Sustainability as a watchword Read on to find out why and how the Esch2022 European Capital of Culture project will have a lasting influence on the region.
In 2022, Esch-sur-Alzette is European Capital of Culture – an opportunity which this southern city and the entire region wish to make the most of to focus on sustainability. Thierry Kruchten, Head of Tourism, Mobility and Sustainable Development at Esch2022, explains that sustainability goes much further than environmental protection and tells us how the partners of the Capital of Culture are suported in their projects.
When talking about sustainability, we often think of issues such as environmental protection, energy, mobility and waste prevention, but we're less likely to associate it with cultural events. Why is Esch2022 placing so much emphasis on sustainability?
Sustainability has always been a key factor when preparing this project. Our focus was not exclusively on conventional sustainability topics such as energy or the environment, but we also want this cultural year to have a lasting impact in many areas. These not only include the common areas of mobility and waste prevention, which fall under the banner of environmental protection, but also issues such as the inclusion of older generations and people with physical or intellectual disabilities, or the creation of cultural facilities which sustainably enrich the region. In this respect, sustainability has been one of the watchwords of the Capital of Culture project from the outset.
Carrying out a cross-regional project like this within a year certainly sounds very ambitious.
We are currently carrying out or planning such a wealth of sustainable projects that we'd never manage to cram them all into the scope of this Capital of Culture year, but many of them will extend beyond 2022 and have a lasting influence on the region.
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The Sustainability Charter aims to give a structure to this project. What does this entail?
The Charter defines sustainability on the basis of 6 pillars. The project partners can then find out about each of these pillars and choose from an existing range of measures. Our aim was to offer a platform with specific solutions and tools which can be implemented by the region's partners and inhabitants in their respective framework conditions. We weren't interested in coming up with a list of conditions that needed to be ticked off; instead we wanted to help our partners find solutions which were feasible for them.
Could you give us one or two specific examples?
As I mentioned earlier, we feel that sustainability is more than just a question of protecting the environment and resources; it is also a matter of inclusion. One particular project which illustrates this is the 'Immersive Live' project, which enables people with hearing impairments to enjoy concerts. This involved designing special vests that transfer vibrations to the body – that way, the people wearing them can actually feel the beats! The Luxembourgish DJ Napoleon Gold even wrote a piece specifically for deaf-mute people. But to take part in this project – which we developed together with HörgeschädigtenBeratung SmH – and to get an idea of how it works, you don't have to have a hearing impairment.
Another key point was the catering. Here, for example, we specified that 50% of the offer should comprise vegetarian alternatives and 25% should be derived from local products. With the help of specific suggestions, we not only told the operators which requirements they should meet, but we also gave them practical tips and contacts to help them put our suggestions into practice.
What was the response to the offer?
It varied a great deal. Across the board, the partners were very interested in this initiative. Some of them didn't have sustainability on their radar, and in those cases we made efforts to shed light on the issue. Many partners, for example the municipalities, are already active in this area, and some of them even inspired us thanks to their pioneering achievements in the field. So all in all, the offer was very well received.
The Charter in a nutshell
The Charter's sustainability concept is based on 6 categories: tourism, gastronomy, the local economy, waste management, mobility and communication. The Charter's impact operates at three levels, i.e. the ecological, environmental and social level. The Charter ties in with the efforts to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nation's 2030 Agenda, adapted to the specific characteristics of Esch2022.
A project like this, whose influence spreads far beyond the region, is also the perfect stage for promoting these efforts among a wide audience. Are there also projects along these lines?
You can find information on the Charter and the partners' commitments everywhere, for example with the Totems and the Carg'ELO.
The Totems provide details about the relevant events' commitment within the scope of the Charter. These wooden panels feature small boards displaying information about which pillars of the Charter the organiser has committed himself to. This is not only an advertising measure for us; it also offers transparency and helps to achieve our goal, i.e. to make sustainable development more visible and tangible thanks to the Esch2022 Capital of Culture project.
Another real eye-catcher is the Carg'ELO, an information stand developed by the 'Am Gronn' studio and built by the carpenter Charly Krau. This bicycle-drawn modular stand can be set up in a flash just about anywhere, providing the public with information about sustainability topics and – as the name suggests – about the ELO network with whom we will extend the sustainable development project beyond the 2022 calendar year.
Thierry Kruchten, thank you very much for this interview.
The Sustainability Charter is based on an idea by two inhabitants from Esch. The idea was immediately integrated into the concept for Esch2022, with support from the Luxembourg Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development. Thierry Kruchten is currently working exclusively on this topic together with one other person.