IMAGE: Prague City Tourism
Prague: The City of a Hundred Spires
January 6, 2021
You can get lost in the history and romance of beautiful Prague. People have lived in this area for around 7000 years, and as you walk through the Old Town in this City of a Hundred Spires, it can feel like you’ve gone back in time. It’s easy to believe nothing has changed here for centuries.
But look beneath its old-world charm and you’ll discover Prague has changed and is still changing, striving to become a greener destination for visitors and a more sustainable city for its residents.
Sustainability for Prague’s Citizens
The Czech Republic ranked 8th in the global Sustainable Development Goals 2020 Index, and as its capital city, Prague must take some of the reflected glory of that ranking—while shouldering much of the responsibility for ensuring it retains or improves it. Prague is already a very green and compact city, easy to walk around and with an enviable public transport system. But there are still plenty of issues for this capital city to tackle.
Prague’s Climate Commitment
Prague, as well as the rest of the Czech Republic, has during the last decades been facing increasing frequency and intensity of some types of extreme weather events related to climate change. Last year, the Prague City Council approved a commitment for the city to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and eliminate them entirely by 2050 at the latest. To reach these goals, the City has developed strategies to tackle the issues that contribute to CO2 emissions and build on progress it’s already made.
IMAGE: Prague City Tourism
In 2018, online travel experts TravelBird published their Green Cities Index, which was compiled by considering cities’ efforts to preserve ecological areas and improve the quality and quantity of man-made green spaces. Prague ranked highly in three of the four categories and was named as the city with the highest percentage of green space per person. But not content to rest on its laurels, in the same year, Prague began implementing its Tree Planting Action Plan, an eight-year scheme to plant 1 million new trees.
The City recognises that new planting is necessary to maintain the quality of existing wooded areas and reduce traffic noise in residential areas. It also recognises the positive environmental effect of larger tree groupings, which can hold large amounts of water, effectively cooling the landscape, improving the microclimate and preventing soil erosion on slopes and riverbanks. So, new beeches, oaks, firs, pines and larches have been planted every spring and autumn, when planting conditions are optimal. Despite the challenges 2020 has brought, foresters planted 107,000 new trees this spring and there will be another 130,000 in the ground by winter.
IMAGE: Prague City Tourism
At present, trees are planted in urban and open spaces already earmarked for this. But by 2023, changes in the zoning plan will open up other municipal areas of Prague and its districts for planting. Throughout the process, the City are working to involve the public and non-profit organisations, hoping to educate people in the environmental benefits of trees, and inspire them to care for existing trees and plant more.
A Greener Airport
Prague Airport is working to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030. It’s been involved in the Airport Carbon Accreditation (ACA) initiative, which independently evaluates airports around the world for their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints, since 2009, and achieved level 3 accreditation in 2016. To achieve level 4—zero emissions—by 2030, it’s involving its partners, including airlines, handling and catering service providers and land transport users.
The airport has been negotiating the purchase of 100% green electricity, which will help reduce the airport's carbon footprint by 60% by 2025 at the latest compared to 2009, when the measurement started. As achieving carbon neutrality at airports purely by reducing emissions is practically impossible, the airport is considering carbon offsetting projects for the future. A project is also underway to optimise and harmonise air traffic, called Airport - Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM). Improved time management of aircraft handling contributes to the reduction of emissions.
Beekeeping, as one of the means of air quality biomonitoring, began at Prague airport in November 2011. Currently, it has 5 beehives and the honey collected from them is analysed annually by a certified laboratory. This honey has been labelled as ‘Czech Honey’ since 2012 and has won several awards for its high quality. The pollen collected by the bees is also important, as it’s submitted for examination to the Institute of Chemical Technology, Prague, where it’s checked for heavy metal and organic residue content (polyaromatic hydrocarbons). As bees collect honey from a 3-4-kilometre radius, this analysis reflects the quality of the environment in the airport’s vicinity.
Prague Airport has been monitoring pollutants in water, air, soil and agricultural crops in its vicinity for some time. Now, it also monitors new pollutants from pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), in a bid to increase understanding of how these substances affect the environment and human health. It’s working with the University of Chemistry and Technology to map the spread of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) and educate the public about them.
IMAGE: Zátisi Group
Hello to Circular Economy; Goodbye to Single-Use
Prague is one of nearly 30 cities that have signed the European Circular Cities Declaration, which recognises the need to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe, and it’s developing its Circular Economy Strategy 2030. However, some measures are already agreed or in place.
The pandemic has offered Prague an opportunity to focus its attention on the circular economy and the city has wasted no time in ensuring that circular economy principles are adopted in as many areas of city life as possible.
IMAGE: Dr. Jose G. Lepervanche
Prague already has a high waste recycling rate, with less than 10% of waste ending up in the landfill. The City plans to further refine its waste management and, above all, reduce waste generation. It’s introduced city-wide biowaste collection and a pilot kitchen waste collection scheme, and it intends to reduce the total production of mixed municipal waste in the city by at least half by 2030. Pilot projects have also been established for collecting oils, fats, and bulky waste, and for the set-up of re-use points at collection yards.
