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  5. How to be sustainable in the far north

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How to be sustainable in the far north

The bright yellow Scania Citywide gas buses in the Arctic city of Akureyri are a visible manifestation of this northern Icelandic city’s commitment to sustainability.

Biofuel-powered buses in Iceland

Akureyri is the largest city outside the Reykjavík Capital area. To ensure that its stunning scenery is protected, the municipality has introduced a range of sustainable initiatives.

“We had an expensive transport solution that hardly anyone used. Once it became free of charge, things really changed,” says Guðmundur Haukur Sigurðarson at Vistorka.

He has worked with sustainability in Akureyri from the early stages. Now, some 500,000 people travel on the buses each year.

Iceland itself is a global leader in renewable energy with geothermal sources heating homes and illuminating streets. Step by step, Akureyri engaged its 22,000 inhabitants in becoming carbon neutral. “We live on an island. We need to take good care of it.”

Gas buses for the future

Akureyri’s residents are even self-reliant in producing fuel. A cheap and sustainable solution. “We’ve managed to get every household involved. We all sort our refuse and collect the waste that will be recycled into fuel,” says Sigurðarson.

The fleet presently consists of six buses. The two Scania buses are biofuel-powered. An additional Scania bus is ordered for next year. “We wouldn’t trade these buses for the world,” says Jónas Vigfússon, Director of the Environmental Centre at the municipality and responsible for the gas buses.

Never giving up

Akureyri’s carbon-neutral transformation didn’t come easily. To switch from oil to hot water for heating was a challenge. It took many attempts to find the hot water source, so many that it almost bankrupted the city. That only made the residents more determined to find the best solution for their environment. Throughout the municipality initiatives flourish. Several companies help plant trees to compensate for the emissions from domestic flights and public charging stations are readily available.

The city is not only a shining example of sustainability at its very best. “Akureyri is a great place to raise a family,” says Sigurðarson who hopes that future Icelandic generations will continue to enjoy an emission-free landscape.

The yellow Scania gas buses are one step towards that future.