What are sustainable cities?

Sustainable cities are designed to minimise their impact on the environment and reduce the strain on resources, as populations increase. Half the world’s population now live in urban areas, about 3.5 billion people.  These urban areas make up just 2% of the landmass of the planet.  However, this small area uses 60-80% of the total … Read more

Reykjavik is one of the world's most sustainable cities

Sustainable cities are designed to minimise their impact on the environment and reduce the strain on resources, as populations increase.

Half the world’s population now live in urban areas, about 3.5 billion people.  These urban areas make up just 2% of the landmass of the planet.  However, this small area uses 60-80% of the total energy consumption.  It also releases 75% of the total carbon emissions.

Luckily more cities are taking steps to become sustainable.

 

Low-carbon urban transport:

Congestion is a problem for all cities.  Sustainable cities rely on low carbon transport options.

Car use in cities is a problem.  It is a big source of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.  This contributes to global warming and also affects the health of the people.  Sustainable cities aim to improve the quality of life for the people and reduce these emissions.

These transport options include:

  • Public transport: buses, trams, subways
  • Pedestrian areas
  • Cycle friendly roads and paths

Bristol is one sustainable city that has committed itself to low carbon transport.  It has improved cycle lanes and facilities.  www.visitbristol.co.uk

 

Energy efficient buildings:

Inefficient buildings consume up to a huge 40% of the worlds energy use. This makes increasing energy efficient buildings a vital part of sustainable cities.

The reason for this is because of the heating and cooling of residential and office spaces.  Constructing new buildings and upgrading older ones with the following items could dramatically reduce the energy expenditure for cities:

  • Climate control devices
  • Improved insulation
  • Efficient electrical appliances

Green cities encourage home and business energy audits.  These audits can help reduce the overall energy use of buildings.

 

Recycling:

Sustainable cities implement efficient recycling systems.  It is still up to the individual to recycle, but they need the facilities to recycle effectively.

Green cities provide bins for each type of recycling and have reliable collection services.

Green cities have collections for:

  • Plastics
  • Glass
  • Paper/ card
  • Food waste

The most sustainable cities will also provide collection services for electrical items.

Green cities do provide information for how to reduce and reuse waste to prevent the need for recycling at all.  Oxford gives out helpful information and advice on how to reduce waste. http://www.oxford.gov.uk/recycling

 

Renewable energy:

Cities use up huge amounts of non-renewable energies.  For sustainable cities to become the norm, there has to be an increase in renewable energy consumption.

However, it is expensive to implement renewable energy initiatives for cities at the moment.  Some initiatives a city could introduce would be:

  • Solar projects
  • Home energy audits
  • Offshore wind farms

Reykjavik in Iceland is an example of how sustainable cities could be in the future.  Only 0.1% of its electricity comes from non-renewable sources.  It makes use of geothermal energy and hydropower. http://www.visitreykjavik.is

 

Image: Reykjavik – Trey Ratcliff

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