Växjö: The sustainable city frontrunner

The City of Växjö calls itself the greenest city in Europe and won the European Green Leaf Award in 2018 for its commitment to sustainable development and ambition to become completely fossil fuel free by 2030. This sustainable attitude started in the 1970s when the city decided to restore the heavily polluted lakes around the city. This coincided with the oil crisis of the 1970s, which prompted the municipality to look for an alternative to oil powered district heating.


The municipality restored the lakes for recreational use and was the first Swedish city to switch to biomass district heating in 1980. Since then sustainable thinking has prevailed in the mindset of the municipality and people of Växjö. In 1996, Växjö municipality decided the city should be fossil fuel free by 2030, making it the first city in the world to set such a target.

Photographers: Patrik Edman

What makes Växjö particularly decisive and effective is the political unanimity about the goal. The city developed a holistic view on sustainability, considering it in all planning and development work. In Växjö, food waste is recycled and turned into biofuel, the transport system is expanded and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by improving public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure. A strategy for encouraging citizens to shift to electric cars and electric bicycles has also been rolled out. The city aspires towards 50% of new buildings being wood-based by 2020. Businesses and universities are also involved in the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and stop the use of fossil fuels, for example through Sustainable Småland. This network supports and participates in the sustainable development of projects, processes and services in the region.


Since the sanitation of the lakes in the 1970s, thinking about the climate has embedded itself in the mindset and the lives of the people of Växjö. There is wide support for the municipal plans to reduce COemissions and citizens actively approach the municipality with ideas e.g. for electric bicycles and transforming oil boilers into wood boilers. The Linnaeus University researches people’s behaviour regarding energy consumption and offers education in reducing COemission.

Photographers: Mats Samuelsson

Today, most of the city is connected to the biomass fuelled district heating system and 60% of the energy used in Växjö, including transport, is from renewable sources. This is an increase of 27% since 1993. In 2014, the COemissions per capita equalled 2,3 tonnes per resident, a reduction of 48% compared to 1993. This has been achieved whilst maintaining economic growth — the GDP per capita has increased with 32% between 1993 and 2014. Sustainable development solutions and knowledge have become an export product of Växjö.


Växjö is an early adapter when it comes to environmental preservation and protection. The city has pioneered in the field of holistic sustainable development since the 1970s. The know-how gained from these years of experience is applicable in many settings worldwide. Växjö is well represented in international sustainability organisations, for example, as members of the Regional Executive Committee of ICLEI and board members of Energy Cities.

Photographer: Johannes Jansson

Over the past 15 years around 100 international delegations per year have visited Växjö to learn about the process, governance and cooperation involved in realising the city’s ambitions for fossil-fuel independence. Municipalities in Kosovo and Vietnam have been supported by Växjö in the construction of waste management plans.

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Graph collection energy and CO2 2016