Low-carbon city life possible, on display at Shanghai Expo

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Edible plates; cups made of ice; tables made with tires; and bar stools made of water pipes: It's not a science fiction film but a real-world low-carbon restaurant.

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

What is more impressive is that the two London zero-carbon exhibition buildings have realized energy independence.

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

The buildings' zero-carbon meeting room has 87 seats. The very modern-looking seats are all made of recycled materials like pans, barrels and traffic signs.

Zhao Fengqin, in her 50's, said the term "low-carbon" had been totally new for her until recently when she began to frequently 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 area, I started to think a low-carbon city life is possible," said Zhao, a military doctor.

Keeping cars at bay

Germany's Freiburg is another low-carbon exhibitor in the UBPA area. 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.

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 a energy-conserving way, and so solar energy equipment is widely used.

Li Xiaoming, a volunteer in the UBPA area 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."

Low-carbon life on spinning wheels

At the UBPA area, dozens of colorful bicycles catch visitors' eyes. The bicycles are from the Odense exhibition area. Odense, the third largest city in Denmark, is the birthplace of famous writer Hans Christian Andersen; it is also a city internationally-renowned for its bicycle culture.

The bicycles on exhibit help promote a low-carbon city lifestyle. Both Danish and Chinese researches show riding a bicycle instead of driving a car will improves quality of life significantly.

What, then, will bicycles in the future look like?

The exhibition has an interesting answer: it will be similar to 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 by 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 area is currently in trial operation. A few exhibition buildings have not completed setting up their exhibits yet as the delivery of some objects was affected by the ash cloud over Europe.

But all the exhibits will be ready before the official opening of the World Expo, an Expo staffer said.

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