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European citizens help steer sustainable living in their cities

An EU-backed project is enabling European citizens to play a part in their cities’ transformation into inclusive, sustainable and beautiful places to live.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment
Society icon Society
Energy icon Energy

It only takes three things to bring about change, according to the EU-funded EHHUR project: eyes, hearts and hands. EHHUR is therefore putting urban residents at the heart of the battle against climate change by prompting them to keep their eyes open for aesthetically viable transformation, their hearts open to inclusive community involvement and their hands busy with concrete actions. In 2023 in Nepi, a town in central Italy, children from a local primary school were invited to share their ideas on how to renovate their neighbourhood. The focus being on inclusivity, a questionnaire was also distributed to elderly people in the town for insight into their views on the same topic. “It’s more of a bottom-up, people-centric approach – starting from the people living in the cities themselves,” states engineer Alessia Peluchetti of EHHUR project coordinator Rina Consulting, Italy, in a recent article published in ‘Horizon – The EU Research & Innovation Magazine’. The responses received from these two groups focused on four core areas of sustainability: water, food, energy and mobility. Proposed solutions included various points for water collection from different sources, suitable areas for an urban garden, greenhouse and composter, buildings suitable for photovoltaic panel installation and bike paths connecting key points in the neighbourhood. The Nepi site is demonstrating social innovation practices for improved energy efficiency and smart mobility. “If we want people to use city spaces, we need to create spaces that are attractive and help reduce inequalities,” remarks Peluchetti. And as EHHUR is showing us, the first step to achieving this is understanding the needs of citizens and involving them in the design of these spaces from the start. The project draws inspiration from the EU’s New European Bauhaus initiative, a movement that brings a cultural and creative dimension to the European Green Deal, aiming to show Europeans how sustainable innovation can positively impact our daily lives.

Seven cities across Europe

Nepi is just one of the seven lighthouse districts EHHUR has chosen to lead the path towards beautiful, inclusive and sustainable cities throughout Europe. The project’s other six cities, each with their own socio-economic and infrastructural challenges, are Høje-Taastrup (Denmark), Izmir (Turkey), Kozani (Greece), Maia (Portugal), Osijek (Croatia) and Zoersel (Belgium). In Danish municipality Høje-Taastrup, a citizens’ energy community is being created to empower residents of the Gadehavegård social housing district to contribute their own sustainable energy solutions to the district’s renovation. In Turkey’s Izmir, a historic shopping centre is being transformed into an innovation hub through the creation of a craft and cultural space. Interventions in the Greek town of Kozani include the environmentally minded renovation of two primary schools, a university research centre and a municipal park. In the northern Portuguese municipality of Maia, the rehabilitation of the social housing neighbourhood of Sobreiro includes organising performances, exhibitions and urban interventions to enhance integration and social inclusion. In Zoersel, northern Belgium, a new multifunctional library with activities such as local language lessons for foreigners is being planned to strengthen social cohesion in the district. Last but not least, the city centre of Osijek, Croatia’s fourth-largest city, is being revamped with a focus on climate resilience and use of local materials, the goal being to make it Osijek’s main cultural hub. EHHUR (EYES HEARTS HANDS Urban Revolution) ends in September 2025. For more information, please see: EHHUR project website


EHHUR, urban, city, citizen, sustainable, innovation, New European Bauhaus, social housing, energy

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