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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Sustainable Neighbourhoods in Brussels

Brussels is one of the most lively and diverse cities of Europe.  And it seems that its citizens are also committed to improving the life quality of their communities as local associations sign up for sustainable and integrative activities, developing awareness on important social, economic and environmental issues.

I live in Etterbeek, one of the nineteen municipalities located in the Brussels-Capital Region.  Here, since 2009, a group of inhabitants responded to the Sustainable Neighbourhoods Initiative Call made by the Brussels Ministry of Environment (IBGE), defining a very clear action plan: to make this neighbourhood a pleasant and better place to live.  Their project, Broebel'Air, promotes waste reduction, rethinks the use of public space, reinforces social cohesion and creates environmental awareness among its citizens. 

For example, some of their simple but effective initiatives are the upkeep of community gardens and compost facilities, setting up collective purchasing of organic farming products, the organisation of information workshops and video screenings and loads of wonderful, colourful parties and barbecues (what better way to get to know my neighbours?).

There are several social advantages to promoting a Sustainable Neighbourhood.  First, they help bring people together, encourage a community feeling and fight urban isolation.  Second, local actions raise awareness of environmental global problems.  And third, they restore the citizen’s responsibility in the social and urban planning.  Finally, all these elements are integrated in long-term development strategies.

Projects like Broebel’Air show us that small steps do make a difference and that we can easily participate: they can be just next door.  And that right in the Heart of Europe, Sustainable Neighbourhoods are empowering people to become actively part of the solution, making them as example to be followed by all.

Blog by Ana Catarino

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