22 September 2023

ICLEI Member Turku embraces cultural heritage to enhance sustainability

Culture and sustainability are woven together in ICLEI Member Turku (Finland), where residents write poems of the future they would like to see for their 800 year old city and where culture is a tool to achieve climate goals.

The city’s cultural offer is low carbon, participatory, and often circular. Imagine an old cigarette factory transformed into an art house, and an exhibition of entirely recycled ecological artwork. Picture boosted suburban spaces with simultaneous mobility and energy retrofits and cultural interventions. Enter into libraries as circular hubs for clothing repair and instrument rental. Hop on to public transport to get to a museum, or stroll along the river through the natural cultural park. Reclaim space normally taken up by parked cars, by setting up a street music stage or flea market booth during the city’s ‘Event Carpets’. These assets improve quality of life and the environment for residents and guest travelers.

According to Timo Hintsanen, Turku’s Director of Urban Planning, culture is a way to promote sustainability and as a sphere to become more sustainable itself. When it comes to cultural tourism, he imagines a future city where small and big cultural attractions intrigue residents such that they do not feel a need to fly around the globe. Miia Paananen, Senior EU Advisor in Turku, similarly confirms that Turku’s arts and creativity sector has great potential to spark people to act and change for climate action. While the City of Turku can achieve half of the desired emissions reductions itself, through cultural heritage reuse for example, the rest must come from inspired, connected and imaginative residents and stakeholders.

To learn more about ICLEI’s work on cultural tourism and circular heritage re-use, among others, view this briefing paper.