The City authorities no longer use single-use plastic packages and tableware at their own events, nor do they offer support to events that still use single-use plastic items.
IMAGE: Prague Congress Centre
Local food sourcing and beekeeping
Prague’s position in the Vltava river valley, in the heart of the Bohemian Basin, means it’s surrounded by farmland and vineyards, so it’s rich in local food resources. Support has recently been agreed for an organic farming scheme on land owned by Prague.
Beekeeping has become very popular in Prague, and it’s not just the airport that has its own hives! Many businesses have established them too. The Vienna House Andel's Prague hotel began the initiative to place hives on hotel rooves, after an assessment showed that Prague was ideal for the project, with little competition from other insects and no high dose fertiliser use on the city’s plants and trees. The hotel’s honey has won gold and silver awards for the best Czech-sourced honey and guests can even watch a live hive-feed in their rooms! But this year, the gold award went to honey produced by the hives on the roof of another hotel—the Clarion Congress Hotel, where bees have been producing honey with flavours of maple, chestnut, acacia and linden since 2016.
IMAGE: ŠJů, CC BY 4.0
Prague’s Sustainable Mobility Plan
Prague’s public transport system is already extensive and cheap to use (the City pays 80% of its operating costs), but while many Prague residents already use public transport, up to 80% of those commuting from suburban areas use private cars.
The Tune Up Prague Project focuses on improving urban mobility in the capital as both resident and visitor numbers grow. As part of this project, the City has approved a Sustainable Mobility Plan that details the measures all involved parties will take to ensure more sustainable transport in the city up to 2030.
Specific measures include:
Prague offers preferential parking to electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered vehicles, and some hybrids, either free of charge or for an annual handling fee of four Euro, and residents and visitors can already access shared bike systems from companies like Rekola and Freebie. The Prague by Bike website offers detailed maps and other resources to make cycling in Prague safe and pleasurable. Recently, the City also implemented a new parcel delivery scheme that allows parcels delivered to the city centre by truck to then be taken to their final destination by electric freight bikes, operating from the new Depot.Bike centre.
A number of campaigns under the slogan ‘Zero-Emission Prague’ have been put in place, including the somewhat unusual ‘Fighting Smog with Beer’! This inspires companies to try to win ‘Prague Pedestrian’ beer, and to encourage their employees to leave their cars behind and go for a beer with colleagues via public transport.
IMAGE: Will King
Sustainable Business and Leisure
Prague can accommodate thousands of people in the MICE sector, and there are direct flights to the city from multiple destinations inside and outside Europe, with no visa requirements for visitors from 89 countries. But how sustainable is the MICE industry here?
The Prague Convention Bureau supports its members and partners as they work to improve sustainability and collects data about sustainability measures adopted to help meeting organisers find green venues, accommodation and suppliers.
The Bureau encourages organisers to set sustainability goals from the start—and to evaluate them afterwards, sharing successes on social media with the hashtag #SustainabilityInSpires. It can help organisers source sustainable local partners, arrange green transport, find ways to inspire their delegates to be more sustainable—even after they return home, measure their waste and carbon footprint and engage local communities and businesses.
IMAGE: Cubex Centre Prague
Green Conference Venues
For a sustainable venue, choose one of the Bureau’s Sustainable Partners.
The award-winning Cubex Centre Prague, which opened in 2018, holds a LEED Platinum (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certificate: the highest rating awarded for an energy and resource-efficient building. Handily located in the business centre of Prague, next to the Pancras metro station, it can host events for a maximum of 1,700 people and accommodate 1,000 in its main hall. It’s novel Chameleon Concept offers ambient lighting to match your event or company colours!
Built in 2019 in the northeast of the city centre, the O2 Universum is a good choice for larger events, as it can accommodate a total of 10,000 visitors, with capacity for 4,500 in the main hall. When used in conjunction with the adjoining O2 arena, total capacity increases to 28,000 and there is access to numerous restaurants. The Universum has a range of sustainability practices in place, including an energy management system, LED lighting, sensor-controlled lighting in bathrooms and back offices, local and seasonal produce procurement, the use of biodegradable plates for take-away meals, and waste-sorting and paper-saving protocols.
The Prague Congress Centre is located next to the main artery road through Prague and just 10 minutes from the main railway station, yet it boasts fantastic views across Prague’s Castle and Old Town. With a total capacity of 9,300 people and a variety of rooms and halls that can hold between 20 and 2,766 people, it offers facilities for events of all sizes and types. The winner of an Eko Gold Award, the Centre uses 100% renewable energy, which is used sparingly and wisely thanks to a sophisticated Energy Management System. Rigorous recycling procedures and the use of digital rather than paper-based communication, where possible, keeps waste to a minimum, and the Centre doesn’t purchase any plastic bottled beverages. LED lamps, water-saving flush systems and an overhaul of their heating and air-conditioning systems in a sustainability retrofit have contributed to energy savings of 30%. Their latest initiative is new furniture made from recycled paper mass, which is being designed for them by Czech eco-designer Tomáš Rachůnek.
