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Greensburg GreenTown is a charitable nonprofit organization working in Greensburg, Kansas to rebuild the town following the devastating tornado in May of 2007. The town has made a remarkable comeback, reinventing itself as a model for sustainable building and green living now recognized around the world. GreenTown works to make green building and living easily understood, appealing and accessible to all.

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Thursday
Mar152012

Living Green Around the Globe: Curitiba

Image courtesy of Brazil GreenOne of the defining events in the greening of Greensburg was the development of the Sustainable Comprehensive Plan, which lays out a long-term guide for the redevelopment of the community. The elements of the plan came from a series of public meetings, which were brought together into a usable document by the Kansas City-based architectural firm BNIM. In this edition of Living Green Around the Globe we focus on another city that has become known around the world for its sustainable features and innovative master plan.

Curitiba, which is the capital of one of Brazil’s southernmost states, has become well known for its environmental planning, and was even awarded the Globe Sustainable City Award in 2010. In the mid-60s the city began to face numerous issues including sprawl, fewer green spaces, and a loss of character due to a rapidly growing population. To combat these issues the Curitiba master plan was introduced in 1968. The plan implemented strict controls on urban sprawl, a reduction of traffic in the downtown area, preservation of Curitiba's Historic Sector, and a convenient and affordable public transit system.

A BRT tube station. Image courtesy of SustainableCitiesCollective.Curitiba, which now has a population of 2.5 million people, uses about 30 percent less fuel per capita when compared to other Brazilian cities of a similar size, resulting in one of the lowest rates of ambient air pollution in the country. Curitiba has one of the most heavily used, yet low-cost, transit systems in the world. The BRT or Bus Rapid Transit system has up to 2.7 million trips per day with 70 percent ridership. Passengers pay a single fare equivalent to about 40 cents for travel throughout the system, with unlimited transfers between buses at terminals where different services intersect. It offers many of the features of a subway system—vehicle movements unimpeded by traffic signals and congestion, fare collection prior to boarding, quick passenger loading and unloading—but it is above ground and visible. The bus lines of the expansive transit network are coded by color and organized according to citizens' daily needs, from accessing health care to shopping.

Along with public transportation, an integral part of the master plan included the reducing traffic downtown and the establishment of a trinary road system. This uses two one-way streets moving in opposite directions which surround a smaller, two-lane street where the express buses have their exclusive lane. Five of these roads form a star that converges on the city center. Land farther from these roads is zoned for lower density developments, to reduce traffic away from the main roads. The city also boasts a busy commercial pedestrian only area located downtown, known as Rua Das Flores (Flowers Street). The pedestrian area, which was established in 1972, was the first pedestrian street in Brazil.

The Free University for the Environment (UNILIVRE). Image courtesy of Greensburg GreenTown.Prior to 1970 Curitiba had only one square foot of green space per inhabitant, but now the city boasts 560 square feet per resident.  The city has a network of 28 parks and wooded areas.  Many of Curitiba's parks were reclaimed and converted from industrial or commercial use, and were designed for flood management. For instance, the Free University for the Environment (UNILIVRE), Curitiba's environmental learning center, is located in a converted quarry and has classrooms spiraling into the treetops made of old telephone poles.

Curitiba also encourages recycling through incentives such as the Cambio Verde program, which enables poor citizens to exchange their metal and glass waste for fresh produce or bus tickets. In combination with several other initiatives, 70 percent of Curitiba's waste is recycled by the city's inhabitants. To read more about Curitiba and its innovative sustainable and planning policies check out this article by PBS.