1. Public Transportation
From New York’s subway network to the Bay Area’s BART system, large cities around the world are providing state-of-the-art alternatives to personal automobiles. The Copenhagen Metro is a popular way to travel within the city, and the system had a daily ridership of 137,000 in 2009. Denmark is in the process of building a major expansion line that will be open to the public in 2018.
2. Convenient Bike Routes
Vast networks of spacious bike lanes are now a common feature in major urban centers. Cities across the globe are constantly building and improving these biking networks to reduce congestion and encourage environmentally conscious commuting, adapting “Complete Streets” designs to accommodate all modes of transit. Students are leading the bicycling revolution in the United States, and college towns like Berkeley, California, and Eugene, Oregon, have the highest percentages of bicycle commuters. Many European cities also provide bike sharing and rental services at transportation hubs, and it’s catching on in the US.
3. Green Buildings
Many urban areas are working to reduce the environmental impact of their buildings. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, better known as LEED, is the most widely used eco-ratings system for buildings. LEED was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council and is internationally recognized. To become LEED-certified, buildings must reduce waste and emissions, conserve resources, and provide healthy spaces for occupants. Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Landscapes is one of the greenest buildings in the world. The CSL generates all of its own electricity using solar panels, geothermal wells, and a wind turbine.
Most cities now provide their residents with recycling services, and many of these services are becoming highly advanced. San Francisco encourages residents to recycle food scraps and organic waste. Other cities, like Austin, are following suit, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 25% of solid waste in the United States consists of organic and yard waste. Germany leads Europe in recycling, and the country reuses over two thirds of its waste each year. The German government has made recycling convenient for citizens by providing color-coded bins for six different kinds of waste.
5. Sustainable Energy
Metropolitan areas consume a vast amount of energy, and pursuing alternative energy sources is a crucial goal for any environmentally conscious city. Eugene, Oregon, is one of America’s leading cities in terms of sustainable energy sources. The city receives much of its electricity from hydroelectric dams and an additional nine percent from wind power. Eugene also offers incentives to residents who install solar panels on their homes.
Bill Shaver is an environmentalist and writer in the clean tech space, currently partnering with eco-friendly products including Quench water coolers. Bill has been writing about green topics since 2007.