The race for all cities to become self-sustainable has fully emerged into the spotlight. Considering that the UN has noted that the human population will reach 8.5 billion by the year 2030, human societies can no longer afford to carry on a self-destructive course.
Urban development and planning departments have shifted their priorities to fully integrate renewable energy sources, construct ecologically sound housing, and reduce carbon emissions to improve the quality of city life.
As climate change continues to show its impact on the planet, impending migrations project that most humans will live in massive urban sprawls. To better prepare for a new future for humanity, creating sustainable cities is a must, and not a decision made on a whim to garner attention.
Currently, there are some cities in the world that stand out for leading the transformation to become self-sustainable, energy efficient, and create zero emissions.
Why Being Self Sustainable Is Vital
Humans reliance on fossil fuels has outpaced its usefulness. Sadly, the use of traditional energy sources has left a wake of destruction in the form of emissions of toxic substances, melting glaciers, soaring temperatures, and an uncertain future.
Considering that the human population is not slowing down anytime soon, the time is now for self-sustainable cities to establish themselves as the new normal.
Densely populated urban centers are not only locations where there are typically more job opportunities, vibrant culture, and pulsating energy. Cities use high amounts of energy and natural resources to thrive.
Urban problems such as commuter traffic, waste disposal, housing, and food all require significant time, money, and energy to meet needs. The average urban metropolis has limited room for expansion, so building a new infrastructure that can function optimally under varying constraints is a must.
Many scientists and urban planners consider the plight of future migrants to cities, due to climate change making other areas inhospitable or challenging to live. Self-sustaining cities are seen as the bastions for people to come live on the planet for years to come, as rural and suburban areas may lose populations.
What Are The Markers Of A Sustainable City
To be considered a sustainable city, there are certain qualities that have to be present. Nearly all sustainable cities should make it a priority to address the following things.
- There must be housing, energy sources, and transportation that is ecologically sound
- Economic stability should be provided via quality education, ample jobs, and affordable housing
- Socially, a sustainable city should reduce inequality and offer an improved quality of life
Overall, for a city to be resilient and retain its allure for residents, it must promote a locale that is livable. Citizens should enjoy navigating their city easily without reliance on a personal vehicle, and there should be reduced waste creation and zero emissions.
Housing continues to suck up 32% of global energy and contributes to 25% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the World Resources Institute. The development of green housing that creates little to no emissions, and even traps carbon emissions is highly desirable. Integrating energy efficiency for heating, cooling, and energy use is a critical factor for new housing developments.
Cities That Are Examples Of Sustainable Models
Thanks to the commitment to become sustainable, many cities in Europe, Asia, and other continents are prioritizing becoming self-sustainable. China has announced its desire to create more eco-friendly cities, which is a significant change in direction from many of its cities that have been choked by smog and rampant pollution.
Cities in both North and South America are slowly taking steps to achieve self-sustainability to attract newcomers for jobs, improve quality of life, and allow its residents to thrive.
Zurich, Switzerland is the top sustainable city in the world. This metropolis has beat out other cities for its commitment to positive environmental impact. Zurich has focused energy efficiency and reliance on renewable energy to thrive.
The Swiss are ambitious, seeking to become a 2000-watt society by 2050. The economic outlook and profitability for Zurich rank very high, and its public transit is a model worth emulating.
Zurich is an economic epicenter for the world, but it could still improve its rating for quality of life. The city still struggles with affordability, crime, and inequality.
Singapore is an island country and city-state that is coined as ‘The Garden City.' As this vibrant location is designated sustainable, it lives up to the name.
The creation of green buildings, green roofs, vertical gardens, and plant life intertwined with architecture have made this city a true architectural marvel. Under the direction of Cheong Koon Hean, various projects helped reshape the skyline and Singapore's image.
Ample public transit, high home ownership, and accessible public housing, and green spaces have made this city a livable place to enjoy. As a model of successful high-density cities, Singapore's sustainable status carries a lot of weight in the world.
London, England is not only a world renown sustainable city, but it has earned the title of being a National Park City too.
As the city seeks to be zero-carbon by the year 2050, architects and urban developers have been pushed to consider the city's trajectory over the years when constructing projects. 40% of London is public green space and the mass transit system is sustainable.
Stockholm, Sweden is a leader in Europe for being both smart and sustainable. The city has developed biofuel from sewage, which is used to power vehicles.
Since Stockholm has been tapped as a site for data centers for major companies, the heat produced is being directed to warm homes. Additionally, officials are looking to redirect wasted heat from underground pipes, emissions from stadiums and supermarkets to heat nearby spaces.
Improvements with waste collection from residences, as well as increasing energy efficient homes are on the rise in the city.
Seoul, Korea may be the home to 10 million people, but this bustling metropolis was ranked seven for its quality of life in 2016.
The city has relied on transportation, technology, and business for its success. Over 7 million people rely on Seoul's public transit, and its buses will run solely on electricity by 2020. People are encouraged to use public transportation to reduce emissions. The transit system is accommodating for mobile communication for convenience.
Seoul created a ‘Sharing City Seoul' in 2012, with the intention of encouraging citizens to share both public and private resources to reduce waste. The steps that Seoul has taken have made it powerful, sustainable, and a powerhouse for economic growth and development.
Frankfurt, Germany is one of the most sustainable locations in the world, thanks to its initiatives for the environment, stable economic outlook, and livability. A little over half of the city has been set aside for green space for recreation, and to reduce climate change.
Residents of Frankfurt can enjoy scenic parks, meadows, and bodies of water.
By the year 2030, Frankfurt is slated to cut emissions of carbon by 50%, as it is a member of the Climate Alliance of European Cities.
Sydney, Australia launched its Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan in 2007, to reduce carbon emissions and rely on 100% renewable energy sources by 2030.
The city created programs to help small and mid-size businesses save money on resources, and improve performance regarding the impact on the environment. Programs that work alongside building owners and their tenants have helped slash carbon emissions.
Measuring Up For Sustainability
With every passing year, more cities seek to become more sustainable to improve its rating for livability, economic strength, and environmental impact.
Choosing to create an infrastructure that supports public transit that is convenient and affordable, demands green construction for housing, and reduces pollution is a must. The need for renewable energy sources is necessary to reduce carbon emissions and enhance the quality of life.
Cities need to put their residents first to create a stable population, support quality education, and ensure that there are available jobs. Residents need to feel that they are a part of their community, valued, and can contribute to their city.
Ample construction of green spaces can help trap emissions, improve air quality, and provides relaxing areas for recreation.
Cities need to create an environment that balances quality of life, reduces crime and inequality, and boosts economic growth.
The push for cities that are sustainable is essential, considering that many locations have vowed to reduce emissions by 2030 drastically. Climate change has shown how ruthlessly it can alter weather patterns, heat up the planet, cause disruptions to the food supply, and make life unbearable.
As humans have had a significant role in transforming the Earth, it is only fair to preserve the planet for future generations, to choose sustainability. Reliance on renewable energy creates jobs, falls in line with principles and standards that protect the Earth, and are zero emission with little to no negative impact.
The creation and rejuvenation of existing greenspaces are life-affirming, reduces stress in high-density locales, and adds interest to cities. Green spaces are essential for a sustainable city to maintain quality air, remove pollutants, and display a staunch commitment to living in harmony with nature.