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A Bold Stroke of Green

Home to Latin America’s winner of the 2018 Miele One To Watch, Curitiba is also an inspiringly forward green city

At Miele, design is never just about making things look good. Design is a function, and an expression of principles and values. This rings true too in the outstanding design of the city of Curitiba.

Way before recycling was part of everyday life, before environmental issues were championed by celebrities, before it was ‘in’ to be ‘green’ – Curitiba was on it. Think a six-block length of car-free zone right in the heart of town; a city-wide recycling program; extensive tree-planting and an integration of park spaces on an enormous scale within their urban plans; and the world’s first bus rapid transit system boasting express-bus avenues and futuristic bubble-like boarding platforms that shelter commuters from the elements. All these, and more, the city was already implementing – in the early 1970s. 

These were the bold initiatives of Jaime Lerner, the city’s three-time mayor and twice-elected governor of the state of Paraná, for which Curitiba is the capital. An architect by training, his thinking is ahead of the curve. While urban planning often brings to mind conflict – that between the old and the new, natural and urban habitats, the haves and have-nots; Lerner found a fine balance and created harmony.

Rather than spend large amounts on expensive levee systems to block out water from the floodplains surrounding the city, he turned the floodplains into parks. And to maintain the grassy plains of these parks are not petrol-guzzling tractors, but sheep. The same sheep also provide wool that go towards funding programs that help the city’s children. Today, Curitiba is considered one of the greenest cities in the world, with more than 50 sq metres of green space per person – even though its population has tripled since Lerner’s days.

When it comes to heritage buildings, instead of Rather than tear down heritage buildings tearing them down to build highways to ease traffic congestion, he created a public transport system that transports two million people each day. And this system is one that is emulated by some 300 other cities around the world, including those as far from Curitiba as China.

Yet Lerner’s initiatives are sustainable not just by intelligent design, but because people are in the heart of his masterplan for the city. Rather than raze down slums in order to clean up the city, he created programs where the poor could trade trash for grocery, transit passes or even school books. And to clean up a bay, Lerner paid fishermen for garbage they retrieved. The people are also rewarded for separating recyclable wastes and bringing them to waste stations. 70% of Curitiba’s waste are recycled today.

People is also at the heart of Miele’s ambitious goal of being an industry leader in environmental protection. Apart from employing technology and design solutions to improve energy efficiency and adopt alternative energy sources, we also established a platform where experts from all of Miele’s worldwide network of plants or sales subsidiaries can exchange information on the topic of energy efficiency. Because really change can only be brought about, when every individual believes in the cause.