that aims to promote recycling and environmental responsibility among the citizens by rewarding good environmental practices”.

    Although technology is essential to implement this Good Practice, from the municipal perspective, Tropa Verde is to be considered as a “civic movement fully committed to sustainability, environmental awareness and the circular economy, where citizens and local partners cooperate”, according to Xan Duro Fernández, Local Councillor for Environment, Coexistence and ICT.

    Both definitions are correct, and in fact complementary. In Spanish, “tropa” means “troop” and “verde” means “green”. We are indeed talking about the creation of “green troopers” promoting recycling habits monitored and rewarded through an online platform, where citizens can accumulate “stars” (equivalent to “points”) to be exchanged against vouchers, and use these vouchers for rewards from public and private offers (mostly, municipal services and local retailers, shops and restaurants).

    How does it work?

    The existing website connects the three axis necessary to achieve the objective:

    • Citizenship
    • Collecting points
      (the places where citizens can deposit their waste and be rewarded, such as green points, civic and social centres, recovery points, etc.).
    • Shops and other local businesses and services that collaborate providing gifts or discounts

    Once the citizen/user has registered in the platform, he/she can start to “play and win” (recycle, get stars and use vouchers). But since a human check of what is being recycled is necessary, so far and as far as Santiago is concerned, it has to be underlined that the practice is only possible when the material is deposited in collecting points, where collaborators can control the kind, volume and quantity of waste being recycled.

    Santiago has established a growing network of some 30 collaborating “collecting points”, with different levels of collaboration, depending on their storage capacity (e.g. to collect paper, cardboard, batteries, used vegetable oil, plastic caps, etc.). The network includes different kind of partners, such as the 2 official waste collection points, a mobile green point (an adapted vehicle that collects small domestic waste that cannot be recycled in public bins), local NGOs, sports and educational facilities and, above all the 19 socio-cultural centres distributed within the municipal geography.

    In Santiago, for each waste delivery, one cheque (either 30 or 50 stars) is given, regardless of the number of waste and type, always respecting the minimum quantities specified in the following table:


    Minimum quantity*

    • Used oil

    1 litre

    • Batteries

    10 units

    • Plastic caps

    1 full bag

    • Papercardboard

    1 large paper bag

    • Toners

    3 units

    • Clothes

    6 large garments or 12 small garments

    • Green points (almost any kind of waste, incl. WEEE Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment )

    Min. 0,5 kg of waste

    For the transferability of this Good Practice, however, it is important to stress that the platform allows a certain flexibility: different rewarding criteria (and kind of waste) can be applied, depending on the necessities and priorities of the promoters.

    Finally, the voucher received will include a code that, uploaded on the registered account of the citizen-user, will accumulate the “stars” that can be used as rewards. The kind of rewards available can be checked on the platform, and can vary from a free coffee in a restaurant to a free haircut, free shoe repairs or discounts in a dance academy,  dental treatments - among other gifts offered by over 125 sponsors.

    Some key data/results of the Good Practice in Santiago
    (after 2 years of implementation)

    • Good citizen participation, with over 3 000 users subscribed
    • 125 sponsors, 3 000 rewards offered, more than EUR 20 000 in prizes and rewards
    • 29 centres and 1 mobile centre issuing vouchers: Over 23 800 vouchers given and over 1 400 rewards delivered
    • Several workshops for children: Recycle, Reutilise and play with the Tropa Verde to commemorate the European Environment Week
    • 100% growth of used oil recovery on civic centres during S1-2017, when compared to S1-2016
    • 12% increase in the number of visitors in the waste collection or green points

    The Municipality itself offers attractive gifts against Tropa Verde “stars” as well, including tickets for its Concert Hall, Theatre or European Film Festival (CinEuropa). But from the launch of the initiative, the most requested gifts are free invitations for 20 environmentally engaged citizens, to sit at the VIP “lounge”, together with the public authorities, and enjoy Santiago’s Apostle’s Fireworks, that take place on the 24th July at night!

    … and who knows? Hopefully thanks to the exchanges and learning activities among the Tropa Verde Transfer Network partners, green troopers from Guimarães will get discounts to support their local football team “Vitória” in the stadium thanks to recycling their batteries; citizens from Zugló will have free access to enjoy a relaxing spa session at Szechenyi Thermal Bath against the re-use of furniture; students from Pavlou Mela will collect used olive oil and be invited to the cinema, while kids from Opole will get an entrance to the local zoo thanks to their campaigns to recycle plastic caps, while neighbours from Nice who are alpine skiing aficionados might get a free lift pass to reward their re-use of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste…

    What we know for sure is that they will all contribute to the European initiative of protecting our environment!


