Sustainable cities and communities
Sustainable City

SDG 11: Sustainable Transition in former industrial areas

Sustainable cities and regions only develop and sustain prosperity, if changes are made. Sustainable transition aims to transform socio-ecological systems towards sustainability and implies changes on different levels in society including individuals, businesses and policy makers [1].

This is where SDG 11 “Sustainable Cities and Communities” comes in and matches well to the topic of the article, because already 55% of the world population live in urban areas [2]. And due to the current COVID-19 pandemic most cases are observed in urban areas, therefore there is an urgent need to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” [2].

Let me introduce you to an amazing yet underrated area, full of surprises and interesting transitioning approaches and projects. Let me give you an idea about a former industrial area in Western Germany: “Das Ruhrgebiet” (Ruhr Area). It’s a place where 53 cities share a common history and its people were shaped by hard physical labour [3]. This area was marked by its heavy industry, mainly steel and coal mining whose industrial cathedrals today are event locations and special landmarks. If you listen to the stories of old coal miners they remember of times where the air was nearly black and full of harmful substances and your fresh laundry couldn’t dry outside the house [4]. Why? You had to wash it again. Even the water was polluted, especially the river Emscher [5]. Why is this area a good example for sustainable transition?

Because with the decline of heavy industries, the area was forced to change. To face this challenge many projects were conducted to make this area green and sustainable.

One of these initiatives is InnovationCity Ruhr in the town of Bottrop which includes 300 single projects to make the city more sustainable [6]. The focus varies from green energy to accommodation and mobility. To make Bottrop more sustainable many stakeholders from scientific institutions of the local population were involved to work out many ideas and approaches [7]. It’s not possible to give an overview about all projects, but two of them are quite interesting.

As mentioned before the Ruhr Area and especially Bottrop with the coal mine “Haniel” has a very unique history, because this coal mine was the last one to close in 2018. Left back is a highly toxic cocktail of gases and chemicals underground, which threatens to pollute the groundwater. Therefore, one project extracts the gases from the old coal mine to power a block-type power station for the local heating district network [8]. This is a great way to use the given infrastructure and the energy that is produced due to the local conditions.

Especially in times of COVID-19 we need smart solutions to support people who aren’t capable of going out and doing their shopping, because they are quarantined or aren’t capable of doing it on their own. The second idea aims to connect local retailers and build up a smart city network in Bottrop, called LOUISE [9]. This smart city project combines digitization with logistics to help minimize CO2 emissions by shorter routes and the use of e-bikes and electrical cars within the city of Bottrop. The goods can be sent to your home or collected at special pick-up stations which are located throughout the city. The project is a cooperation between different enterprises and institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute [6].

Both projects that are only a brief overview about the ongoing transition towards sustainability within InnovationCity Ruhr that showcases local resources can be used efficiently and sustainably if different stakeholders like policy-makers, academists, local administration and retailers work together. The results are a reduction in CO2 emissions, strengthening of the local economy and a transformation of Bottrop to a more sustainable and liveable city.

Which projects to make a sustainable impact are happening in your city?


[1]: file:///C:/Users/Stephanie/AppData/Local/Temp/sustainability-11-00844-v2.pdf




[5]: Schepelmann P., Kemp R., Schneidewind U. (2016) The Eco-restructuring of the Ruhr District as an Example of a Managed Transition. In: Brauch H., Oswald Spring Ú., Grin J., Scheffran J. (eds) Handbook on Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace. Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace, vol 10. Springer, Cham.





Authored,& Published by Stephanie Kusemann | Illustrated by Oğuz Yılmazlar |Edited by Lee Vallance |Supported by Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Substack, Twitter & WordPress Publications


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The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of AAI (AIESEC Alumni International).