Although in recent years climate change has slowly been pushing its way up on France’s political agenda, Paris still ranked at just number 10 on the last United Nations Green European City index (2012). Before the French capital hosted COP21, the annual world climate change conference, it went to to great lengths to ensure that the green initiatives being implemented would be more than a media frenzy, quick to evaporate after the summits end. Here we look at the eco-friendly initiative going the distance for 2016.
Installations at Berges de Seines
The most visible change in the city over the last few years is the hybridisation of the Berges de Seines, in which the banks of the Seine from Pont de l’Alma to Musée d’Orsay have been closed to traffic and transformed into a 2.3km promenade lined with bars and restaurants, and where a number of activities and events take place throughout the year. In fact, Artevia, the agency in charge of the Berges development, paid tribute to COP21 with the project City Camping last summer. Prototypes for split caravans inlaid with turf, hammocks, snail habitat-vehicles, tables-cum-hammocks and picnic tables with bed-cum-benches demonstrated our future lifestyles leaning towards ‘horizontal living,’ echoing Lidewij Edelkoort’s forecasts.
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After unprecedented peaks in pollution have brought Paris to a standstill in the last couple of years, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo launched Cityscoot, an electric scooter sharing system, following suit from the city’s bike and electric car sharing schemes. Not only will it provide another clean way of getting around, but it will also help to reduce Paris’ car-heavy traffic.
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Other initiatives include the Participatory Budget, in which Parisians decided where they wanted to allocate the budget. One of the projects was for increasing Paris’ green environment. As a result, 200 green spaces are being developed across the city, 20,000 new trees are being planted, and urban farms, allotments, community gardens and vertical gardens like that of the iconic quai Branly Museum are emerging. Urban honeybee farms have also popped up on rooftops like at the Opéra Garnier and Grand Palais, and Galeries Lafayette even has a strawberry field on its roof.
Strawberries on the Galeries Lafayette roof
Aside from ordering your locally-grown basket of fruit and vegetables, the transformation is also taking place outside the home with a new generation of restaurateurs focusing on farm-to-table fare at a whole wave of restaurants such as Verjus, Le Galopin, Bones and Vivant, right through to Michelin establishments like Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athénée. In the same vein, organic grocery stores like Causses, Terroirs d’Avenir, and Maison Plisson (whose owner LUXOS interviews here) are seeking out quality and natural produce to stock their shelves, and distributors like Terra Candido and Au Bout du Champs are bridging the gap between small local producers and consumers as well as restaurateurs.
Wine selection at Causses
This season, though, the real highlight will be La Louve, France’s first cooperative supermarket. Opening in the 18th arrondissement, it is built on a completely new model that will revolutionise the existing supermarket experience; members will be able to buy quality natural produce at reasonable prices in exchange for chipping in at the supermarket for three hours a month.
Vivant wine bar and restaurant
A greener culture also means saving energy: the Christmas lights along the Champs Élysées are now LED bulbs, which reduce energy consumption by 90%, and the Eiffel Tower sparkles for an hourly five minutes instead of the former ten, stretching its bulbs’ life expectancy. And for tourists and locals alike, Ecovisit Paris even organises green tours of the city, revealing the much-underestimated nature of the new Paris. Indeed, the French capital is changing fast – and soon it will be hard to imagine what living in Paris pre-2016 was like and whether it was ever a viable reality.