Umweltzone (Environmental Zone): Answer

Umweltzone

In connection with the recently written article on teaching environmental science in schools, here is the answer to the Guessing Quiz question regarding this sign. We wanted to know what the Umweltzone sign stands for, together with the color code system.

ANSWER:

The Umweltzone stands for the car-free zone. Initiated by the German government in 2007 and enforced on the local level since 2008, this zone prohibits cars from entering the city center, based on a color-coded badge drivers have to have on their vehicles. The car-free zone is intended to reduce the amount of gas emissions and debris being produced by cars, while at the same time, reduce traffic congestion and encourage walking and the use of bicycles, public transportation and carpooling. The restrictions are based on a color-coded system, where every car owner is required to have a sticker on their vehicles and abide by the restrictions enforced by the city. The first code (usually black or no color) is for cars built in the 1980s and 90s or have a motor with no catalysator. The second code is red and is valid for all cars built with an Otto motor or a diesel engine. The third code is yellow and applies to diesel engines producing less emissions. The fourth and final code is for cars running on ethanol, natural gas and diesel but with restricted catalysators. The car-free zone applies to all cars except for certain ones carrying one of the badges. Therefore in this sign, no cars are to enter the city center in Ulm unless they have a yellow or green-coded badge on their vehicles (frei für Autos mit gelben oder grünen Plakatten). As you can see in the wiki-article, the “green zone” can be found in many cities in southern Germany, as well as Berlin and Hamburg, where congestion is at its peak. Many cities in North Rhine-Westphalia allow cars with yellow or green badge to travel through the city center, including Cologne, Düsseldorf and Duisburg. Yet cities in central Germany, such as Erfurt, Halle (Saale), Leipzig and Magdeburg also have similar zones.  More cities are introducing car-free zones and zones that exist in cities are becoming stricter to ensure that only cars with green badges can travel through the center.

Can you imagine this in your country? While it is a given in Europe as this law is part of the European guidelines, many cities in the US and Canada are introducing similar measures, but the laws are controlled on a local and state level because of the different cityscape and mentality of the residents. Yet with global warming speeding up, we may have to consider stricter guidelines in order to contribute to the reduction of the Earth’s temperature. Any little contribution will produce bigger rewards in the end, even if it means changing the way we lived before to one that is sustainable.

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