With climate change a serious concern among scientists, environmentalists and the lay public as a whole, it’s time for us to get real about acting in a green and responsible manner. With carbon dioxide emissions accounting for about 82 percent of all greenhouse gases in the United States alone, according to Alberta Energy, it’s no wonder other international cities are looking to implement cleaner solutions. Because most people now live in urban settings, and more people are expected to move to cities in the coming years, we can achieve a lot by focusing on ways of making urban living more sustainable. Many municipalities have already taken big steps in this direction, so we can look at what they’ve accomplished with an eye towards learning from them and emulating their example.
- Adelaide, Australia
City leaders in Adelaide are focusing on biking as a clean form of transportation, and there are hundreds of bicycles that members of the public can use free of charge. A unique bus roams the streets, which uses solar cells as power in sufficient quantity that it even offers air conditioning and wireless Internet access. This type of energy generation is common in the city with rooftop solar cells installed on many buildings. A comprehensive recycling program has been implemented, resulting in 85 percent of the waste from Adelaide’s central market being recycled.
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
The authorities in the United Arab Emirates have begun constructing a sustainable city, called Masdar City, from the ground up within Abu Dhabi. Mass transit will use electric vehicles and other solutions with low carbon footprints while most private automobiles will be restricted. The architecture of the city is specially designed to maintain cool temperatures, which will undoubtedly lead to a decreased use of air conditioning. Innovative solar solutions and sophisticated water conservation techniques reduce environmental impact even further. Although Masdar City isn’t expected to be finished for about another decade, there’s enough infrastructure already in place to cater to the approximately 1,000 people who call it home today.
- Oslo, Norway
Under Oslo’s Strategy for Sustainable Development, city leaders are taking steps to protect local greenery from urban sprawl, meaning that residents enjoy a wealth of parks and other natural areas. Buses that run on biofuel and an efficient rail network allow many citizens to forgo owning their own automobiles. Winters in Oslo can get a bit nippy, but all heating oil has been replaced with renewable forms of energy: quite a feat for the capital city of a wealthy, developed nation. There are plenty of green hotels, so visitors can also do their part to contribute to an environmentally friendly Oslo.
- Curitiba, Brazil
One of the rare South American cities to be recognized for its ecological efforts, Curitiba has been active on this front for decades. From its public transport system, developed in the ’60s, to its recycling program, implemented in the ’80s, there are many ways in which Curitiba tries to remain ahead of the curve. There are plenty of farmers markets selling fresh, locally produced food, which is an important component of eliminating food waste. The city has plans to expand its mass transit infrastructure and bicycle routes in the future.
- Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town has strict rules regarding the consumption of energy, and it has taken steps to make sure this energy is as clean as possible, sourcing some of it from South Africa’s first wind farm. Serious efforts are underway to make living without a car possible, including dedicated bike routes and buses that allow cyclists to carry their bikes aboard for free. Restaurants in Cape Town often try to gather food from nearby sources, including beloved farmers markets. There are 16 nature reserves run by the city, which keep wildlife safe while creating natural spaces that city-dwellers and visitors alike can enjoy.
The world’s cities are taking active steps to act in a more sustainable manner. While most municipalities aren’t quite as ecologically sensitive as those in our list above, it’s only a matter of time before others learn from these pacesetters.
In the US we have not made as much progress but there still have been substanial changes in cities leading the eco-friendly and green revolution.
There are still plenty of other environmental topics to be concerned about, such as the rise of genetically modified organisms, but wasteful city living seems to be an issue that’s rapidly correcting itself.