Sustainable Cities

Discover the characteristics, policies, and practices that help define what becomes a sustainable city. Learn more in this in-depth article.

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Build for the Future: What Is a Sustainable City?

What if a better future was closer than you imagined? In recent years, the public has become increasingly aware of how limited our resources are. It's one of the reasons automobile makers are shifting to electric cars: because it is more sustainable than relying on gasoline.

However, sustainability doesn't have to be limited to the cars that we drive. With the right inventions and innovations, we can create a more stable country, one sustainable city at a time.

But what is a sustainable city? What goes into creating one, and how easily could your own city become more sustainable? Keep reading to discover the answers!

What Is a Sustainable City?

Our guide is going to walk you through the sustainable living practices that help create more sustainable cities. Before we go any further, though, we need to answer the big question: what, exactly, is a sustainable city?

In short, sustainable cities have been planned and designed to have a more positive impact on the environment, the economy, and society itself. When done right, it is possible to create a balance between greener cities, healthier economies, and happier people.

To understand the need for this, all you have to do is look at the problems with our current way of living. In order to make people more productive, we increase our carbon emissions to bring millions of people to work. In turn, many of these workers are underpaid relative to their company's CEO and other executives, which has led to a mass exodus of workers from lower-paying jobs.

It's obvious to everyone that something needs to be done about the situation. And striving to create sustainable places throughout the country helps address multiple problems at once. Now, the rest of our guide will focus on the different elements that go into creating a more sustainable city.

As we noted above, one of the biggest obstacles to sustainable living is the sheer number of carbon emissions in any given city. The vast majority of these emissions come from citizens simply trying to get from Point A to Point B.

This is why truly sustainable cities have many neighborhoods that are easy to walk or bike through instead of driving. By creating things like cycling superhighways, countries like Copenhagen have created an environment where nearly half of the workforce bikes to work instead of driving.

A sustainable city should have bike-friendly routes, pedestrian bridges, abundant micro-mobility solutions, and more in order to truly reduce emissions.

Robust Public Transportation

The other major way to reduce emissions boils down to two words: public transportations. Unfortunately, providing robust public transportation options is more difficult for certain cities than others.

For example, certain cities were designed in such a way that a subway system or bussing system can easily get people to and from their destination. But in areas like much of the American South, everything is spread so far out that the average person basically has to have a car to get to work or simply get their weekly groceries.

It will take a lot of money and planning, but more cities need to invest in electric buses, maglev trains, underground railways, and so on. Additionally, current developments in electric self-driving cars may provide a greener transit option to the average citizen.

Solar Farms

It's important for private citizens to embrace solutions such as electric cars and public transportation. However, the efforts of individual citizens are only worth so much. Eventually, it's necessary for cities to step in and make their own changes.

Perhaps the best example of this is building solar farms. These farms help citizens access solar power even if they are unable to add solar panels to their own homes. This is particularly important for those who rent and cannot make the switch to solar because they do not own their own home.

As an added bonus, solar farms help make the air cleaner in a city while providing additional jobs for local citizens. In other words, it's the kind of solution that benefits the environment, the economy, and society all at once.

Vehicle Charging Stations

Everybody remembers the iconic Field of Dreams line "If you build it, they will come." Interestingly, this might as well be the motto for creating more sustainable cities!

For example, we touched on the fact that more people driving electric cars is better for the environment. But if a city genuinely wants more of its population to drive electric vehicles, they need to make the practice more convenient by building more vehicle charging stations.

The major "downside" to electric vehicles is that they can only drive so far before they need to be recharged. Because of this, many still opt to drive traditional automobiles to safely get them to and from work and shopping on the weekends.

But when a city is filled with charging stations, drivers can buy electric vehicles, confident in their ability to recharge whenever they need to. As an added bonus, the consumer may ultimately save money, especially as prices keep crawling up at the gas pump.

Innovative Food Production

For sustainable cities, food production provides a very unique challenge. That is because our growing population means that we need to produce more food each and every year. At the same time, traditional methods of creating food lead to more emissions that are bad for the environment.

Fortunately, cities can tackle this challenge in some innovative ways. For instance, urban farming can help provide sustainable solutions to even the largest metropolitan areas. And investing in conservation efforts with more funds available from agricultural subsidies can make a large impact as well.

Ultimately, though, getting citizens to embrace sustainable solutions can be just as difficult as developing those solutions. This is why it is important for the city to invest in educational programs and organizations that encourage people to make healthier and more sustainable choices.

Creating Greener Buildings

What do you think causes nearly one-third of the world's greenhouse emissions? Here's a hint: you're probably inside it right now!

That's right: buildings are responsible for a staggering amount of worldwide emissions. That's a major problem, but it has a pretty straightforward solution: we need to focus on creating greener buildings.

One basic way of doing this is for cities and corporations to invest in smart heating and cooling systems. In addition to reducing emissions, these systems keep workers more comfortable while seriously reducing power bills for companies.

Similarly, developing more solar panels on more buildings helps the city harness power in a natural and eco-friendly way. And, like smart heating and cooling systems, these panels can have a positive impact on the bottom line for the city or business who owns the building.

Other solutions can create greener buildings, including using natural building materials, building green roofs, and developing better ventilation and insulation. Once a building has been LEED-certified, a city can be confident that the building is green and sustainable.

Conserving Water

Part of creating more sustainable places throughout the country involves turning obstacles into opportunities. And perhaps the most obvious example of this is the sheer proximity that many major cities have to coastal areas.

In recent years, this has proven to be a problem at times because that proximity means these cities will experience more extreme effects of climate change. Such cities are also at enhanced risk of certain natural disasters as well.

The silver (or should that be green?) lining is that these cities have multiple options to conserve water. And enhanced water conservation helps to create greener cities and even cleaner water supplies.

On top of that, water conservation efforts need not be complex. Cities can easily harvest rainwater while investing in green infrastructure and waterless innovations (such as waterless urinals). The final result is a city that doesn't waste a single drop!

Next-Level Waste Management

Speaking of waste, there is one more thing that every sustainable city must have. And that is a next-level waste management system.

Traditionally, cities ended up throwing much of their trash into local landfills. But this simply causes waste to build up, all while potentially poisoning local bodies of water.

If a city truly wants to become sustainable, it must invest in recycling and composting programs. This helps reduce the overall amount of waste. As for things that can't be recycled, cities can invest in energy recovery programs to collect ashes from landfill burns and convert it to energy.

By the way, "waste" also includes electronic waste such as old computers, smartphones, and printers. A sustainable city will provide multiple ways for citizens to safely dispose of such electronic waste.

Make Your Own Life More Sustainable, Starting Today

Your own town may have a long way to go before it can become a sustainable city. Fortunately, each and every citizen can do their part to create a more sustainable world.

And it all starts with recycling as much as you possibly can. To get started, all you have to do is find local recycling solutions today!