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Key Components of Green and Sustainable Cities

The world is urbanizing more rapidly than ever, with cities responsible for a staggering 75 percent of global energy consumption and over 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, many of these cities struggle with failing infrastructure, rising costs, traffic congestion, and a lack of basic services. The answer to these social, environmental, and economic challenges? Green cities.

Green cities are designed to consider the environment. They create resilient community spaces and maintain economic growth, while reducing C02 emissions and waste, enhancing air quality, and protecting Earth’s natural resources. Here are just a few of the many vital components of green cities.

5 Key Components of Green Cities

Sustainable transportation

An important part of any city is the way people move through it. Transportation should be accessible, affordable, and for green cities, it reduces reliance on cars — a leading cause of carbon emissions. A few ways that green cities make transportation sustainable are reliable bus and train systems, walk- and bike-friendly neighborhoods (designated bike lanes, wider sidewalks, more bike racks), and plenty of EV charging stations to encourage the use of electric cars. 

Clean energy

Green cities also reduce environmental impact through clean energy, mainly solar power via solar farms. The benefits of solar power are far and wide; it protects homeowners from rising utility rates, reduces dependence on electricity grids, boosts the economy by creating new jobs, and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. solar power offsets over 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. When solar farms are city-funded like they are in green cities, residents and municipalities can more easily go solar.

Urban farming

Urban farming produces food on small farms within cities, instead of being brought in from outside sources. Urban farming helps green cities reduce carbon emissions from food production and agriculture, while giving residents more affordable, nutritious options. These farms even enhance local soil and improve air quality. Urban farming includes various food production methods from vertical farms to community gardens. 

Water conservation

An important consideration for any green city is efficient water use, to conserve as much of this precious resource as possible. Rainwater harvesting, water-savings incentives, and smart irrigation systems are all ways that these cities save water. Using data-enabled smart irrigation controllers allows cities to cut down on water costs and consumption that stems from leaks and overwatering. With droughts and water shortages on the rise, it’s more important than ever that cities strive for net zero water usage.

A green city paving the way in smart water management is the Sustainable City in Dubai. In addition to using highly efficient, low-flow water features in residences, they treat all wastewater on-site and use it to irrigate their landscape. They’ve had smart irrigation technology and soil moisture sensors installed city-wide to conserve water and maintain plant health.  

Public green spaces and green infrastructure

Public green spaces can be anything from parks to living walls to green roofs to community gardens. These spaces are multi-functional. They reduce carbon and pollution in the atmosphere, increase residents’ physical and mental health, provide community spaces, and mitigate risks from severe weather events like flooding. 

Historically, urban planners didn’t consider natural processes, building cities as concrete jungles that are vulnerable to climate change. Green infrastructure considers the natural environment when planning urban land use. Green buildings often use solar panels, smart HVAC systems, and are LEED certified. Not only does having a city full of green buildings help keep pollutants and toxins at bay, but this infrastructure also tends to be cheaper than standard “grey” infrastructure. Read more here about how green infrastructure and smart irrigation solved urban landscape challenges for three historic New York landscapes. 

Overall, green cities are more self-sufficient than average cities, making them resilient against climate change-related weather emergencies. They conserve water, save energy, and reduce carbon emissions, all while serving as beautiful, affordable, and healthy spaces for people to live.