Innovation continues around the globe to make cities both eco-friendly and pleasant to live in. Every city adopts new technology in unique ways to conserve energy and make this a more liveable planet.
The Scandinavian region has led the world in innovative practices to protect the environment. Copenhagen is at the forefront and applies a multi-faceted approach, tackling greenhouse gases, water quality, and public transportation. In an area of the world historically known for landscapes of wooden windmills, Copenhagen has fast-forwarded the technology and broadened the scale of its wind technology. The city has one of the largest offshore wind parks in the world. The large turbines provide energy to more than 32,000 households.
The city also protects its harbor, reducing wastewater from industry and sewers significantly. They monitor the water quality with a high-tech online warning system. Citizens are invested in the city’s environmental plan as well, choosing public transportation or bikes whenever possible. In addition to buses and trains, free bikes are available for use throughout the city.
Bogotá is another city that values public transportation. Developed under the initiatives of former mayor Enrique Peñalosa, their B.R.T. (Bus Rapid Transit) could as easily stand for “Bright Red Transit,” as the red buses are spotted citywide. The bus system, called TransMilenio, helps millions of passengers avoid gridlock and traffic delays daily.
Each modern two-car vehicle runs on clean diesel. Passengers are moved quickly through stations built into medians accessed by pedestrian bridges. The buses run unimpeded in dedicated lanes. Bicycle parking facilities are built at many stations to encourage riders to use extensive biking networks to begin and complete their journeys.The TransMilenio is a model of what public transportation could be other cities, taking only three years to develop from start to finish. Peñalosa now consults with other cities that are looking to modernize their transit systems.
Singapore, Southeast Asia
Bustling Singapore, a city short on space, has taken green initiatives up, literally. Placing a high value on green space, Singapore has uniquely placed vegetation on rooftops and vertical walls. Almost half of the 272-square-mile island/city is now green space.
Many cities struggle with the heat island effect of concrete, but covering buildings with greenery has a cooling effect, reduces energy, and adds moisture. Innovative architecture allows unique ways to incorporate lush beautiful settings, and the climate is conducive to maintain these gardens.The green space has a psychological effect too; citizens can enjoy the park-like atmosphere at lunch on work days or with families in the off-hours. The verdant cityscapes reduce tension and open up the confined limits of the concrete jungle.
A world away from Singapore, both in distance and climate, Austin is also learning to focus on the resources they have to green their city. The Green Allen Demonstration Project, is a pilot program encouraging citizens to see the potential of their alleyways for sustainability. Alleys are typically unsightly and often unsafe as “unseen” areas. Using colored concrete, art, and garden elements, alleys are transformed into usable social spaces, improving not only environmental practices, but the quality of life as well.
Native landscaping in Austin shares space with herb and vegetable gardens. Water is further conserved through rain-barrel collection and pavement that allows water back into the groundwater system instead of running off.An expert with Terminal City Iron Works Ltd., which belongs to the American Water Works Association, says this method of rainwater collection is being adopted by cities throughout the United States. This allows for the reduction of waste water, sustainable irrigation, and improved water quality.
The common theme among these model cities is that they look at resources unique to their areas—-whether that is climate, geography, or the current built environment. The vision of good leadership and the enthusiastic cooperation of citizens work together to move sustainability forward.
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