The World’s Greenest Cities Series: Curitiba, Brazil

The World’s Greenest Cities Series: Curitiba, Brazil

The World’s Greenest Cities Series: Curitiba, Brazil

When thinking about the world’s greenest cities, maybe you wouldn’t think that a city in South America would be on the list. But Curitiba is one of the world’s top ten green cities. Here’s what makes it a sustainable powerhouse.

Its transport network is super-efficient

Residents use the city’s public transport system, especially the bus rapid transit system (BRT) to make between 70 and 80% of their journeys. The reduced reliance on cars means that the city’s total carbon emissions are around 25% lower than average. The buses are so popular because rather than having to contend with other traffic on the city’s roads, they have exclusive access to a central right of way.

It’s literally green

Curitiba in the south of Brazil is literally a green city, boasting 52 square metres of green space per person, including beautiful parks and a botanical garden filled with shrines reflecting the cultures of the different ethnic groups that have settled there.

But the parks are not just there to look pretty, much of the park land doubles as a natural stormwater management mechanism. The parks follow the course of the city’s river, the Iguacu, and when there are heavy rains, the river backs up and spreads out into the low-lying areas of the parks, making temporary lakes.


Curitiba Park


It empowers its residents

You might be forgiven for thinking about slums when you think of Brazil. These are usually makeshift habitations created by people who have moved from rural areas to the cities to find work. Curitiba has experienced these issues but has found some novel ways to deal with it. One scheme that is in operation allows people who live in the slums to get cash, food and bus tokens in exchange for collecting trash and recyclables. This helps to keep the city clean and provides people with a source of income which reduces their dependence on government support. As a result, the city has become one of Brazil’s most prosperous; per capita income is 66% higher than the Brazilian average.

Its sustainable legacy goes back to the 1960s

Curitiba’s sustainable path began in the 1960’s in a not so ideal manner, or so it seemed. A military dictatorship ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985, but for once, power was used for the greater good, at least it was in Curitiba. The mayor Jaime Lerner was an architect and urban planner, and he had a sustainable vision for the city. His legacy has seen environmental issues given precedence over economic considerations which is different from the norm in a lot of other cities.