a new series

I’m always on the hunt online for people who seek to make urban life more attractive and sustainable, whether it’s a nonprofit finding new ways to address infill issues or a community leader making their city greener and more energy independent. This new series will spotlight those thinkers and experimenters engaged in the exciting work of sustainability and infill.

For this series’ inaugural post, I’ll share with you two innovators who have recently come to my attention.

who is talk pgh?

Our first spotlight focuses on a Pittsburgh mobile talk show. Artists Jon Rubin and Nina Sarnell wanted a way to more easily reach city residents to hear what they have to say about the state and future of their neighborhoods. So they built a truck with transparent sides to drive through each of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods–90 in total! Their goal? To interview those residents who might not have the desire or means to share their opinions with Pittsburgh policymakers, but who nevertheless have strong opinions and a stake in what happens to their neighborhoods. To hear what they have to say, check out their video below and the learn more about their project on their Art Builds Community website.

who is dr. eckart würzner?

Würzner is the mayor of Heidelberg, a city in southwestern Germany. During his 15-year tenure as mayor, Würzner has reduced the number of vehicles in his city by an unprecedented number. Earlier this month, he joined William Shutkin and Andy Bush on the Sustainable City podcast for a conversation about his efforts to reduce car dependence and create a more livable city. Check out the podcast below.

What I find most striking about Würzner is his hard-nosed practicality. He recognizes his city’s unique position as a “brainy city,” a place where most residents are on board with reducing carbon emissions. But still these changes were not always easy for him to make. One example: he worked many years to make sure all city buildings met the passive house standard, even early on when it wasn’t a popular position to take. He’s never wavered in his position: to create a city that’s greener and more livable, and one that contributes positively to our earth’s future. More city leaders should learn from this man’s fine example.

We still have to accept that we need a system based on cars going to the mobility hubs, but these mobility hubs should be outside the city. And then used as an area where you come together. So, use the tube, the tram or the big bus system to go downtown, not with your car. So, an electric car can be helpful in a rural area, for example, to go to the train station, absolutely if it’s too far with the bike. But if you go closer to the city, it’s tram based, it’s bicycle and it’s walking city, that’s my way.