The concept of sustainable cities is closely interconnected with the environment, the economy and the protection of natural resources. However, it is no secret that problems such as air pollution, traffic congestion and the availability of open green spaces have been winning the battle against this new city model. Let’s review the meaning of sustainable cities, what characterizes them and how we can work as agents of change to drive their growth.
What are sustainable cities?
A sustainable city is one designed to address social, environmental and economic impact through urban planning and active management of its construction. All this while protecting itself from the risks associated with progress. For example, many of the sustainable initiatives in a city are achieved by building eco-friendly alternatives in its infrastructure, such as the adoption of walking lanes and bicycle-only bike paths.
On the other hand, there are regulations and fines as mechanisms of action to achieve changes. These can be very useful to help the planet. Likewise, they can serve to stimulate the creation of a strengthened citizen culture, which serves as an additional layer to protect these initiatives.
Characteristics of a sustainable city
As indicated by the United Nations in its plan of sustainable development goals, by 2050 about 6.5 billion people will live in cities. This means that sustainable city planning is a priority. Especially if we want to avoid all the problems associated with excessive concentration and without population control.
To avoid reaching emergency extremes, we review with what types of projects the carbon footprint of an organization can be offset to achieve a sustainable state.
Affordable and cost-effective public transportation takes cars off the road. As a result, it manages to reduce harmful CO2 emissions generated by cars and fossil fuels. It also reduces the number of daily trips of people to work, among other activities.
Another great way to encourage green practices is to incentivize alternative travel, reserving certain lanes for buses, electric cars, and ridesharing.
Vehicle charging stations
For cities hoping to become carbon neutral, vehicle charging stations must become a priority. An electric vehicle produces zero exhaust emissions compared to a typical passenger vehicle. According to the latest calculations, one of these can produce 4.6 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year.
Another alternative of equal impact are cars powered by green hydrogen. These cars can run twice as long as an electric vehicle before needing a recharge. However, today there are only 376 service stations worldwide.
Renewable energies are key in sustainable cities. The best example is solar energy, a booming industry that currently creates good-paying jobs and stimulates economic growth. Specifically, only during 2018 in the United States, 110,000 new jobs were created thanks to this type of energy.
30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings. A solution? Green buildings. In fact, this type of building manages to reduce CO2 emissions by 32%.
Moreover, they require less maintenance and have cheaper water and electricity bills. This is due to the implementation of intelligent heating and cooling systems, natural building materials, solar panels and green roofs, among others.
The water footprint takes center stage in green cities around the world. For example, movements are looking to restore wetlands and plant trees as the best way to reduce the need for groundwater pumping infrastructure.Likewise, policies are being implemented to protect rivers and streams, through legislation that strongly punishes their pollution.
Public green spaces
Parks, greenways and trails, street trees and protected conservation areas are examples of public green spaces. These are being used to mitigate pollution, improve public health and incentivize biodiversity.
On the other hand, community gardens and urban farms are being built to support solving food challenges. In addition, they encourage the consumption of fresh local products.
More than determining a waste area, an entire circular economy must be created that allows them to be reused. And, if it is not possible to recycle them by traditional means, the recovery of raw materials is a great solution for this waste.
Having sustainable cities requires an effort from everyone. A correct attitude of care for the environment, pollution control, compliance with housing standards and the significant use of economic resources will have a positive impact on the sustainable growth of cities. Do you dare to help?