Tag Archives: transportation system

This exhibit showing the creative uses of recycled items is aimed at raising awareness of the sustainability movement in Poland. Photo: Kasia Marciszewska

Seeing Poland In A Green Light

Our associate editor and resident green blogger, Kasia Marciszewska, is currently traveling in Europe. While there, she stopped by her native country of Poland. Ever vigilant about the subject of sustainability, Kasia sought out Poland’s green side.

Visiting my home country of Poland is always a fun and exciting experience. It seems every time I come here something is different, as Poland continues to shift and grow with the changing times.

This visit proved to me once again how far the country has come, when I realized that Poland was taking “being green” to a new level.  The concept of eco-friendliness in some ways is new to the country, but upon closer inspection it seems that Poland was on the road to helping the environment long before it became popular.

One way the country is and has been reducing its environmental impact is through its transportation system. Many of Poland’s residents commute via public transportation, which includes trams, rail and bus. Though not always the fastest routes, public transportation is an integral way of life for the Polish people and definitely the greener way to travel.

One can easily travel throughout Poland on public transportation. The rail systems span the whole country, and you can travel with relative ease; from the northern city of Gdansk all the way down to Krakow in the south, it’s all just a train ride away.  Travel to neighboring countries such as Germany and the Czech Republic also can easily be done via trains, making visiting other countries ecologically sound.

Though transportation by car has steadily increased over the years, the sizeable difference is in the cars themselves, literally. Cars in Poland are taxed based on their engine size, so many people choose to drive cars with smaller engines (thus fewer emissions) in order to reduce their costs. That frugalness helps the environment at the same time (The price of gas in Poland is also extremely high, so using public transportation makes much more economic sense for most people).

Another “green” innovation in Poland is grocery bags, or rather the lack thereof. Many of Poland’s cities are making an effort to reduce plastic bag waste by simply asking customers if they need a bag. The catch? If you want a bag you’ll have to pay for it! A nominal fee is tacked on for plastic bags during your shopping, so a better, cheaper and greener alternative is to bring your own bags.

The cities of Gdansk, Inowroclaw, Tychy and Zabrze already have passed local laws to ban the free handing out of plastic bags, and many more cities are deciding on similar initiatives.

Poland is truly undergoing a cultural shift toward environmental friendliness. Awareness about the topic is spreading with more and more initiatives sprouting up all over the country.

I recently observed an exhibition at a shopping center in Wroclaw titled “Eco Fashion.” The goal of the exhibition was to demonstrate practices on how to recycle with a focus on fashion.  The campaign showed a multitude of creative ideas for recycling everyday items into clothes, furniture and more, along with games, prizes and interesting facts about recycling. For example, did you know that recycling one plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for six hours?

The entries varied in shape and size from a plastic cup coffee table to a dress made from garbage bags. But the overall message was heard loud and clear, eco-friendliness is here to stay in Poland — with many more “green” advances to come!

livabilitysummit

Valley Forward Hosts 7th Annual Livability Summit

Valley ForwardAs the world celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Valley residents also had a reason to celebrate.

To commemorate Earth Day, Valley Forward was once again at the forefront of the sustainability movement in the state — hosting their Seventh Annual Livability Summit at the Wyndham Phoenix.

The title of the program, “What Does the Future Hold for Sustainability?”, proved to be a launching pad for intelligent and interesting observations from speakers, panelists and attendees.

The event began with a welcome from Valley Forward president and Green Scene guest blogger, Diane Brossart, followed by Jeanne Forbis, Valley Forward Association Chair of the Board and Global Corporate Affairs Communication Manager at Intel Corporation. Ms. Forbis introduced the morning keynote speaker: James Charlier, an expert in smart growth strategies and sustainable transportation systems. Mr. Charlier gave a lively, informative presentation before turning to the morning’s panelists to continue the discussion.

