How Lyon provided a new blueprint for greener public spaces

Lyon is at the forefront of a drive to make France’s green spaces more environmentally friendly. 

It was not always thus. In 2000, Lyon was lagging far behind other cities in its environmental management policies: Nantes, Angers, Montpellier, Dijon and Strasbourg, amongst others, had all begun work in this area a decade previously.

When Senator Mayor Gérard Collomb was elected to head up a new socialist council in 2001, he decided that it was time to improve the city’s environmental record, and gave the Green Spaces Directorate the go-ahead to pursue its ambitious and innovative programme of change.
The Directorate achieved two of its key targets early on. In 2005, Grand Lyon was the first collective in France to be awarded the challenging ISO 14001 environmental management accreditation – other cities had been accredited only in relation to discrete geographical areas, such as the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.
By 2008, Lyon was able to claim that all its green spaces were entirely chemical-free. Since then, the Town Hall has been building steadily on its success, constantly innovating to reduce its negative impact on the environment yet further.

The success of Lyon’s programme lies in the willingness of the city’s 230 gardeners to test new approaches. This requires a hands-off management approach, whereby members of staff are each given responsibility for a different area of experimentation.

They take it in turns to demonstrate to their colleagues what they have been doing, explaining what has worked well and what has not, and providing training and advice. Thousands of different ideas bloom, with ...

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