    Visit the network's page: Tropa Verde

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  • BLUACT: Why the Blue Economy is an increasing sea of opportunity

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    A report by Darinka Czischke, Conor Moloney and Catalina Turcu
    Carbon neutrality

    The origins of the Blue Economy concept can be traced back to the mid 90’s, when the Belgian businessman turned author, Gunter Pauli, was asked by the United Nations to think about innovative business models of the future.

    Originally conceived with the aim of reconciling the shared goals of stimulating entrepreneurship whilst also preserving marine eco-systems, today, the term ‘Blue Economy’ covers a range potential policy interventions ranging from;

    • Practical programmes for delivering any form of economic growth which is linked to the marine and maritime economy;
    • More complex economic philosophies which draw on a range of ‘circular economy’ concepts and frameworks to deliver growth in such a way which preserves, maintains and enhances the marine environment (and therefore delivers more significant, long run benefits to society).

    The latter concept is an ever-evolving model, which has come to particular prominence recently, over growing concerns about the invasive impact of single use plastics on the marine environment.

    In 2012 the European Commission estimated that the Blue Economy represented over 5 million jobs and a gross added value of around €500 bn per year – a figure which is roughly equivalent to 4% of the EUs total economic output. It also affects a large number of the EU residents with an estimated 40% of the EU population living within 50km from the sea.

    Over the last decade, some member states have seen the Blue Economy grow faster than their national economies. One city that has been at the forefront of trying to stimulate innovative, new Blue Economy businesses is the city of Piraeus in Greece.  

    Helping Blue Growth Entrepreneurs become ‘investment ready’

    The Piraeus Blue Growth Initiative (BGI) is a structured entrepreneurship and innovation competition focussing on the marine and maritime economy. It was the first EU level innovation competition for the marine and maritime economy (Blue Economy) originally established in 2014. It was successfully awarded an URBACT Good Practice status, last year.

    The BGI helps early-stage entrepreneurs develop and realise innovative business concepts and create jobs in the Blue Economy. Operating as an annual business plan competition, the initiative is effectively a programme of activities to help aspiring Blue Growth entrepreneurs get ‘investment ready’ – to effectively prepare their business ideas to the stage where they can secure external investment.    

    The Blue Growth Initiative is structured around a number of elements;

    1. Governance: Establishment of a strong multi-agency Blue Growth governance structure for overseeing the delivery of the programme.
    2. Competition preparation: Building the partnership-based delivery programme and developing the marketing collateral;
    3. Competition delivery: Includes business plan idea generation, proposal evaluation, preparing the successful applicants for a demo day; and organising the demo day/award ceremony 
    4. Incubation Programme: Supporting the successful entrepreneurs to scale their business; and
    5. Ongoing celebration and promotion: to build the profile of the exercise, to recreate it again the year after.

    Transfer of the practice to other cities across Europe

    Having been awarded with the URBACT Good Practice Label, the City of Piraeus was subsequently successful in securing funding to work with Burgas in Bulgaria, and Matosinhos in Portugal, to explore the potential to establish an URBACT Transfer Network, to examine how best to transfer the programme to seven other cities across Europe.

    This process will conclude in October this year when Piraeus submits its application for Phase 2 of the URBACT Transfer Network programme with its seven partners cities.

    If successful, this project could establish a pan-European Investment Readiness programme for aspiring Blue Growth Entrepreneurs and a network of cities keen to build on their marine and maritime assets.

    A European Platform for Investing in the Blue Economy

    What makes this URBACT project particularly timely is that the European Commissioner for the Environment, Karmenu Vella, announced at the 2018 European Maritime Day in Burgas, that DG Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is building a European investment platform dedicated solely to the blue economy.

    This builds on the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027, in which the Commission proposed;

    • That the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will focus on ‘promoting the blue economy in fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, ocean energy or blue biotechnology, in coastal communities, at EU level to provide real EU added value by encouraging EU governments, industry and stakeholders to develop joint approaches to drive growth, while safeguarding the marine environment’.
    • That ‘synergies for the maritime and blue economy will be exploited in particular with the European Regional Development Fund for the investment in blue growth sectors and for sea-basin strategy, with the European Social Fund+ to re-train fishers in acquiring skills and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development for support to aquaculture. The collaboration and synergies with Horizon Europe for marine research and innovation will be achieved, for instance by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises for the deployment and market replication of innovative solutions for blue growth and by supporting a thematic investment platform for research and innovation in the blue economy.’; and
    • That ‘the InvestEU Fund will play an important role with financial instruments for market related action, in particular by supporting a thematic investment platform for research and innovation in the Blue Economy’.

    The same document goes on to explain that one particular element of the EUInvest Programme InvestEU Assistance will be established by partners, to provide advisory support and accompanying measures to foster the creation and development of projects, helping projects get off the ground and make them investment-ready.

