A sustainable city is an urban center engineered to improve its environmental impact through urban planning and management. For an eco city definition, picture cities with parks and green spaces, solar-powered buildings, rooftop gardens and more pedestrians and cyclists than cars. This is not a futuristic dream. Smart cities are actively moving toward greener urban ecosystems and better environmental stewardship.
Green technology is a key factor that is helping to foster more sustainable urban development. It comprises all aspects of city planning, including transportation, infrastructure, telecommunications and energy.
Green tech also supports green living practices, including recycling and use of energy and renewable resources in homes and offices. Sensors, gateways, embedded radios and cellular routers are at the heart of many sustainable city infrastructure and green building systems. See our video introducing the green tech landscape.
What are cities doing to become more sustainable? Smart cities are creating sustainable places with clean technology, parks and pathways, and urban sustainability principles. See our list of key eco city characteristics to learn how to achieve sustainable cities and communities.
Cities can do a number of things to support sustainable practices:
Automobiles account for 75% of CO pollution in the U.S. Cities striving for sustainability can create paths, bike bridges and sidewalks, and encourage citizens to walk, ride, or commute via metro trains or buses. These are some of the critical components of sustainable urban development because of their many benefits:
In Copenhagen, bicycles outnumber cars by over 5:1, and nearly half the population commutes by bike. City management has achieved this bike culture by building cycle superhighways with ample amenities along the way, including traffic lights, air pumps, and safer intersections.
Whereas conventional fuel-driven vehicles generate an average of 4.6 metric tons per year, hybrids can cut that in half, and electric vehicles produce zero. Cities aiming for carbon neutrality must include EV charging stations in their sustainable city planning.
Urban areas can incentivize the construction of these stations, and planners can team up with developers to map out appropriate locations for charging stations. Key benefits include:
San Francisco, the fourth most populous city of California, has mandated that garages and parking lots install EV charging stations for over 10% of their spaces. The city aims to achieve 100% emission-free ground transportation within 20 years.
Learn about OEM solutions for EV charging stations
Access to nature and walking/biking paths are key elements of a sustainable city. Resources like parks, nature preserves and recreational areas get people out of cars. And studies have shown that green spaces help improve mental health.
Infrastructure designs and urban landscaping can go a long way toward enhancing public resources and making cities more vibrant. Some of the benefits of this feature include:
New York is one of the most advanced cities for sustainability. The Big Apple is implementing multiple sustainability programs, from a Carbon Challenge which aims for 50% emissions reduction by 2025 to a Zero Waste project, city bike rentals and urban parks built on landfill sites.
Cities can improve water conservation and waste management through sustainable urban planning. With water shortages increasing across the globe, technology to monitor water systems and provide leak detection is key, along with incentives for citizens and businesses to save water.
Likewise, waste disposal processes can shift toward a circular economy model, and sustainable city waste management. Programs to minimize waste by recycling, composting, and repurposing materials are some proven ways cities can be more sustainable with waste management.
The benefits are many:
For example, Dubai is an entirely self-sustainable city via renewable energy. The city is powered by clean energy produced by recycling water and waste, has 60% green space irrigated with gray wastewater, and has banned single-use plastic bags.
Food is second to energy as the most in-demand city resource. Urban farming enhances food production, reduces food insecurity and mitigates the environmental effects of food transportation. And growing food locally reduces the distance from farm to consumer. Urban farming practices include vertical gardens, rooftop farming, community gardens, and encouraging schools and restaurants to grow food.
There are several great benefits:
Several cities have taken leadership roles in developing urban farming programs, according to Agritecture. For example, Victoria B.C. has a program to distribute seedlings to communities. Atlanta, Georgia has a program to educate school children in urban farming. And New York City now has over 550 community gardens.
When we talk about sustainable development and cities, green architecture is a key component. Green architects are discovering innovative ways to reduce resource use and lower greenhouse gas emissions — from using natural building materials and solar panels, to improving ventilation and insulation, planting more shade trees and installing smart HVAC systems. Green buildings can meet certain requirements to get LEED-certified, which is increasingly desirable for tenants.
Paris, France is a leader in green building tech, implementing practices such as using high-density materials that capture and release solar heat to aid in heating and cooling.
Governments and local authorities globally are seeking ways to become more sustainable, and today there is a race to be the most sustainable city in the world. Our list summarizes an article covering the top 10 most eco friendly cities devoted to environmental practices.
This is an ever-changing story! For example, a new article in Smart Cities World lists Canberra, Australia as the most sustainable city in the world.
The importance of sustainable cities and communities is becoming increasingly critical in the quest to reverse environmental damage and improve the livability of cities. Urban green ecosystems can make an enormous difference for the environment. Here are some of the key benefits of a green city:
The development of sustainable cities is a lofty goal for authorities and city planners but paramount for combatting climate change. A sustainable infrastructure supports a reliable water supply, and mitigates the effects of flooding, storms and heat waves.
Green technology is the key to a sustainable future. To adopt greener practices and build healthier cities, we need smart connectivity, technology-driven efficiency, and data insights to make smarter, greener decisions. That’s where we come in. At Digi, we are proud to offer IoT solutions to support green technology applications today so we can all enjoy a better tomorrow.