Statistically speaking, more people live in medium to big cities than anywhere else. For all their benefits, however, it’s not a situation that can last without making several positive and beneficial changes to way we live, as well as the way cities operate. Fortunately, there’s hope. Here’s how cities can become more sustainable
City in a Garden
Chicago’s city motto is “Urbs in Horto,” which translates to “city in a garden.” The idea of farmland and city blocks might seem incompatible, but there are already actions afoot in several US and worldwide cities to turn unused plots of lands into flowering and abundant community gardens and urban farms run by ordinary citizens. Green roof initiatives have also taken hold, leading to rooftop (sometimes even skyscraper rooftops) gardens that reduce heat islands, provide cleaner air, and make better use of rainwater. Gardens in cities also prevent runoff, promote quieter streets, and provide plenty of places for wildlife like birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects and animals that might miss the protection of the forest. More green means stronger communities, too.
Change Up the Parking and Driving Situation
Cars are a fact of life, but their impact on the environment can be reduced through smarter driving and parking opportunities. Replacing sprawling parking lots fights heat pollution and prevents runoff of gas, oil, and other chemicals into the local wildlife and water supply. Parking systems also put more cars into smaller spaces, leaving more room for green spaces like parks and preserves. Reduced speed limits are a good step as well, but greater effort needs to be put toward improving public transportation options and even converting city streets into public squares, turning old railways into elevated parks, and naturally, adding more bike paths.
Water, Water, Everywhere?
One of the biggest issues facing the world is our continued access to drinkable water. Unfortunately, most cities are situated near massive sources of fresh water and tend to use too much while adding unhealthy amounts of pollutants to the water supply. Naturally, rainwater can be harvested and stored for later use or sharing with those in greater need. Waterless hardware in toilets and other waste-disposal facilities are being explored as well to draw and waste less water. Finally, encouraging the creation of wetlands as an alternative for purifying water (over chemical-using waste-treatment plants) is another exciting alternative.
Better Waste Management
One last way how cities can become more sustainable is by finding alternate uses for our waste products. Recycling plastics, glass, and metal is a worthy goal, but it’s not enough. Encouraging citizens to contribute toward a composting program by donating biodegradable waste like fruits, vegetables, and other organic elements to a community garden is a great step. Cutting back on paper use in local and regional government is kinder to the trees as well. Lastly, education is key, particularly in educating citizens about what can be upcycled or shared for the greater good.