    However, InvestEU Assistance will need to reach deep into the Blue-Growth entrepreneur community across Europe, if it is to be successful at stimulating innovative, new businesses ideas that possess the potential to add value to the European economy. That’s where a close integration with initiatives like Piraeus’ Blue Growth Initiative can really help.

    As Petros Kokkalis, the Councillor for Local Economic Growth & Entrepreneurship in the Municipality of Piraeus remarked “The Piraeus Blue Growth Initiative has created a value for the city and for Europe, in that it has created a platform for bringing together different parts of the innovation eco-system, to support aspiring Blue Growth Entrepreneurs”

    “One of the major challenges for many of the early stage businesses that we see is raising the funds they need to develop and scale their business. We welcome the establishment of a central Blue Economy investment platform, as it will help address this critical area of market failure and look forward to working with it to support Blue Growth Entrepreneurs.” 

    An increasing sea of opportunity?

    It’s actually a little-known fact, but the word ‘opportunity’ comes from a Latin seafaring phrase, ‘ob portus’, which is made up of the terms ob, meaning “toward”, and portus, meaning “port”. The word came about, because sailors used to have to wait for the right combination of wind, current, and tide to successfully sail into port. They had to seize the right opportunity.

    Today, the opportunity presented by the Blue Economy across Europe is significant and growing. Despite the well-developed nature of the blue economy, there is a scope to further increase its productivity, potential and contribution to the European economy.

    Whilst a wide range of opportunities exist to further this aim, expanding Piraeus’ Good Practice in the field of Investment Readiness to a range of other cities across Europe and connecting this into a central Investment Platform like the one being developed by the Commission will help to establish a coherent cross-sectoral strategy to tackle one of the major obstacles to growth in the sector.


    Visit the network's page: BluAct


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  • How do URBACT Good Practices strive towards more sustainability together with citizens and other stakeholders?

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    Striving towards sustainability together

    The occurrences and types of events and catastrophes related to climate change (environmental , biodiversity, human, social or societal concerns) have been constantly increasing for more than a century and especially in the last decades. Although these are mostly observed at meta level, it is a local level that both public authorities and citizens should act to implement and undertake concrete actions for a wide societal change. Some URBACT Good Practices understood it quite well and are developing not only sustainable strategies that are local and concrete, but also participatory ones: this is what Manchester (UK), Santiago de Compostela (ES), Milan (IT) and Tallinn (EE) addressed during the “Together for sustainability panel” of the URBACT City Festival held in Tallinn, Estonia on 5 October 2017.

    The incremental integration of citizens in sustainable policies

    Abandoned Spaces

    Sustainability has been promoted as a concept since 1987. Since then, the integration of the three pillars of sustainable development –the economic, social and environmental pillars - have slowly become mainstream in most fields. By moving from its niche, the concept is now widely accepted. Yet, it has lost its main component of paradigmatic change. As such, other approaches, which are still alternative, promote integration beyond the three pillars: with the integration of other pillars - such as culture or health - as well as with approaches relating to transversality, permaculture or transition models.

    Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level.” The principle 10 of the Rio Declaration was already pointing to the needs to modify the methodology for addressing this global change, and more specifically with the inclusion of citizens by providing them with access to information, as well as the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes, encouraging public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Participation, engagement, co-creation, and empowerment are stressed by other policies and declarations: the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals, the New Urban Agenda, the Pact of Amsterdam and the Urban Agenda for the EU, various national, regional and local policies.

    How can behavioural change be supported?

    This concern is high on the political agenda. Indeed, sustainable development requires citizens to be implied individually or collectively, since as Olivier de Schutter states “behavioural changes which rely on intrinsic motivations of people will be resilient as they will become part of the identity of the concerned individual”. Beyond the traditional linear, top-down approach mostly adopted by public policies from psychological and psychosociological backgrounds, and which have shown their limits, more recent analytical frameworks enable addressing the issue of sustainable behaviours from a practice approach, embedding them in a realm of objects, abilities and knowledge and values that make them possible. Such an approach takes away the blame too often put consumers for their non-sustainable practices, to shift the approach towards more constructive, participatory and co-created projects. Manchester (UK), Santiago de Compostela (ES), Milan (IT) and Tallinn (EE) have sought to address it each in their own way.


