Ljubljana is one of the most beautiful European capital cities. Incredible Viennese-style architecture lines the Danube river in the most graceful of ways, and its lush trees bring about the sensation of being in an urban forest. But it isn’t just the trees that are green in Ljubljana. This tiny city has undergone a considerable number of changes over the last decade that have earned it various European Green Capital awards. It is this new status as a role model for the environment that has not only put the city on the map for tourism but also a seat at the table in decision-making on a European level.
But what are some of these amazing features that the city has implemented since 2008? First and foremost, the city center is inaccessible to cars. This not only creates a much more pleasant place to be as a tourist but also avoids traffic jams and fumes to breathe in. The center is where the majority of tourist sites are set up, including the Dragon Bridge and the Ljubljana Cathedral. This set up also allows visitors to linger longer, indirectly boosting the local economy because of their needs that must be met, such as refreshments.
Cycling is also incredibly popular in Ljubljana, much more even than in other European cities. Sure, bikes can be rented at a low cost for the day, but the feature is made much easier for locals because they can use the same card that they would use to pay for the bus or to pay library fines. It is even possible for people to cycle in the pedestrian zones of the center, provided that they navigate slowly and safely. There was fear that making this part of the city into a pedestrian-only zone would ruin neighborhood businesses. Still, they never materialized because the city thought ahead and set up a massive parking structure outside the district, where people can park at a low cost and take a bus into the center for free.
Marko Peterlin, the director of the Institute for Spacial policies, recognizes how much these efforts have helped reduce traffic, but points out that not enough has been invested in public transportation. However, these changes are coming soon, with thirty new emission buses entering the already decent service cover the suburbs. Ljubljana is even working with neighboring cities to cover the entire Slovenian country. The idea is that by this year, “one-third of trips would happen by private vehicles, one-third by public transport and one-third by non-motorized means.”
Waste disposal comes next in the realm of accomplishments of the city. According to City Lab, the city recycles close to two-thirds of its waste and the first of all the European Union’s capitals to come up with a zero-waste strategy. There is a brilliant innovation wherein a set of collection points stores trash underground until it can be collected. These deposit points just look like normal, albeit modern-looking, trash or recycling cans. The public is allowed to use the recycling bins, but only residents can use the organic waste bins. This is maintained with a special card that uses a microchip to open the container, and only a certain amount of waste can be deposited each week.
Significant efforts have also been made to improve green spaces. This has not only happened on a municipal level: multiple civic groups and associations have gotten involved so that the city has nicer places for its residents to spend the beautiful spring days in.