Sustainable Cities™

Curitiba: The Green Capital

The inhabitants of the megapolis of Curitiba in Brazil have 16 parks, 14 forests and more than 1000 green public spaces as their immediate neighbours. As a whole, the green urban areas in Curitiba are among the largest in the world and every inhabitant of the city has approximately 52 m² of nature to romp about in. Brazil's green capital makes a tremendous effort to preserve the city's natural environment and is regarded by many as one of the world's best examples of green urban planning.

Cylister i Barigui Park. Venligst udlånt af

With a network of almost 30 parks and urban forested areas, Curitiba is the greenest capital in southern Brazil. Back in 1970, each of the city's inhabitants had less than 1 m² of green area. A goal-directed effort has since boosted this area to 52 m² per inhabitant and the city is still actively improving its natural environment. In 2007, Curitiba came third on the list of the 15 Green Cities in the World in the American magazine Grist.

Curitiba's environment legislation protects the local vegetation (mixed subtropical forest), which has been threatened by urban development. It makes sure that the Paraná pine (Araucaria angustifolia) is not felled in public or private parks. In order to protect the local vegetation, the city's Municipal Secretariat of the Environment produces 150,000 endemic cuttings, 16,000 fruit trees and 260,000 flower seeds, at the same time as 350,000 cuttings are nursed in a botanical garden and three greenhouses.

The city has succeeded in introducing a Green Exchange employment programme to the benefit of the environment and socially deprived groups. Low income families living in the favelas, shantytowns out of reach of the city's dustcarts, can exchange their rubbish bags for bus tickets and food. Children can exchange reusable waste with school articles, chocolate, toys and tickets to entertainment events. The project results in less household waste in the streets as well as in sensitive areas such as rivers and parks. In combination with other initiatives, 70% of Curitiba's waste is recycled by the city's inhabitants. The city's recycling of paper alone accounts for the equivalent of 1,200 trees a day.

Curitiba skyline. Courtesy of

The population at large in Curitiba is also involved in the green city's development and have, among other things, planted 1.5 million trees along the city's highways and byways. Many streets in the city centre have been converted to pedestrian precincts and a 'flower street' is cared for by street children. Curitiba's 'Open University' provides an education for a modest fee, and the city's inhabitants are taught about environment protection. Clapped out old city buses are used as mobile schools which teach the population about sustainability.

Curitiba has set new standards of sustainable urban planning. In order to demonstrate the city's contribution to the global agenda, Curitiba held an international summit in 2007 on urban planning and biodiversity for civic leaders from all over the world. Here, Jamie Lerner, the recognised urban planner and former mayor of Curitiba, pointed out that urban planning both should and can incorporate environmental, social and economic sustainability, as they have done in Curitiba.

"Cities are not the problem, they are the solution." Jamie Lerner, urban planner and former mayor of Curitiba.


Related cases:

Way ahead: Edmonton's urban forests   

Chicago: Converting vacant lots to greenery

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Friday, May 28, 2010 / By Signe Cecilie Jochumsen

Last updated Tuesday, May 27, 2014