The panel titled: “How to Ensure a Sustainable Future for our Region” was comprised of:
Sue Clark Johnson | ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy
Paul Newman | Arizona Corporation Commisioner
Shannon Scutari | Arizona Department of Transportation
Mo Mukibi Jr., Ph.D. | CH2M Hill

Mayor Phil Gordon
Mayor Phil Gordon announced the City of Phoenix received a $25 million federal grant for its Green Rail Corridor project.

Each panelist offered their own unique perspective about the challenges Arizona faces in planning for a sustainable future. The lively debate then extended to the audience who asked some interesting questions.

For a complete list of all the speaker’s presentations visit Valley Forward’s website.

The summit was headlined by keynote speaker Jeremy Rifkin, renowned economic futurist and sustainability expert who wowed the audience with his incredible knowledge and experience. As president of the Foundation of Economic Trends and the author of 17 best-selling books on the impact and technological changes on the economy, workforce, society and environment, Rifkin is a seasoned voice in the field. Rifkin used his own experience as founder and chairperson of the Third Industrial Revolution Global CEO Business Roundtable to enlighten the crowd with some ideas about a possible sustainable future for Arizona. During his speech, Rifkin gave examples of several European countries that have already implemented astounding sustainable economic plans that can serve as a great example for the U.S. and for Arizona.

Rifkin’s compelling presentation got everyone thinking and emphasized the critical juncture we’re facing. He noted that we are at the turning point of our species or the “end of human civilization as we know it.” Rifkin further explained his reasoning by pointing out that we are living off 19th and 20th century ideas that are toxic to the biosphere challenges we face as a global society. The premise behind the Third Industrial Revolution is to harness smart technologies and global communication networks to create a renewable energy regime. Renewable energy and its growth is critical as well as harnessing this power by converting buildings into power plants. Lastly hydrogen storage, smartgrid and plug-in vehicles will maximize renewable energy and minimize cost.

Jeremy Rifkin
Author and economic futurist Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends delivered the luncheon keynote and signed copies of his book, “The Empathetic Civilization.”

Just hearing his thought-provoking ideas was incredibly inspiring. Implementing these ideas won’t be easy but Rifkin is optimistic that as more and more cities across the globe change their viewpoint and see the economic vitality sustainability can bring, a so-called “revolution” will take place.

Overall, the summit was an incredibly successful event. In addition, to the panel discussion, Valley Forward also hosted a resource area that spotlighted local initiatives for environmental concerns and sustainability issues. The organization was also proud to once again partner with the 2010 Future City Competition for 7th and 8th grade students, with winning students from Cochise Middle School attending the summit.

 

www.valleyforward.org

Valley Metro Light Rail

Awarding Sustainable Excellence

On Saturday, September 12th Valley Forward held its 29th Annual Environmental Excellence Awards Gala. With Fox 10 News’ Troy Hayden as master of ceremonies for the event, there was never a dull moment.

Title sponsor SRP and Diane Brossart, president of Valley Forward, put together another spectacular celebration of sustainability. More than 150 nominations came in for this year’s awards — more than any previous year — showing that despite difficult economic times, the public’s commitment to sustainability has not wavered.

METRO Light Rail was the 2009 President’s Award (Best of Show) recipient, further highlighting the achievements of the newest addition to the Valley’s transportation system. METRO Light Rail was also honored with a first-place Crescordia Award in the Livable Communities, Multi-modal Transportation & Connectivity category.

Crescordia is a Greek term that means “to grow in harmony,” and that’s the overall message that came across during this year’s awards. Each acceptance speech reiterated the importance of responsible economic growth, and keeping the environment in mind for a brighter future for our state.

Check out the full list of winners here.

It was a great experience to see all of the amazing projects, and the progress Arizona has made toward a more sustainable future. An added bonus was being able to mingle with a crowd of esteemed professionals, as well as community and business leaders.

Along with the award winners, Brossart announced AZ Big Media / Arizona Business Magazine’s blog partnership with Valley Forward. She will be a guest blogger on the AZ Green Scene once a month, so check back soon as we’ll have some great posts coming our way.

www.valleyforward.org

Photo Credit: www.valleymetro.org