It's not without good reason that Lahti has been named this year's European Green Capital. The Finnish city stands out for having shrewdly managed its transition from the old industrial city it was in the 20th century to the modern, green city it has become today.
Like many Scandinavian countries, Finland stands out when it comes to ecology and sustainability. Lahti, a city of 120,000 inhabitants, is an excellent example of this, with its air quality, recycling policy and waste management.
Almost all household waste is recycled
Lahti is a city that has been focusing on sustainability for years. In terms of urban planning, for example, the city has chosen to build energy-efficient houses and schools. The city has also permanently got rid of coal and now heats itself exclusively with recycled fuel and local wood. In terms of recycling, almost all (99%) household waste is now reused, either to produce energy or to create recycled materials. Proof that the approach is working, is that a former landfill site has been converted into an impressive green space. Lahti's goal is to have a circular economy, with no waste at all, by 2050.
But the city's most spectacular success is undoubtedly the transformation of Lake Vesijärvi, which was particularly polluted by local industry in the 1970s. Today it's a haven of relaxation where people like to swim with their families.
Incentives for travel by bike or on foot
In Lahti, more than half of all urban travel is by public transport, bicycle and walking. To motivate the city's residents to leave their cars at home, an application is available to calculate the CO2 emissions linked to people's trips and to "reward" them accordingly. This can take the form of selected discounts in stores, free transport tickets and various gifts. People are therefore rewarded for preventing carbon being released into the air.
More anecdotally -- but no less symbolic -- Lahti is the first city in the world in which a self-serve ski service is available to residents, helping them get around "cleanly" in heavy snow.