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The Bristol Method

Enthusiatic cyclists at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Enthusiatic cyclists at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol Destination Bristol
15 Jan
Not content with simply being European Green Capital for 2015, Bristol has unleashed a digital toolkit to help educate other cities around the world on urban sustainability and green living

‘The award of European Green Capital 2015 is a great honour for Bristol and its citizens, recognising the huge range of initiatives by many people and organisations over many years,’ wrote Bristol Mayor George Ferguson, following the city’s success in following in the footsteps of such iconically green cities as Stockholm and Copenhagen to become European Green Capital for 2015. ‘But of course,’ he continued, ‘the real aim is, and always has been, to do all we can to improve people’s quality of life and to live sustainably within our planet’s resources... to make Bristol a leading environmental showcase and test bed for new ideas.’

After a year with the title, and with the end of 2015 in sight, Mayor Ferguson took to the stage at the UN COP21 climate change conference in Paris – where Bristol co-hosted the Cities & Regions Pavilion, TAP2015 – to announce the release of the Bristol Method, the city’s parting gift to the world following a year in the environmental spotlight. ‘As part of our year as the European Green Capital, we pledged to make it easy for other cities to emulate our successes and learn from our challenges,’ said Ferguson. ‘I am delighted that the Bristol 2015 team and partners have created this invaluable online resource full of straightforward advice, based on our direct experience.’

mayorBristol Mayor George Ferguson – complete with distinctive red trousers – at a European Green Capital event (Image: European Commission)

The Bristol Method is a toolkit, a ‘how-to’ guide for the rest of the world offering advice on how to ‘green’ their cities, following the lessons learned by Bristol which was recognised by the European Commission as ‘the UK’s greenest city’. The Method covers such subjects as protecting green spaces, encouraging recycling and even how to introduce a local currency.

‘One of the reasons Bristol won the Green Capital Award was because we had demonstrated a willingness – an appetite – to be a role model,’ explains Katherine Symonds-Moore, project manager for the Bristol Method. ‘Lots of work has gone on in Bristol – the Bristol Method is about capturing that and offering it to the rest of the world.’

Examples of Bristol Method guides already available include how to promote renewable energy generation, how to encourage cycling and walking and how to grow a strong green economy. As Symonds-Moore readily admits, little of what the guides contain is brand new information. Instead they act as practical working examples that other cities can use as inspiration for their own development – just like Bristol once had to.

‘This wasn’t about trying to be more sustainable than Copenhagen, or dazzling people with wild innovation,’ she explains. ‘It’s about taking the things that are practical, possible and relatively straightforward and just being a proving ground. We often talk about Bristol being the laboratory of change because we’re relatively fearless about going out there and giving things a shot. We wanted other people to benefit from that too.’

‘One of the three objectives of our year as European Green Capital was to help build Bristol’s global profile,’ she continues, ‘and that has upsides for tourism and inward investment. It’s easy to make a business case – no one’s asking “Why are you wasting all this money telling people about Bristol?” Everyone gets that a good reputation is good for the city. It taps into people’s pride.’

whaleTwo life-size whales, made from Somerset willow and 70,000 upcycled plastic bottles, celebrate Bristol’s year as European Green Capital (Image: Paul Box)

The guides themselves were compiled by a wide selection of local experts, who were able to contribute valuable knowledge from their own individual areas of expertise. ‘We have this huge number of passionate experts all over the city, people who are just excited about this stuff,‘ says Symonds-Moore. ‘We wanted to take some of that energy and passion and distil it into easy, accessible documents.’

Symonds-Moore stresses the global value of the Bristol Method, as something which can transcend international borders to help people far beyond just the UK or Western Europe. ‘We’re all battling with the same issues,’ she says. ‘Sustainability is a global problem. We have different national infrastructures and policies in place, but the issues largely remain the same. If people can look at Bristol and get a little bit of inspiration or guidance or advice, then our work is done and I’m really proud of that. We sometimes look to places like Japan. We know it’s not going to be similar, but you look to challenge your own thinking or just inspire a different way of looking at something. So it might not be replicating what Bristol is doing, but it might be using it to think a little bit differently about the same topics.’

Next month, Bristol will officially hand over the European Green Capital title to Ljubljana, Slovenia, by which time Symonds-Moore hopes the Method will have added a further eight guides, adding up to a total of around 35. ‘One of the reasons Bristol was chosen as this year’s European Green Capital was because we believed the city could inspire change far beyond its city walls,’ said Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director General of the European Commission. ‘Bristol has done this by creating an invaluable repository of initiatives on how to tackle many of the sustainability challenges faced by cities across Europe and the rest of the world with the Bristol Method. This toolkit will provide a powerful legacy of the city’s experiences as Green Capital of Europe.’

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