Coordinates: 25° 25' 47" S 49° 16' 19" O
Curitiba is not only an ecological model for the world, but a city populated with human beings who have a different mentality towards life; very positive, creative and with an environmentalist mindset. In this city of Brazil, even spaces are recycled. What used to be a quarry is now a beautiful theatre, La Ópera de Alambre (The Wire Opera House), with multiple green areas, a large lake, diversity of flora and fauna, and plenty of culture. The wooden posts that were once used for electrical cables are now the foundation of a majestic edification, La Universidad Libre del Medio Ambiente (The Free University of the Environment).
When talking about evolving integrally, Curitiba is one of the best examples. This city in Brazil, capital of the Paraná state, has progressed having as a principle the integration of its resources in favor of the environment. In planning the development of this city, located at the south of Brazil, satisfying the actual needs was taken into consideration, without compromising, however, the resources of future generations. The environment, economy, education, transportation, and social development of Curitiba are integrated with the same goal: creating a sustainable city to enjoy a better quality of life.
What makes the development plan of this city totally different is that the environment is the most important factor to consider in their strategic negotiations. The progress has been structured with an ecological conscience. When the new Regulation Plan of Curitiba was founded in 1965, it was decided to place the industries on the west side due to the wind and soil use. This area is ideal to develop the industries as the direction of the wind prevents the contamination of the city.
Education is a fundamental tool in the search for an equilibrated environment. In the public schools of Curitiba, the program of Ecological Alphabetization was created as part of their teaching curriculum. This program consists of a series of activities created to reinforce education as a link to the development of a social conscience and environment awareness in children. Thus, shaping conscious citizens, engaged with life in this planet. The idea of this program resulted from the effort of an Austrian physicist, Fritjof Capra, who implemented a similar program in the United States.
Another environmental education program that was established to educate children and young people from special communities is the Ambiental Piá. In this program, the assistants learn gardening, orchard planting, and the basic notions of health and nutrition. Artistic activities are also organized in this program.
On the other hand, The Free University of the Environment was created in 1991 with the goal of educating people on the benefits of environmental initiatives. As part of the educational program, the institution offers workshops, seminars, courses, conferences, and exhibitions related to urban planning, and other subjects associated with the environment.
Garbage that is not garbage
In 1989, the Basura que no es basura (Garbage that is not garbage) program was initiated, which focuses in picking up all “garbage” that can be reused. For example, deconstructed televisions, car pieces, stereophonic systems, furniture, wooden pieces, and everything that people throw away thinking it is no longer useful. In poor communities of Curitiba, these items are “bought” from those who gather them and “paid” with food. This exchange system is called Cambio Verde (Green Exchange) and consists of offering low-income communities the opportunity of working to obtain food.
The process is as follows: once a week two trucks are parked in a designated area, one stores the “garbage” and the other is full of fruits and vegetables. The inhabitants of this community take their wheelbarrows filled with reusable items that are then weighed. According to the weight, they are given a ticket that will be redeemed in the ‘food truck’. The government buys what farmers were not able to sell and this is then given to these poor communities in exchange for maintaining the city clean. This effort offers these people a sense of worth, as they are working for their food; it is not being given to them for free. It is also an incentive for the farmer, as he does not lose on the sale of his products.
Transportation is another fundamental aspect in the preservation of the environment of Curitiba. By emphasizing the development of mass transportation vs. the individual, air pollution is prevented in great measure. This system of mass transportation is of world reference. It started with an express bus circulating in exclusive lanes and now multiple lines integrated in terminals and underground rails exist. The actual system counts with various buses identified with different colors, each with a particular route.
There are also special lines, such as that of tourism, hospitals, and special education (to transport alums with special needs to schools). The efficiency of their transportation is basically due to the technology and planning. This transportation system saves its users time, spends less fuel, and prevents contamination. It also allows citizens to make various journeys with only one ticket; simultaneously contributing to the family’s budget.
Social help has also been an area for development in this city. Curitiba modified the paternalistic and overprotective vision to a more independent mentality. The government helps, but the citizens don’t depend on it entirely. The citizen holds responsibility for its own progress.
In the Social Action program, help is offered to those in need and families are educated so that they can achieve independence in the future. These programs were designed to be temporary. People are offered these different programs, according to their necessity, and they are given the tools so that they can thrive and continue using them on their own. In other words, they are not given the fish, they are taught to fish.
In Curitiba, there’s a true environmental conscience and the government and society support this principle. Curitiba is a city that has focused on the possibilities. The citizens have changed their perspective towards life and have achieved the emergence of a general motivation to continue evolving in harmony with the environment. The balance that they have created with their environment is basically due to the integration, decentralization, structuring, and the implantation of their programs, but most importantly due to a change that started in their minds. They started to see life in a different way and to think integrally.
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Learn about the environmental strategies of this city.
2. Use the public transportation system, which is very effective.
3. Make this environmental practices a way of life.