IMAGE: Prague Congress Centre
Sustainable Food, Drink and Shopping
The Bureau has two sustainable catering partners.
The Zátiší Group, which won an award for their sustainable approach from the French-Czech Chamber of Commerce in 2020, own three fine-dining restaurants in the city centre, offering Czech and international cuisine. They also provide catering services, including for the Prague Congress Centre, with whom they run a zero-waste catering initiative, including a community fridge for sharing pre-consumer food waste.. Their other sustainability initiatives include cheap, reusable, branded coffee cups that get purchasers money off their coffee, and an urban farming project on the 2nd-floor terrace of the Prague Congress Centre, where they grow plants herbs and edible flowers used in their meals and drinks. They also offer biodegradable bowls and the chance to take uneaten food home.
GOLEM caterers offer catering and event management in a range of beautiful venues and it’s a strong supporter of culture, the arts and local charities, including the Klokánek initiative, where they provided free food to at-risk children at Christmas.
There are also plenty of sustainable restaurants and cafés in Prague where you can enjoy dinner or a casual lunch. Country Life has its own 400-acre organic farm and bakery and runs a natural cosmetics store, four health food stores with small bistro areas for sampling food, and a vegetarian buffet restaurant just off the busy thoroughfare of Melantrichova, where payment is determined by the weight of your food.
Clearhead Restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan food near Charles Bridge in a space beautifully decorated, both on the walls and ceilings, by Czech artists. A visit is as much a visual experience as a culinary one.
For a late breakfast, lunch, or a light early-evening dinner, try the Herbivore vegan bistro (and wander around the shop, selling animal-free merchandise, while you’re there).
If you want a souvenir of your stay, check labels carefully and search for locally made items. Botanicus sells all-natural bath and kitchen products, from soaps to cooking oils, and grows or produces all its ingredients locally, in its own gardens. It also has a garden centre and craft centre. Manufaktura has a similar vibe, but sells cosmetics, bath products and locally made gifts and toys made by local craftspeople. For stylish homewares, clothes and stationery all designed by Czech artists and designers, pop in to Pragtique.
IMAGE: Mosaic House
Eco-friendly Accommodation and Activities
Many of Prague’s hotels are working towards greater sustainability, including the Clarion Congress Hotel (part of the CPI Hotels group, which has now joined the Association of Social Responsibility). However, there’s only one hotel to recommend if you want to enjoy comfort and style knowing that it’s all being provided sustainably: the award-winning Mosaic House Design Hotel. This hotel is head and shoulders above the rest as far as green credentials are concerned and have really managed to demonstrate what a hotel of the future can and should look like.
IMAGE: Prague Boats
For a sustainable activity, why not try a boat trip through the city with Prague Boats? The company’s flotilla of eco-friendly boats offers a range of trips along the Vltava River, with different durations and dining options to suit your taste. Its newest addition, the Bella Bohemia, is a fully electric cruiser that can accommodate 250 people. There are also numerous companies offering walking tours of Prague, whether you want to join a group tour or book a private one, and it’s easy to see the best Prague has to offer on foot. That includes parks like Kampa park, the Vojan gardens and Letna park, which are all quite central, and provide pleasant green spaces to spend some time.
Maybe you would prefer to explore the city by e-bike with E-Bike Trip Prague, who can offer tours of Prague’s sights, parks or nature highlights—or develop an itinerary to suit your taste.
IMAGE: Prague City Tourism
Whatever green method you choose to explore the city, don’t miss Prague Castle, founded around 880 and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the largest castle complex in the world and surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Charles Bridge and St Vitus Cathedral are the other top historical sites here, but to appreciate the city from above, be sure to go to the top of the Petrin Tower—Prague’s ‘Eiffel’—and admire the view. There are 299 steps to climb, though, so we recommend taking the funicular railway to reach the top of Petrin Hill, on which the tower sits! Culture fans should also visit the National Museum, The National Gallery, the Old Town Square with its Astronomical Clock, the Vyšehrad fortress, and the Lennon Wall (a tribute to the Beatles’ John Lennon). The Clementinum, which houses the National Library, is also not to be missed, with its 68m tall Astronomical Tower (with spectacular views over Prague), and its beautiful Library Hall and Mirror Chapel.
To visit the Botanical Gardens or Prague Zoo, you’ll need to take public transport, as they lie north of the city, but this doesn’t have to be by bus. You can go by ferry along the river, or, between April and October, by steamer!
And if you want to visit more remote places that aren’t easily reachable by public transport, pick the green option and rent an electric car from companies like Autonemam and Mottify, or from the car-share site GreenGo.
IMAGE: Prague City Tourism
A Green Future
Like so many cities, Prague has had many of its plans disrupted by Covid-19, but it’s worked hard to retain its impetus for its sustainability schemes, striving to make Prague ever more eco-friendly and welcoming—while also trying to reduce the traffic on Prague’s streets and delivery a greener future for its citizens. So, when the chance presents itself, visit the beautiful City of a Hundred Spires, and see the progress it’s made for yourself.
Discover a city which has centuries of history and a future of sustainability and wellbeing ahead by visiting:
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