Tuebingen uses blue campaign to go green | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 25.06.2009
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Tuebingen uses blue campaign to go green

The town of Tuebingen in southern Germany has won a national environmental award for their climate protection campaign "Tuebingen is going blue," which hopes to reduce per capita CO2 emissions by 70 percent by 2020.

Tuebingen Mayor Boris Palmer is handed the key to his new Smartcar with the Tübingen macht blau campaign posters on it

Tuebingen Mayor Boris Palmer advertises the town's climate goals everywhere he goes

The sleepy atmosphere of Tuebingen's historical center, where picturesque half-timbered houses line cobblestones streets and punt boats glide slowly downstream, belies the town's pioneering spirit. Tuebingen has set itself the goal of reducing green house gas emissions by 10 percent by 2010, and by 70 percent by 2020.

A Tuebingen is going blue campaign poster

The campaign includes posters put up all over town

The climate protection campaign, called "Tuebingen is going blue" is the brainchild of Mayor Boris Palmer, a member of the Greens, who said that almost every decision made during an average day has an effect on the climate.

And he does mean everything: from how you choose to travel to work, to whether you prefer to take a shower or a bath, to whether or not you eat meat.

"It all has implications for the climate," he said, "And we ask people to consider what they are doing and to act to save the climate."

Going blue to be green

A play on the German expression of skipping out on work or school that literally translates to "going blue," the "Tuebingen is going blue" is a highly visible marketing campaign that organizers said aims to draw attention to the myriad ways the town's inhabitants can save energy. Using energy saving lamps, turning off appliances at the source, or buying regional and seasonal products are just some of the organizers' tips.

A hydroelectric power plant on the Neckar River outside the town of Tübingen

Much of the town's green energy comes from a hydroelectric power plant

The campaign also serves as a one-stop-shop for finding out about climate-friendly schemes on offer in the town, such as car-sharing and financing for energy-efficient heat-pumps.

Some of the strategies promoted - like covering the town-owned Smart car Mayor Palmer sometimes drives in campaign posters and having a link to the campaign's Web site in every e-mail sent by public officials - are simple, but effective, according to Sabine Schmincke, the head of Tuebingen's communication department.

Nothing's more difficult than changing people's behavior so you have to use a whole range of marketing strategies for a campaign like this to be successful, Schmincke said.

"In order to get an impact on climatic change, what we really have to do is change everybody's behavior, so it's worthwhile to make a good effort in marketing in order to reach as many people as possible," she added.

Success so far

The facade of the local sports arena in Tuebingen covered with solar panels

The town of Tübingen has covered the outside of the Paul-Horn-Arena with solar panels to create green energy

The campaign seems to be working. Since its launch just over a year ago, for example, there's been a 75 percent leap in the number of households who have signed up for green power. Ortwin Wiebecke, the director of the town's public utility company, Stadtwerke Tuebingen said he believes this is all thanks to raising public awareness.

Plus, green power costs more, which has been very helpful to the city, Wiebecke said.

"Because all those people pay a little extra and we can use this extra for building new facilities for regenerative power production," he added.

Producing green energy

Of course it isn't just about using green energy, but about producing it as well. Which is exactly what the local high school is doing.

Elke Weiler, the chairperson of the Parents' Association at the school, together with teacher Martin Merkle, founded a citizen's group to fund two solar plants located on the school's roof. The plants feed a combined 60 kWp into the net.

Projects like this that have led to the photovoltaic power capacity of Tuebingen doubling in the year since the campaign launched. Palmer said he believes this is because the council is not only marketing renewable energy sources; it is making it easy for inhabitants to invest in solar energy.

Tuebingen Mayor Boris Palmer stands in front of the town hall with his bike

It's a rare thing to have a mayor who rides his bike to work

The town has set up a solar roofing market and provides a one-time subsidy for new plants that aren't eligible for funding from the German government or European Union. The campaign won Tuebingen a German Environment Agency's prize for its comprehensive marketing strategy. But Palmer is determined to see current emissions reduced from eight tons per capita a year, to three tons by 2020.

And Tuebingen's mayor certainly puts his money where his mouth is. He doesn't own a car or even a fridge. He has a solar panel on his roof and cooks with gas. And he is probably one of the few mayors in the country with a bicycle parked outside the town hall - with a blue bike helmet hanging from the handle.

Author: Kate Hairsine (mrm)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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