Freiburg (Germany)

Freiburg im Breisgau is located in the extreme South-West of Germany, close to the French and Swiss borders. The city lies in the Blackforest (Schwarzwald) region of Baden-Württemberg and is the host city of the ICLEI European Secretariat.

Freiburg is known internationally as one of the birth places of the environmental protection movement, with the city council publically advocating solar over atomic energy as early as 1986.

Today Freiburg stands as a sustainable exemplar, a city in which sustainable thinking is visible in every aspect of its design. International delegations come to view Freiburg's progressive policies in actions, from its acclaimed waste management concept, to its wide-spread use of renewable energy, to its urban transport and mobility policy.

Sustainability focus: Integrated Waste Management Concept

The city of Freiburg provides citizens with a waste management system that is both ecologically and economically sustainable. The city's waste management policy is structured on a hierarchical set of principles, favouring waste prevention, followed by waste recovery, and finally ecological disposal. Citizens are encouraged, through communications campaigns and financial incentives, to separate waste and to cut down on the waste they generate.

Freiburg serves as a good example for the combination of waste management and energy production. In 1997 Freiburg was one the first cities to introduce organic waste containers. The compostable waste is transformed into biogas by means of a fermentation plant, and the gas then further transformed into electricity. The fermentation residues are composted.

Closed landfills are utilised to generate electricity. Due to the decomposition process of the organic waste, gas is produced which consists partially of methane. The gas is vacuumed out under controlled conditions, processed and used at a combined heating and power station four kilometres away. The generated thermal and electrical energy serves one of Freiburg´s quarters, while a photovoltaic plant installed on so-called ‘energy mountain’ also supports in generating energy.

The need to knows

  • The city aims to achieve an ambitious 40% reduction in CO2 levels by the year 2030
  • Freiburg was one of the first cities in Germany to establish an Environmental Protection Office
  • Environmental management and sciences account for 12,000 employees (almost 3% of all people in employment) in 2,000 business entities across Freiburg
  • Over 50% of the city’s electricity is generated from combined heat and power plants
  • The private car density in Freiburg is only 423 vehicles per 1,000 persons, extremely low compared to other major German cities
  • Freiburg boasts an approx. 420 km–long network of cycle tracks and lanes and over 9,000 bicycle parking racks
  • Freiburger Verkehrs AG (VAG), the city's public transport operator, transports nearly 80m passengers every year with its 67 trams and 62 buses. The trams are operated using 100 % green energy. Freiburg VAG is also a Procura+ Participant.


  • In 2010 Freiburg was named German Federal Capital for Climate Protection [In German]
  • The city was a European Green Capital Award Finalist in 2009
  • Four citizens of Freiburg have received the prestigious German Environmental Award
  • Freiburg is a signatory of the Covenant of Mayors
  • Freiburg won top place in the ‘Sustainable Community’ competition organised by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German Environmental Aid Association)

What the city has to say

"In a Green City, science and industry work hand in hand to achieve technical innovations, quality growth and strong, long-term employment. Management of the environment has long been a key factor in the economy. In Freiburg, this is supported by the citizens. Their commitment to climate, water and soil protection underpins the sustainability of the city’s urban development. As a Green City, Freiburg has become a model and example for cities and communities across the globe. This recognition honors and also motivates us to develop new ideas and work towards the achievement of our goals.”


Dr. Dieter Salomon, Former Mayor of the City of Freiburg



ICLEI and Freiburg

Freiburg has been an ICLEI member since the founding of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability in 1990. The host city of the ICLEI European Secretariat, ICLEI has worked closely with the city on numerous projects and events. Since 2007 the city has hosted the Local Renewables Conference series and is a member of both ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection Campaign (CCP) and the Agenda+ Network. The mayor of Freiburg, Martin Horn, is a portfolio holder within ICLEI's European Regional Executive Committee (REXCom), taking on the responsibility of sharing and communicating good practices and models in sustainability.



Photographs provided courtesy of the city.