    The debate over where actions towards more sustainability should happen has now been going on for decades: should they be top-down, i.e. coming from public authorities, which could imply a strong control and command position from institutions; or bottom-up, i.e. coming from citizens and local initiatives, which could lead to a lack of structure. Beyond this oversimplification and caricature, what the Good Practice from Manchester “Culture for Climate Change” showed, as presented by Jonny Sadler, Programme Director at the Manchester Climate Change Agency, was that each of the stakeholders concerned and engaged in this process should play its part: public authorities, agencies, businesses, NGOs and citizens, each is responsible and has competences at his/her own level. In this Good Practice, the multi-level governance approach has taken the form of a strong engagement with and cooperation of local arts and culture NGOs: through the setup of the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team (MAST), Manchester City has worked with 30 organisations since 2010 to develop innovative ways to engage and inspire citizens in acting on climate change. This is only through such an approach that real co-creation can happen, not only for the sake of the process but also to ensure adequate implementation.


    Citizens taking part in these processes do so because they are strongly bound by the values they are promoting for and acting for. Yet, a friend of mine was recently asking – rather, wondering : “who is going to say “thank you” for what I am doing although there are so many people who don’t do anything, worse, who don’t care about deliberately deteriorating our planet”? The Good Practice “Spring Clean-up Campaign”, presented by Gennadi Gramberg, Head of Environmental Projects and Education Division of the Tallinn Environment Department, stressed the need to reward citizens, notwithstanding the positive energy and atmosphere citizens gain from the experience. The campaign for cleaning salt from streets, planting trees and flowers, picking up litter from Baltic beaches has already taken place 26 times. The actions are visible, concrete and are presented as festive events, including with tea and porridge. In addition to seeing their city being cleaned up and having an enjoyable moment, what citizens really appreciate are the badges they receive and can collect on their jackets: like a soviet hero, with a feeling of acting positively for society.


    In terms of Sustainable Food Policy and activities, Milan is very well known. It is for both its strategic and operational activities that the city has been labelled as a Good Practice under the “Food for Cities” project. It is with a plastic bag on which “Io non spreco” (I don’t waste) was written that Marco Mazziotti, Head of EU Affairs, Foreign Affairs Department at the City of Milan Mayor’s Office, explained one of the very concrete activities it has carried out within its – now international – Urban Food Policy Act: a work on food waste in school canteens. By addressing children, the project sought to get a double impact: on them and on their parents. It did so by providing plastic bags to children to take home the leftovers from the school canteens. This was in turn included in the wider City Strategy towards more sustainable food strategies – in the whole urban cycle of food (production, processing, logistics, distribution, consumption, and waste. In order to make participation possible, the City of Milan adopted a quadruple helix approach throughout the whole strategy development and implementation.

    “INCENTIVISATION CAN SUPPORT BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE”, Miguel Varela Perez, Santiago de Compostela

    Playing is also a strong driver for change and that is what Miguel Varela Perez, CEO at Teimas Desenvolvemento in Santiago de Compostela, showed via the “Tropa Verde Rewarding Recycling” Good Practice. The whole project was based on the responsibilisation of the citizens in adopting recycling attitudes but also towards more circular ones. By recycling the citizens receive tokens they can exchange for sustainable – non production intensive – gifts, such as public transport tickets, haircuts, or meals. By working with local shops, the Good Practice integrated the activities in the daily lives of citizens, making it easy, interactive and “fun” to participate. This also had a spill over effect on other activities of the local shops and wider behaviours of citizens.

    What can be transferred from these URBACT Good Practices to other cities?

    Many European cities struggle with the way to address sustainability at their level. Many still do it in a vacuum, by adopting a traditional approach of designing local public policies and services, addressing citizens but not necessarily including citizens in this process. The Good Practices presented above propose a few elements that can be transferred to other cities in supporting them to operate this change:

    • Projects on sustainability can cover a wide range of topics: climate change, energy performance, cleaning and waste management, (Right to) Food, recycling, and many more;
    • The projects can apply to different spheres of activities: arts and culture, policy-making, entrepreneurship, and/or citizenship;
    • The aims of the projects can be a search for: empowerment, awareness-raising, visible impact on city, vision setting, alternative economic systems and/or international cooperation;
    • Working together with relevant stakeholders and citizens in order to design and implement the adequate strategies and tools. Such stakeholders can be: citizens, businesses, schools, entrepreneurs, and/or policy-makers;
    • Citizens can be engaged through: awards, gamification, awareness-raising campaigns, “Commando” campaigns, cultural events and/or project development opportunities
    • The Municipality can adopt the approach that suits best its project, culture and available resources: that of coordinator, facilitator, driver or moral authority;
    • The projects can take different forms of labs: Living Lab, Innovation hub, Climate Lab, and/or Multimedia lab;
    • The projects can be funded by municipality’s budgets, private foundations and/or sponsors
    • The projects can lead to a policy strategy, urban renovation, civic Crowdfunding platform and/or hands-on activities

    These Good Practices also teach the way to present their project in a way that is engaging for their citizens, their administration but also beyond, adopting a positive and constructing attitude towards their effort for greater sustainability.

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