In recent years, the Greek island of Astypalea has undergone a remarkable transformation. Traditionally a rugged, agricultural island, Astypalea is now being hailed as a model island for climate-neutral mobility. This transformation is thanks to an agreement between the Greek government and the Volkswagen Group, which aims to replace traditional cars with electric vehicles and introduce innovative ride-sharing and on-demand public transport schemes.
With its two wing-shaped islands, Mesa Nisi and Exo Nisi, linked by a narrow strip of land, Astypalea is often referred to as the butterfly island. Despite being one of Greece’s remotest and poorest islands, it is now pinning its hopes on tourism to boost its economy. The government’s agreement with Volkswagen is seen as a major step towards achieving this goal.
Under the plan, locals and local businesses have been given substantial grants to purchase electric vehicles, with some grants covering more than two-thirds of the cost. The island now boasts an extensive network of electric charging points, and electric cars, scooters, and e-bikes can be rented from local travel agencies and through the island’s astyMOVE app.
The transformation of Astypalea is not only about transitioning to electric vehicles. The island’s mayor, Nikos Komineas, is committed to phasing out the use of diesel generators for electricity and replacing them with solar panels and wind turbines. This shift towards renewable energy sources aligns with Greece’s efforts to clean up its environmental act, following fines from the EU for illegal landfill sites.
Astypalea’s forward-thinking hotel owners have also signed Unesco’s Sustainable Travel Pledge. Boutique hotels like Saluti da Stampalia, Kallichoron, and Mouras are leading the way in promoting sustainable tourism on the island. These hotels prioritize local sourcing, avoid the use of plastic, and have adopted bioclimatic designs and renewable energy technologies.
The island’s transformation is not only attracting tourists but also inspiring young Greeks who have been affected by the country’s economic crisis. Astypalea’s groundbreaking project presents an opportunity for innovation and a chance to bring new energy and life to the island. As one local business owner, Nikolaos Stavlas of Glykia bakery, says, “Like their renewable energy, this island needs new blood.”
The transformation of Astypalea serves as a testament to the power of sustainable initiatives and the potential for small, remote islands to become beacons of eco-friendly practices. With its stunning natural beauty and commitment to climate-neutral mobility, Astypalea is well on its way to becoming a model island for sustainable tourism and a showcase for the power of clean energy.
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