Urban greenery and environmental justice in the Donaukiez

How can a heavily polluted urban quarter be made greener and more environmentally just? The project develops ideas in a participatory way with actors and residents from the neighborhood and implements them as joint neighborhood projects – and thus aims to increase environmental justice.

In this project, centered around the “Donaukiez” neighborhood in Berlin, mobile planting boxes and carts were developed, built by school classes, groups and residents and planted with home-grown plants. Now they are moved back and forth between schools, daycare centers and public street space, making the neighborhood greener. In another neighborhood project, a small part of the otherwise uninviting Donaustraße was transformed into a temporary street garden. After that, a “neighborhood garden” will be established for several months as an urgently needed place for recreation, stay and neighborly exchange in the quarter- again built, designed and used by many active people from the Donaukiez.


Background: Environmental justice in the Donaukiez

Negative environmental influences in the city are not equally distributed. People feel them differently depending on where they live, work and spend their free time – a question of environmental justice. In the Donaustraße-North quarter, a highly dense Gründerzeit quarter, many negative environmental influences come together.

There are no public green spaces in the quarter and private green spaces are hidden in the backyards. Air quality in the densely built-up quarter is poor, noise and fine dust pollution along the major roads are high, as well as heat stress in summer. Therefore, the district carries the burden of multiple pollutions according to the environmental atlas of Berlin’s Senate. Although many residents of the Donaukiez are already socially disadvantaged, they additionally suffer from negative environmental impacts, increasing existing injustices.

The Donaukiez North quarter (Source: Geoportal Berlin / Karte von Berlin 1:5000 K5 – Grautonausgabe)

Participatory environmental activities with the neighborhood

In a joint process with actors and residents, we want to make better use of existing open areas and public space to improve the environmental situation. The basis for this are spaces that are open for the public, jointly planned, built and designed. What makes this project special is the participatory approach, because actors, groups and residents are consistently involved in the process from the planning phase to the construction and design and finally the use.


Streetgarden in the Donaustraße. (Foto: LIFE e.V.)


Aims of the Project are:

  • Improve environmental justice in the neighborhood, especially with regard to green and open spaces and the bioclimate
  • Create additional public places in the neighborhood for stay, recreation and neighborly exchange
  • Neighborly networking on the topic of environmental justice in the neighborhood
  • Enabling, initiating and permanently consolidating active participation of actors and residents

Project activities

  • In the garden group Donaukiez, residents interested in gardens and plants met at participatory events, ranging from building boxes to visiting gardens in the surroundings.
  • Actors met at the green table to discuss the topic, develop ideas and plan their implementation. Through our work we were able to build a large network and involve many actors in the work.
  • In the neighborhood project “Wandering Green”, we developed the mobile Donau Planting Boxes in cooperation with schools from the neighborhood and experts, which could be assembled by groups in workshops and designed as needed. Students, groups and residents built a total of 70 boxes and 7 carts.
  • In the neighborhood project “Sprouting Green”, plants were grown in schools and day-care centers and then planted in the Donau planting boxes during the big planting action day with broad participation. Afterwards, three stationary carts wandered into the public space for several months and made the neighborhood greener
  • A green area for recreation, exchange and improvement of the climate is missing in the Donaukiez. For this reason, a temporary street garden was opened on Donaustraße for a weekend with the neighborhood project temporary street garden – completely made from the plant boxes and stationary carts that were created in the neighborhood.
  • In 2019 and 2020, a neighborhood project to transform a place in the neighborhood into a so-called neighborhood garden for a longer period of time is planned. The garden offers a place to stay, relax and exchange ideas – created in a joint process from within the neighborhood. To this end, street furniture and greenery modules are planned and jointly built and designed in workshops. These will then be brought together in the form of a parklet in temporarily converted parking spaces or in private courtyards. Over a period of several months, the neighborhood garden will then be an open space for recreation, a neighborly meeting place and a venue for offers and events from the neighborhood.

The Project is financed by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal State of Berlin as part of the future initiative neighborhood, programme social city (Zukunftsinitiative Stadtteil, Programm Soziale Stadt)