Can cities be sustainable?
Cities occupy 2% of the earth's surface, yet they consume 78% of the world's energy and produce more than 60% of CO2 emissions. Although these figures do not surprise us if we take into account that currently more than 50% of the world's population lives in urban environments and it is estimated that in 2050, this figure will rise to almost 70%, according to recent reports by UN Habitat.
But... Can cities present sustainable living models? Faced with this question, we have set out to investigate and bring you a walk through six of the most sustainable European cities and incidentally, some of their fashion proposals.
We are not surprised to find this city among the most sustainable in Europe, especially if we take into account that for more than ten years, it has been the promoter of one of the most important forums on Fashion and Sustainability, the Copenhagen Fashion Forum.
Copenhagen is one of the cities with the lowest levels of CO2 emissions, partly due to the fact that two thirds of its population uses bicycles as their preferred means of transport for urban travel.
To this end, Copenhagen has developed the so-called CPH Climate Plan 2025, through which it assumes its responsibility for climate change and its commitment to finding the most innovative, intelligent, healthy, cost-effective and environmentally friendly solutions possible in four areas: energy consumption, energy production, sustainable mobility and city management.
When it comes to fashion, Copenhagen is also setting the trend, and its Fashion Week promotes sustainability from the ground up, transforming it from a traditional event into a platform for change in the industry by promoting innovative practices. Some of the brands nested in the city are pioneers in alternative systems of fashion use such as the garment rental developed by Ganni or Malene Birger.
Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, covers almost 100% of its energy demand through geothermal and hydroelectric energy, a clear example of energy efficiency and another step towards the city's main objective: to completely eliminate carbon emissions by 2040. To this end, Reykjiavik's strategy includes heavy investment in bicycle paths, the development of an environmentally friendly public transport system of buses connecting the urban core with nearby municipalities, and the expansion of the network of charging stations for electric vehicles.
When it comes to fashion Reykjiavik is also peculiar, but better than telling you about it ourselves, we invite you to listen to the following episode of the Wardrobe Crisis podcast, presented by Clare Press, in which they interview Ýr Jóhannsdóttir, a fashion designer, textile artist and upcycler activist from Reykjavik who through her brand, Ýrúrarí, uses humor to question traditional ways of making fashion.
Link to podcast:
Located almost at the southernmost point of the country, this city not only occupies the lists of the most sustainable cities in the world, but also the happiest. Sustainability has been one of the key priorities of this city since 1995, and in fact its main advertising slogan says so: "Sustainability starts here".
Among its goals is the exclusive use of renewable energies by 2030. At present, food waste is used to generate biogas, which is then used as fuel for public transport. In addition, the city has numerous eco-districts in the city, where technology is the main ally to reduce and even cancel emissions with automated systems that sense, for example, changes in light or temperature, thus activating the relevant energy use systems.
And if you enjoy fashion, it is certainly one of the cities you can not miss, because since 2006, Malmö received the Fair Trade City certification indicating that the city is committed to ethical and responsible consumption and keeps a record of all sustainable stores there called "Go! Gree Options Malmö" that will allow you to walk around the city in a different way, especially if you enjoy vintage fashion and stylish thrift stores.
Amsterdam, together with the World Economic Forum, published a very interesting report at the beginning of 2020 with suggestions for effective cooperation between local entities and the transport sector to make cities more sustainable, safe and inclusive. Just one of the initiatives that the city is developing as part of its commitment to be one of the first (if not the first) truly circular city. An initiative carried out in collaboration with the company Circle Economy and the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which you can read about here.
It could not be missed either as it is one of the most important cities in the fashion environment and home of the Fashion For Good initiative, a platform to promote sustainable innovation in fashion through transparency and traceability throughout the fashion production chain.
And last but not least, we come to Vienna, former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (city with history) and today considered the city with the best Quality of Life (according to the British magazine The Economist) and Smart City Leader thanks to its innovation ecosystem that aims to connect citizens with public services through smart alternatives such as clean energy, integrated technology, green spaces or citizen participation.
Thanks to this, the fashion world is also affected and the city becomes a melting pot of more sustainable alternatives that offer countless aesthetic options for anyone who wants them: fashion arks that do not have a single plastic in their products (or packaging!) like Rawfiction; fashion produced exclusively in a fair way and with more sustainable materials entirely in Austria, like Zerum; or brands like Greenground, in which labels trace the entire journey of the garment from raw material to the store without leaving a single detail out.