Tallinn joins GDS-Index with plastic ban and 8-mile insect corridor

Already renowned for its world class digital infrastructure, Tallinn is now forging a reputation as one of the greenest cities in Europe – and a beacon of sustainable event best-practice.

The Estonian capital has become the latest city to join the GDS-Index, a benchmarking tool that measures the performance of destinations against a set of sixty-nine criteria.

These criteria help cities to map out sustainability strategies and improve social, economic, and environmental regeneration through the power of tourism and events.

Joining forces to implement the GDS-Index are Visit Tallinn, Tallinn Urban Environment and Public Works Department and Tallinn Strategic Management Office, Green Revolution Section.

Tallinn’s initiatives to date include a comprehensive awareness campaign about marine litter, a focus on reducing waste and a push to protect nature. And this spills over into the events sector.

It is prohibited to serve food and drink in disposable dishes containing plastic and to use plastic cutlery at public events in Tallinn. Organisers are required to ensure mixed waste, biodegradable waste and packaging waste are collected separately at each collection point and clearly marked.

Protecting biodiversity is of key importance in regenerating cities and towns and Tallinn has joined European Pesticide Free Towns movement. The Tallinn Urban Environment and Public Works Department has reduced the use of weed pesticides by 58% (in comparison with data from 2017).

Further development will include creating an Insect Highway, a thirteen-kilometre pollinator-friendly corridor. The legacy of the 13th century’s mandate to not fell any trees has seen the Aegna island – a sanctuary right in the city centre – flourish and at least twenty percent of the region is natural forest. There are also other green spaces like nature parks, landscape protection areas, unique alvars and bogs. There are approximately five hundred urban gardeners and, together with their network, they work in more than ten community gardens in different districts of Tallinn.

Tallinn aims to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 and to be carbon neutral by 2050. Today all public transport in Tallinn is free for its citizens and powered by electricity that comes from a renewable source. By 2025, three hundred and fifty Solaris biogas buses will be on the streets.

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn, Aivar Riisalu, responsible for tourism development, said: “The international assessment of the sustainability of a tourist destination is a good basis for setting goals and activities for the sustainable development of Tallinn as a tourist destination. The GDS-Index provides an opportunity to compare Tallinn with other cities and to participate in discussions and consultations with professionals in their field and tourism organisations in other cities. As a benefit, the GDS-Index also provides a marketing output, as sustainable development is becoming an important competitive advantage for destinations.”

Guy Bigwood, Managing Director of the GDS Movement, shared “We are delighted to welcome Tallinn as the first Baltic destination to join the GDS-Index. Given its history of care for environment and people, we look forward to discovering Estonian best practices on sustainability, and then helping Tallinn to drive performance and accelerate regeneration through tourism.”

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