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April 24, 2010

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All the fun of the fair ... but no carbon

EDIBLE plates, cups made of ice, tables made with tires and bar stools made of water pipes: not a scene from a science fiction movie but a real-world low-carbon restaurant.

The restaurant is one of London's two zero-carbon buildings in the Shanghai World Expo's Urban Best Practices Area where more than 50 low-carbon exhibits are on display.

On the roof of both buildings, there is special equipment to collect both solar and wind energy. The collected energy guarantees the two buildings' electricity supply. At the same time, the buildings' rainwater collection system satisfies the non-drinking water needs of both buildings.

A zero-carbon meeting room has 87 seats -- all made of recycled materials such as pans, barrels and traffic signs.

Visitor Zhao Fengqin said the term "low carbon" was a new one for her until recently when she began to see the phrase in newspapers.

"I always thought cities would be increasingly polluted with rapid urbanization. The term 'city' for me means pollution and high energy consumption. But after visiting the UBPA, I started to think a low-carbon city life is possible," said Zhao, a military doctor.

Germany's Freiburg is another low-carbon exhibitor at the Expo. Vauban is a district of Freiburg where individual rows of houses have a maximum height of 13 meters and the distance between rows of houses must be at least 19 meters.

The Vauban district is a "car-reduced district" with most residential streets having no parking spaces and 70 percent of households having voluntarily given up driving.

Share a car

The district also launched a "share-one-car" campaign to encourage citizens to car pool as much as possible to reduce emissions.

Meanwhile, citizens in the district are obliged to build their houses in an energy-conserving way, and as a result solar energy equipment is widely used.

Li Xiaoming, a volunteer at the UBPA and a sociology sophomore at Fudan University, said: "Being an interpreter at the Freiburg exhibition area makes me think about what life in the cities of the future will be like, and what a low-carbon city life will be in China."

In the UBPA, dozens of colorful bicycles catch the eye. The bicycles are from the Odense exhibition area.

Odense, the third largest city in Denmark, is the birthplace of writer Hans Christian Andersen and it is also a city internationally renowned for its bicycles as a means of transport.

The bicycles on show help promote a low-carbon city lifestyle. Both Danish and Chinese research shows that riding a bicycle instead of driving a car significantly improves people's quality of life.

What will the bicycles of the future look like? The exhibition has an interesting answer: About the same as bicycles today. Throughout the long history of the bicycle, little has changed.

"The simple design of the bike is also made for the future," a sign at the exhibition reads.

"It's interesting Odense promotes the use of bicycles in China, a so-called 'kingdom of bicycles.' But it is also reasonable as more and more Chinese are driving cars rather than riding bicycles," a visitor surnamed Xie said.

The UBPA is currently in trial operation. A few exhibition buildings have not completed setting up their exhibits yet as the delivery of some items was affected by the ash cloud over Europe.

But all the exhibits will be ready before the May 1 opening, an Expo staff member said.


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