Ideas to make cities more sustainable
Bringing nature back
- Planning conditions to specify net gains in biodiversity for all development
- Regenerative cities (green walls, roofs and other infrastructure)
- Parks: lots of biodiversity
- Trees and bushes: plant more, preserve what you have, make them all productive – nuts and fruit
- Indoor, vertical, rooftop, food growing, incl. mushrooms, aquaculture
- Vertical farms: can be all scales from large warehouses to inside homes, shops and cafes, and can include aquaculture and poultry
- Allotments, community gardens, therapeutic gardens
- ‘Incredible edible’ plants at every opportunity
- Plenty of opportunity for a land-based jobs and jobs in food-processing
- Procurement along supply chains to include conditions to yield net gains in biodiversity.
Low-tech, cost-effective infrastructure and development
- Life cycle analysis to reduce overall demand and cost to the natural world
- Make developments human scale
- Deploy low-impact and natural materials that sequester carbon where possible
- Keep it simple: eco-minimalism – do more with less
- Keep it local: support the local economy by procuring locally
- Plan for easy maintenance and end-of-life removal and recycling
- Design out the possibility of less sustainable behaviour.
- Conserve water use
- Reuse water
- Prevent water pollution
- Rainwater collection from roofs
- Replenish underground aquifers.
- Energy efficiency, reducing demand and need
- Passive design new buildings; older buildings deep retrofitted for energy efficiency
- Decarbonise travel
- 100 per cent renewable energy supplies
- Supply (local): heating, cooling, electricity
- Investigate feasibility of district heat mains
- Distributed generation; 4th generation solar will be almost invisible, often building integrated
- Some wind turbines
- Combined heat and power
- Anaerobic digestion for biogas and compost
- Heating: geothermal, ground and water source heat pumps, solar thermal, passive solar, biogas;
- Interseasonal storage
- Demand management technology
- Building Information Management systems in larger buildings
- Incinerate only absolute waste in CHP plants
- Climate-appropriate street layout and vegetation planting to either reduce heat island effect and therefore cooling energy demand and or reduce heat demand, depending on location.
Sustainable transport and mobility
- Minimise need to travel far by locating housing near jobs, services, shops etc.
- Separate vehicular traffic from pedestrians and cyclists
- Plan networked, latticed town and neighbourhood centres around transport hubs
- Use efficient, cheap public transport: metro, subway, buses, trams, light rail and intercity
- Promote walking, cycling by design of streets and neighbourhoods
- Separate local and longer-distance traffic
- Lots of bikes and bike hire schemes
- Rickshaws, cargo bikes for people and goods delivery
- Electric vehicle hire and share schemes.
- Design out waste
- Design out plastic
- Design products to be reused and recycled
- Reward waste minimisation and sorting of waste, especially plastics
- Reclaim nutrients from food, agricultural waste, and sewage
- Repair and upcycle workshops in every neighbourhood
- Replace throwaway with a culture of exchange, swap, repair, and reuse
- Use local industrial symbiosis systems.
Adapting to climate change
- Prepare for extreme weather
- Storm swales and underground lagoons
- Raise areas of potential floods
- Sustainable urban drainage
- Protect against overheating
- Use vegetation to tackle heat island effect
- In areas of high winds, buildings close together to prevent funnelling.
- Human scale, people-centred design
- Markets – formal and informal, street and covered, valued for small traders and social interaction
- Conserve amenity value and embodied energy of old buildings while retrofitting for efficiency
- Preserve communities through provision of affordable housing and full mix of housing and land use
- Respect and support all cultures
- Work, education ideally located near to home
- Public transport and parks within walking distance
- Leisure, shops, entertainment and museums nearby.
Health and well-being
- Neighbourhood level drop-in health centres and hospitals
- Some consultations may be distance tech-based
- All people to have access to cheap, fresh, healthy fruit and vegetables
- Cooking workshops and education
- All-ages-friendly cities
- Mental health support
- Accessibility everywhere: ramps, not steps
- Walking, cycling, pathways, wayfinding.
Democracy and justice
- Implement ‘The Right To The City’
- Root out corruption
- Independent watchdogs and transparency
- Use technology to maximise participation in decisions, campaigns
- Smart sensors, feedback loops and algorithms to help manage some basic services
- Smart involvement uses the wisdom of crowds, open data, etc.
- Sensitive, anonymous surveillance is part of data collection, linked to algorithms which attempt to model and predict needs so they can be met efficiently.
Organisation and management
- Set a target to reduce the ecological footprint of the county/region to ‘one planet’ from the present three planets in 20 years.
- Check what causes the current high footprint now and where the quick wins are.
- Improve all public bodies’ spending calls to create a new market for genuinely sustainable service and goods providers (Preston model + eco-footprint reduction), by including all social, financial and environmental criteria in the buying processes.
- Stimulate the transition to the circular economy, reusing everything as nature does, with training, awards and prizes.
- De-silo departmental decision-making so all departments are working together.
- Change the planning law to prohibit development that does not contribute to One Planet goals, and encourage that which does. One Planet Development criteria already in place offer a blueprint for the rest of planning to follow.
- Set in place monitoring to check progress year-on-year aligns with targets.
- Develop a citywide and individual ecological footprint calculator app so everyone can check their own footprints and compare with the city target and average as part of a programme of awareness raising and publicity.
Note: Ecological footprint = carbon footprint + all other impacts & benefits like more nature.
What some cities are doing
- The Urban Metabolism of Brussels, Belgium: Transitioning Towards a More Circular Economy
- Brussels works with its office of statistics to monitor its metabolic flows to transition to a circular economy
- This article explains the multifaceted nature of this approach.
- Portugal’s city footprint calculators
- Vancouver’s target to cut its eco-footprint by 1/3
- Switzerland’s brave whole-country approach