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It’s Not Easy Being Green: Impressions From Curitiba

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 27th, 2011

Source: Core 77


Photo: It’s Not Easy Being Green “waste” paper materials workshop in Curitiba

From “It’s Not Easy Being Green: Brazil” by Aart van Bezooyen and Paula Raché:

“Last Monday, our Brazilian friend Claudia offered to drive us to the airport…until she realized that Monday was her “car-free day.” Cars in São Paulo have to stay off the road one day a week, a regulation that was introduced to reduce the city’s heavy traffic. Even the city’s own mayor uses a helicopter in order to be on time for his meetings. Of course it’s a pity that we lost our ride to the airport but somehow we appreciated the sustainable sound of this solution to reduce heavy traffic in a city where traffic is a monster. That is, until our friend explained that this “sustainable idea” resulted in most people buying two cars allowing them to (again) drive all week long. It’s not easy being green.” –Observations on São Paulo, on our way to Argentina

Two designers, six months and a dozen countries. São Paulo’s traffic rule is just one the everyday discoveries for the It’s Not Easy Being Green project, an initiative by two designers exploring sustainability in materials and design around the world.

First Impressions From Curitiba, Brazil. March 5-17, 2011

On March 4th, we traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Curitiba by bus. What should have been a 12-hour bus trip turned into an 18-hour experience due to heavy traffic surrounding the Carnaval holidays. During Carnaval, thousands of people travel in two directions: while one half travels to Rio de Janeiro to party at the biggest street festival in the world, the other half escapes to the coast to relax—it seems we were caught somewhere in the middle.

Curitiba is the 8th largest city in Brazil and often recognized as the most sustainable city in Brazil. Before our journey we read articles about the city’s recycling programs and world-famous bus system that allows almost everyone to get anywhere with public transport. The city also has many parks and forests to enjoy on foot or bicycle. In other words, the city serves as an example of green urban planning.

Arriving in Curitiba we found ourselves in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers with more infamous cars than famous buses. The city center is anything but green and riding a bike downtown seemed to be a sure way to get seriously injured or killed. For a so-called “Green Capital,” we were quite disappointed. The next day, our local host took us for a drive around the city—only then did we discover the green parks of Curitiba. Unlike Central Park in New York City, Curitiba has some 30 parks and forests along the outside ring of the city. We enjoyed this green discovery and hope that the parks will be cherished since the city is rapidly expanding making the conservation of its green perimeter a significant challenge for the near future. During our stay we also learned that most of the “green” success stories including the bus system, green parks and high recycling rates originated in the early 1970’s when architect Jaime Lerner was mayor of the city. Today, many of these systems are under strain. Most young people we spoke with would prefer a car due to the unpredictable and sometimes unsafe bus system. The parks are being swallowed by the ever-expanding city of Curitiba (the population tripled in the past 20 years) making the conservation of its green surroundings a big challenge for the near future.

Curitiba’s trash bins allow separated waste disposal up to five categories: paper, plastic, metal, glass and organic waste. When we looked into the trash bins we noticed that oftentimes the waste was not separated at all. Of course separating waste is only the beginning of a sustainable system. Recycling seems to work pretty well but there are still few programs for reusing or recycling the collected waste (which became one of topics we focused on during our workshop).

Read the full article from Aart & Paula on Core 77 to find out more about their project, including materials reuse workshops in Curitiba.

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Aart van Bezooyen and Paula Raché are a Dutch-German design couple living and working in Hamburg, Germany. With the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” project, they are using their creative skills to give our tired planet a helping hand. Paula Raché is a Berlin-born designer with work experience in graphic, packaging and exhibition design. Aart van Bezooyen is a design teacher and founder of Material Stories where he inspires and enables the best use of materials to make design more competitive, creative and sustainable. Together they provide lectures and workshops to explore and share alternatives in materials and design that can give our world a better future.