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Want to See Green Done Right? Take a Trip to Spain

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If you’re interested in green construction, design, and city planning, there are places around the world that you can visit and see. But if you want to maximize your time and travel resources, a trip to Spain might be your best bet. Not only is there a lot to see, but there’s also plenty to do.

Spain: A Green-Friendly Destination

While a lot of “green” progress has been made stateside over the past few years, you really have to look past our borders to truly understand what’s happening on a global scale. Europe is the model for sustainable living, and Spain seems to be leading the way. More specifically, Madrid and Barcelona are showing city planners and government officials how it’s done. Both cities are squarely focused on improving quality of life for their citizens by refocusing how they approach sustainability and the environment.

For these cities, one of the biggest priorities over the past few years has been addressing plummeting air quality and dealing with vehicular congestion that had been getting progressively worse over the years. But instead of introducing car bans, which most European cities have tried, they’re doing something entirely different – and it’s working.

“Barcelona has a more radical strategy: to reorganize the city’s network of gridded roads into car-free superblocks, relegating traffic to large boundary roads, and returning the use of smaller streets to pedestrians and leisure services,” travel blogger Natasha Stokes writes. “In Madrid, the process has begun to pedestrianize its main avenue, Gran Via, a six-lane highway that serves a major shopping district. It’s part of a wider environment-focused plan to ban all diesel cars from Madrid entirely by 2025.”

The rise of Barcelona and Madrid as “green” cities perfectly coincides with their rise as “smart” cities. Barcelona has long been viewed as one of the world’s smartest cities – with a sophisticated network of sensors that monitor and respond to key needs – but Madrid is quickly catching up.

“Madrid is tackling traffic congestion, pollution and public services, but takes a unique bottom-up approach to using digital data,” Urban Hub explains. “By focusing less on how or how much data is collected, and more on the question of why we gather data, Madrid aims to keep solutions citizen-centric, and avoid the pitfalls of a technology disassociated from the people.”

It’s also interesting to look at the rise of technological innovation in leading cities across Spain. Both Madrid and Barcelona are huge entrepreneurial hubs for tech startups and ventures, with many of these companies and products focusing on green application.

Plan a Trip to Spain

If you’re interested in seeing what green city planning and construction looks like on a large, urban scale, you should try planning a trip to Spain. Be forewarned, though. This isn’t one of those European vacations where you spend one night in a city before moving on to the next. You’ll need a solid four days to truly experience Madrid. The same could be said of Barcelona.

Another piece of advice: Stay in an authentic area of the city. Whether it’s Madrid, Barcelona, or some other Spanish city, the touristy areas are often times a façade. By staying in more authentic neighborhoods, you’ll get a feel for what the city is actually like. This will help you understand how the city is planned, which green initiatives are working, and where there’s room for improvement.

By no means is Spain a perfect country, but it is an excellent model for other cities around the world that want to become greener. From construction and design to traffic and technology, cities like Madrid and Barcelona are leading the way.

Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources, including, and, among others. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he’s also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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