The 5 sustainable practices to make cities more livable

Oluwatosin Jegede

Cities are key players today. They use a lot of energy and produce many greenhouse gases. In fact, they consume about two-thirds of all energy. And they’re responsible for four-fifths of greenhouse gases. Not to mention, they generate half of our waste.

But it’s not just about the environment. Many people in cities don’t perform sustainable practices to make cities more livable. So, there’s a big challenge. Cities must change. They need to be more sustainable. And we need to act fast.

Sustainable practices that can make a city more livable

1. Expedite the transition to renewable energy

Cities are crucial for our planet’s health. And the health of our cities hinges on their use of energy. This is a big topic, but I’ll focus on one thing: our need for clean energy.

How do we measure a city’s health? The United Nations looks at three things:

  • People (social aspects)
  • Planet (environmental health)
  • Profit (economic angles)

But given our climate worries, let’s dive into the planet part first. Renewable energy stands out here. Why? Because it’s our best shot for a healthy future. The world agreed on this. Remember the Paris Agreement? But sadly, many countries aren’t meeting the targets.

So, cities must shift to renewables faster. Here’s a case in point: New York City vs. Detroit. An Arcadis report ranks New York 30th in global sustainability, while Detroit is at 71. The environmental scores? New York is 20th, and Detroit falls to 56th. Why does this matter? Because Detroit, according to Bloomberg, struggles with sustainability.

Look at their energy use. New York’s coal use? Almost zero. Michigan? They get 32% of their energy from coal. Renewables? New York uses them for 31% of their needs. Michigan? Just 13%. Plus, New York leans more on natural gas, which is cleaner than coal.

The message is clear. Cities using more renewables thrive. But let’s be real. Not all cities can go 100% green instantly. If not solar or wind, they should at least lean on cleaner options, like nuclear or natural gas, over coal. Every sustainable practices towards cleaner energy counts.

2. Expand and promote public transportation

Public transportation matters. A lot. Cities with great transit systems are greener and smarter. How? Buses, trains, and metros are better for our planet. They help people. And they save money.

Look at London. Arcadis ranks it as the top sustainable city. And guess what? The London Tube plays a big part in that. Then there’s San Francisco, ranking 16th overall. They have BART, a vast transit system. And don’t forget New York City. With its impressive subway, it’s one of the world’s top transport cities. It’s also among the greenest in the US.

Asia shines, too. Singapore and Hong Kong are at the forefront. What’s their secret? Top-notch, affordable public transportation. Think about it. Riding the metro leaves a smaller carbon footprint than driving a car. Every day. Every trip.

Cities must focus on public transit. It’s a clear path to a greener, smarter future. Build more. Promote more. Make it the way to go.

3. Encourage and subsidize electric vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) are game-changers. They’re not just about a clean future. They’re good for our wallets, our air, and our cities.

Driving an EV is cheaper. In fact, it costs about 60% less than fueling up a regular car. What does this mean for cities? Three big things:

  1. Cleaner air, fewer carbon footprints, and less reliance on gasoline;
  2. Cars running on clean power sources, like wind and sun;
  3. More money in people’s pockets, which helps the economy.

But here’s the catch. Despite the benefits, not everyone will rush to buy an EV. People might wait years, or even decades. So, cities need to step up. How? By making EVs more attractive. Think tax breaks and other perks.

Right now, there’s a federal tax benefit for EVs. Cities can offer extra tax credits on top of that. Or they could give other incentives to make the deal sweeter.

But that’s not all. Cities should also think about charging stations. Yes, Tesla has some. But cities can do bigger and better. They can build more stations everywhere.

EVs are the way forward. But cities must pave the way. By giving incentives, offering support, and building infrastructure, they can steer us towards a greener tomorrow.

4. Conserve and build more green spaces

Green spaces are magical. They can transform a city. They make it cleaner, fresher, and more alive.

Take a look at Canberra. It is referred to as one of the greenest cities on earth. They looked at things like clean energy, air quality, and how much green space a city has. Now, comparing Canberra, a smaller city, to giants like New York or Los Angeles might seem off. But here’s a lesson: green spaces matter a lot.

Why? Canberra is draped in green. Trees and parks are everywhere. And even without a big transit system, its air is clean. That’s the power of green.

Singapore teaches us the same. It’s tiny but dense with people. Yet, it’s one of Asia’s greenest cities. How? Half of Singapore is draped in green. From rooftop gardens to green walls, they’ve covered about 720,000 square meters. Plus, they use clean energy. Nearly all of their power comes from natural gas, not coal.

The takeaway? Cities need more green, more sustainable practices. Parks, rooftop gardens, even tiny urban forests. They all count. And they all help a city breathe, grow, and thrive. Green is not just a color; it’s the future.

Read also: The world’s biggest urban park is under construction: where it will rise

5. Upgrade civic infrastructure to smart buildings

Smart buildings are the future. With the Internet of Things (IoT), we can make buildings smarter and greener.

Sure, some commercial places already use modern tech for managing their spaces. But cities should dive deeper. They should fully embrace the smart building trend.

Can all buildings in a city be forced to go smart? Not really. But what cities can do is lead by example. City-owned buildings can get a tech upgrade. Here’s how:

  1. Harness nature’s power. Think solar or geothermal energy;
  2. Use smart sensors. They can detect movement, light, temperature, and water usage;
  3. Do you have an old building? Give it a green makeover. Add green roofs and walls. Improve insulation;
  4. Building something new? Design it with the sun in mind. And pick materials that are kind to the Earth;
  5. Whether old or new, buildings can get greener systems for heating, cooling, and ventilation.
  6. Save energy with automated, IoT-driven systems;
  7. Respond to building needs in real time, whether you’re onsite or miles away;
  8. Dive into big data and let machine learning guide building management.

But remember, IoT isn’t just for buildings. It’s for the whole city. From water utilities to streetlights, everything can be smarter. Yes, big changes need big plans. But with commitment and sustainable practices, cities can step into a smarter, greener future.

Read also: What is the Urban Sequoia, the technological skyscraper that actively absorbs CO2 

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