Citywide environmentally friendly measures ensure a healthy and safe future for citizens. It also typically provides the benefit of attracting tourism, ensuring clean public spaces and strengthening structures. Cities can take a series of steps to become sustainable.
1. Utility Management
Proper utility management is typically a city’s first step to becoming sustainable. It must monitor and control water and energy use. In addition, it should take care of waste. Recycling efforts could significantly lessen pollution and make the process more affordable.
2. Green Construction
Making new construction environmentally friendly is essential to creating a sustainable city. It is an approach that ensures long-term positive impacts. The materials they use should have a minimal environmental impact for people to consider them acceptable.
Cities can even use derelict properties to their advantage. For instance, adaptive reuse utilizes sustainable alterations to revitalize buildings. Typically, it involves using recycled materials to demolish an existing structure.
They can also use various other sustainable resources if they do not have many abandoned sites. For instance, they can build with living, renewable, recycled or eco-friendly substances. Take bamboo, for example. It grows incredibly fast, so engineers can intentionally manipulate it over time to form a structure.
3. Sustainable Transportation
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a single passenger vehicle produces around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly. It probably emits more than the average since it bases the figure on a specific fuel economy and annual mileage. Plus, city cars often idle in traffic due to congestion. The actual number is likely higher.
Cities need to provide various types of public transportation to become sustainable. They can create bike lines, utilize old subway tunnels, establish bus lines or construct a tram system. Most varieties come with significant benefits. Mass transit is generally more environmentally friendly, clean and reliable than other modes of transportation.
Public transportation often revitalizes the local economy. People are more likely to visit commercial areas when they can easily reach them. An investment in ecologically sound transit can have significant financial benefits.
4. Natural Space Revitalization
Urban greening involves transforming a space with native plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution. Even minor additions can have significant positive impacts. For instance, a single tree converts almost 48 pounds of carbon dioxide into oxygen yearly.
Cities can revitalize their existing natural spaces. Rivers, public parks and forests are all excellent candidates. Transforming old or abandoned spaces into nature-focused areas can benefit the climate and atmosphere. Plus, it can increase citizens’ health and happiness.
Urban greening can result in a high return on investment. Increasing the amount of greenery can significantly decrease noise pollution and crime, leading to improved health. A safer environment may even incentivize tourism.
5. Renewable Energy Use
Using renewable energy is a simple and cost-effective way to become sustainable. Cities can establish solar panel arrays, build a wind farm or utilize geothermal energy. They should determine which type would work best in their location and implement it.
In addition, they should offer programs to incentivize citizens to use clean energy. While powering public spaces is excellent, extensive use will have a more significant positive impact. They can offer stipends or fund affordable options to make it more attractive.
6. Recycling Program Implementation
If a city does not have a recycling program, it should consider implementing one. Although it must deal with sorting and processing the recyclables at centers, citizens do much of the work. It is a simple way to increase sustainability drastically.
Even if cities already have a program, they can likely make improvements. For instance, some have added electronic waste recycling to their standard initiative. They should consider their current offerings and determine the demand for new alternatives.
Cities should ensure everyone is aware of the option to recycle. They can provide particular bins, post take-away dates online and inform citizens of what materials are recyclable. The effort will have a much more significant impact when most people know specifics.
7. Mixed-Use Rezoning
Although a city may overlook mixed-use zoning as an environmentally-friendly solution, it is an incredibly beneficial approach to sustainability. It provides multiple ecological and social benefits to cities. For instance, it reduces transportation emissions and air pollution because citizens only have to travel short distances.
Cities can also redesign structures to increase the positive environmental effect of rezoning. For example, they can widen sidewalks or transform parking lots into public spaces. The approach can increase citizen happiness and reduce any strain on public transportation systems.
8. Greenery Investments
Widespread use of greenery can help make a city sustainable. Most options are also incredibly cost-effective. For example, a green roof lasts twice as long as a regular one, resulting in an average 224% return on investment.
Plus, these improvements are generally beneficial to the climate. Cities often develop into what scientists call “heat islands,” a pocket of high temperatures caused by building materials. Glass, concrete and asphalt reflect the sun’s rays, making urban areas hotter than surrounding locations.
Greenery can reduce this effect significantly. Trees, shrubs and grass provide shade and hold moisture, reducing temperatures even with no additional preventative action. Cities can even choose particular native species to maximize their cooling potential.
9. Public Amenity Establishment
Public amenities like parks, electronic vehicle chargers, farmers markets or hiking trails can make a city more sustainable. It often makes areas more appealing to citizens and tourists. There is a direct positive correlation between citywide improvement and sustainable public amenities.
10. Water Waste Management
Proper water waste management is crucial for sustainability. Hazardous runoff is an environmental concern for most cities. Asphalt and concrete cannot absorb liquid, so stormwater must travel long before reaching a drain. In doing so, it picks up non-biodegradable debris, exhaust residue, pesticides, heavy metals and other toxic contaminants.
As a result, millions of tons of pollutants filter through cities and end up in waterways. The problem is typically more significant in areas with rivers, streams or ponds. Professionals must determine how to manage and mitigate this issue to be sustainable.
Making a city sustainable involves constructing new buildings with environmentally-friendly materials, establishing natural public amenities, investing in green spaces and managing resource use. These initiatives may be significant, but they are easily achievable with enough patience and effort.
Jane Marsh is Editor-in-Chief at Environment. co