Swedish City Recognized for Efforts to Support Sustainable Communities

Hammarby Sjöstad
Hammarby Sjöstad, the eco-friendly waterfront district in Stockholm, Sweden.
Photo by Victoria Henriksson

The World Clean Energy Awards, announced in Basel, Switzerland, on June 15, recognize innovative, practical projects that move renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions into the mainstream. Developed by the independent transatlantic21 Association, the awards are intended to create benchmarks for clean energy in seven categories: construction; transport and mobility; products; services, trade, and marketing; finance and investment; policy and lawmaking; and NGOs and initiatives. The Worldwatch Institute was one of eight organizations invited to participate in the nomination and jury process for the awards. Eye on Earth will run a weekly feature on each of the nine winners.

One section of Sweden’s capital city is likely to become more “eco-friendly” than the rest. Hammarby Sjöstad, a waterfront district in the center of Stockholm, is following a comprehensive sustainability plan as it is redeveloped from a former industrial site into a residential area. This means that everything from the construction materials (and their transport) to the energy, water, transportation, and waste systems for residents has been designed with environmental considerations in mind. “All of [the] issues are integrated in one program, instead of each part of the city working on different issues separately,” explains Josefin Wangel with GlashusEtt, the district’s environmental information hub.

Initially, the “green harbor area” housing project was conceived to improve Stockholm’s chances of hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics, but plans were continued even after the games were awarded to Athens, Greece. Wangel says the holistic coordination behind the redevelopment, implemented from the project’s onset, is what makes it such a success. Hammarby Sjöstad is one of the biggest environmental projects in Stockholm using a systems-based methodology, which also helped it win the 2007 World Clean Energy Award (WCEA), according to Wangel. “Most of the technical solutions aren’t that hi-tech or sci-fi or special, what is special is the overall eco-model approach,” she notes.

The “down-to-earth solutions” that Hammarby Sjöstad boasts are integrated into residents’ everyday lives. Household solid waste is separated into organic, recyclable, and other waste types, and combustible refuse is processed and used as fuel for electricity and hot water in homes. Some 1,000 residences have stoves that run on biogas derived from the district’s wastewater, and the gas also fuels public transportation. By its completion in 2016, Hammarby Sjöstad is expected to be reusing waste for fertilizer in area agricultural activities, to be served by a fast train, and to be bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, reducing the need for cars.

One of the biggest challenges of the project has been integrating environmental issues into the planning process, says Wangel, who notes that this is not the standard approach in Sweden. She hopes the WCEA will act as “proof that the city of Stockholm is working in the right direction...[and] hopefully will strengthen Hammarby Sjöstad as a role model” for other sustainable communities in the region and world. “Building sustainable city areas isn’t at all more difficult, it’s just different,” Wangel concludes.

This story was produced by Eye on Earth, a joint project of the Worldwatch Institute and the blue moon fund. View the complete archive of Eye on Earth stories, or contact Staff Writer Alana Herro at aherro [AT] worldwatch [DOT] org with your questions, comments, and story ideas.