Sustainability in Malaga, Spain – Present Day and Future

We look at the various aspects of sustainability in Malaga, a city on the southern coast of Spain that is taking great steps to protect its local environment and to encourage positive solutions to environmental issues.

Written by Cristina Reina of My Little World of Travelling

Malaga, located in the south of Spain, is one of the destinations working hard to strive for sustainability. 

This is a recent goal that the city of Malaga has set. Although the town hall and industries in Malaga have heard of the term sustainability for a while, it was not until the coronavirus pandemic that they realised there are many ways to improve the city’s quality for locals and tourists.

The primary sector in Malaga is tourism, and it has been like this for a while. Travellers from different parts of the world, especially northern Europe, have always been interested in Malaga, also known as Costa del Sol. The sunny and mild temperatures in the winter months make it the perfect winter sun getaway for many.

Sustainability in Malaga: Environmental Issues and Solutions

The weather, culture, and food are the main reasons travellers visit or move to Malaga.

With tourism in mind, Malaga has tried to set some long-term goals so that Malaga can become a sustainable place. Reducing the use of plastic, cooking with local products and using public transport are some things that any place can do to become more sustainable and eco-friendly.

Some of the sustainable things that Malaga has implemented include reforestation of some areas, studies and research on ways to improve the quality of water and ecosystems, and projects to reduce carbon footprint.

Sustainability in Malaga, Spain - Crisp architecturally designed walkway by the water, with a row of tress alongside

Getting Around

One of the main projects to improve the air quality and environment in the city centre is to reduce the use of individual vehicles. This is why there are some designated areas that are restricted only to residents, and some streets have been transformed for only pedestrians. Nevertheless, the city is still well-connected via public transport.

It wasn’t long ago when Malaga opened its first underground station in the city centre, a few minutes from the famous Calle Larios Street and Malaga’s main attractions like Alcazaba de Malaga, Malaga Cathedral and Picasso Museum. 

Also, when it comes to public transport, Malaga has worked to establish a more efficient and environmentally friendly transportation network, from investing in electric buses to reduce noise and pollution levels to promoting good habits like walking and riding a bike. Actually, riding a bike is a fantastic way to explore Malaga. 

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is also a hot topic in Malaga. Utilising renewable energy sources has become crucial to reduce the environmental impact. Costa del Sol benefits from abundant sunlight, making solar power a key component of its energy strategy. 

You can see solar panels adorn rooftops across Malaga. These solar panels are essential to reduce carbon emissions and generate clean energy. House owners are also encouraged to use solar panels. Although the set-up of solar panels isn’t cheap, they reduce residents’ utility bills and help the environment.

Additionally, wind turbines have been strategically placed to harness the region’s coastal winds. Wind power in Malaga isn’t as popular as in other Southern Spain cities like Tarifa, but they still make a difference. 

Sustainability in Malaga, Spain - Many people under umbrellas at a sunny beach

Healthy Beaches

Another project is focused on one of the things that many travellers come to enjoy, the beach. The quality of beaches is very important in the city, but also in the nearby coastal towns.

Whether you go to La Malagueta Beach next to the city centre or the beaches in Marbella, you will find informational posters about the beach, water quality and accessibility.

Many beaches in Costa del Sol have been awarded Blue Flags, which aren’t easy to obtain. There is a detailed criterion that takes into consideration a series of aspects, such as the environment, safety and accessibility of the beaches. 

In total, there are 39 beaches with Blue Flags in the province of Malaga. The main town that has the most awarded flags is Nerja which has four: Burriana Beach, Torrecilla Beach, El Playazo Beach and Maro Beach.

Wildlife and Natural Parks

Regarding nature, Malaga is home to numerous wildlife, especially birds. There are over 300 bird species, making it a fantastic place for travellers who love bird watching. The preservation of natural parks and the significant bird migration, which happens between August and November, have made Malaga popular for birdwatching.

Malaga is also a good destination for learning about natural landscapes and hiking in the off-peak months. Sierra de las Nieves is one of the main natural parks in Malaga. Its wide variety of fauna and flora is impressive, and organisations have several projects to protect these important green spaces.

Cultural and Culinary Tourism

Another movement towards sustainable tourism is the promotion of responsible tourism. It involves encouraging locals and travellers to explore cultural sites, support small independent businesses and choose more eco-friendly accommodations. On top of this, there are constant campaigns on how travellers can help keep Costa del Sol clean and safer.

Food is a cultural aspect very important to Spaniards, and eating local and seasonal products is something that residents and non-residents can do to support sustainability and the local economy.

If you head to the traditional pueblos blancos (white-painted villages), you can truly have a gastronomical experience. They grow and make products, such as wine, honey and oil, using traditional methods which have little or less impact on the environment.

In contrast, the coastal towns near Malaga and Cadiz focus on traditional methods to catch sea products, such as tuna. For example, locals use ancient fishing techniques, such as almadrabas, to be less harmful to the ecosystem.  

In Malaga, there have also been projects designed to practice a more sustainable fishing activity by using an environmentally-friendly engine for small-scale fishing boats.

Sustainability in Malaga, Spain - A cruise ship docked at the post with light blue water and hill beyond

Innovative Initiaves

In addition to these different projects, using technology to tackle environmental problems in Malaga and its coastline is also present. For example, Ecomarb, an environmental organisation in Marbella, is working hard to reduce plastic.

Tennis is one of the main sports in the area, and Ecomarb has stated in SUR in English newspaper that they want to recycle tennis balls by “converting the rubber into filaments and creating a product that can be used in 3D printing to create tennis trophies.”

One of the main challenges that Malaga, as well as other Southern Spain destinations, faces is climate change. Summers in Malaga have been warmer than ever, there have rarely been rainy days throughout the year, and these two main things have led to the drought of crops and lack of water in important reservoirs. 

Due to these issues, the city is investing in infrastructure improvements to mitigate the impact of rising sea levels and extreme weather events and promote good use of water which can be achieved with small steps, such as shortening showers and overwatering gardens.

If you would like to reduce your carbon footprint as a traveller, Costa del Sol has even launched a tool that measures and works out your carbon footprint in a click. The tool isn’t only in Spanish but also another three languages. 

The Future of Malaga

In conclusion, Malaga’s journey towards sustainability is going well. The city is working on reducing its carbon footprint, increasing renewable energy sources, preserving green spaces, taking care of ecosystems and promoting responsible tourism. Malaga continues to evolve and adapt to achieve sustainability. Is it enough? Well, although Malaga is doing a good job of becoming more sustainable, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the future is promising.

About the Author

Cristina Reina is the founder of My Little World of Travelling, a blog that helps travellers discover Spain and its hidden gems. She is passionate about sharing local tips about her hometown, Malaga, and beyond.