Green Cities

Imagine living in a real jungle, not a concrete one. You could look out of your office window and see buildings covered in solar panels, vertical gardens ascending the walls, dropping fruit and herbs down for your lunchbreak.

Enter the world of green cities, where entire towns take action to make their communities more sustainable through energy and food production initiatives.

Large-scale investments in green infrastructure and renewable energy are clearly needed to phase out climate-polluting fossil fuels. Yet by greening our cities we can make deep cuts almost immediately. We just need the political will to get going.

Germany recently introduced a ‘home improvements’ program, which involves training construction workers in green building techniques. This will see energy-efficient buildings made of recycled and sustainable materials gradually replace older more energy-intensive buildings. Insulation, solar panels and effective positioning of windows and doors to reduce heating needs will go a long way to cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

Once home improvement programs are up and running, governments need to introduce economic solutions. By providing rebates for solar power, subsidising wind energy and taxing the use of fossil fuels, governments can encourage people to switch their homes, businesses and schools to green technologies.

China has banned plastic bags, Australia has phased out incandescent lightbulbs, and the small town of Bundanoon voted to ban plastic water bottles. Going further, towns and cities could phase out buildings and appliances with low energy ratings, highly polluting vehicles and greenhouse-intensive construction materials.

Economic incentives like high vehicle excise duty on the most polluting cars could not only cut unnecessary pollution, but also raise funds for environmental programs, like new bike lanes, free public transport and new bus and train infrastructure to help make public transport as fast and comfortable as a private car trip.

With less cars on the road, there would be no need for all our car-parks, so these could be transformed into public parks and community gardens, providing food production for local consumption and cutting the need for long-distance transport of food, which burns a lot of fossil fuels.

These steps can be put in place now, to make our cities more sustainable, and also more liveable. Parks, bikes, and productive gardens could build not just a stronger environment, but a stronger community.

References

Prof Deo Prasad, Dr. Melissa Teo and Mr. Malay Dave, ‘Retrofitting Residential Housing and Precincts:Current Practice, New Strategies and Training Responses’, The University of New Sounth Wales, May 2009, p. 72,
http://www.industry.gov.au/Section/Industry/Documents/J075786_FinalReport.pdf

Ben Cubby, ‘Target calls it a wrap on plastic’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 May 2009, http://www.smh.com.au/environment/target-calls-it-a-wrap-on-plastic-20090430-ap00.html

Rachel Browne, ‘Bright Idea’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2009, http://www.smh.com.au/environment/bright-idea-20091031-hqq1.html

ABC News, ‘NSW town pushed to ban bottled water’, 8 July 2009, www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/07/08/2619705.htm