According to Best Sociology Programs, here are the ten best ways to green our cities. Scroll to the bottom to see the same information in text!
Top 10 Ways to Make Our Cities Greener
City loyalty can be like a micro-form of patriotism. Many of us love the cities in which we were born, raised, or currently reside. But there’s always room for improvement–and some cities need it much more than others. Taking these actions can improve any city.
10. Convert to Electric Cars
– Reduce footprint
– Battery performance rivals gasoline
– Electric cars may use 40-60% less petroleum than gas vehicles
– Less demanding production
9. Living Architecture
– Construct from biomaterials
– Reduces harvesting of trees
– Revolutionize the cityscape
– Currently, buildings in the US occupy:
– 65% of electricity consumption
– 30% of greenhouse gas emissions
– 30% of raw materials use
– 136 million tons of waste annually
8. Wireless Sensor Networks
– Area monitoring creates Smart Cities
– Detect temperature, pollution, radiation, water leaks, full garbage bins, traffic jams, etc.
– Improve research and information processing
– In Geneva, a cooling system monitored by WSN saved 2,100 MWh per year
– That’s enough to power about 80 homes for a year
7. Convert from Heating Oil to Natural Gas
– Gas burns cleaner than oil
– NYC plans to eliminate its use by 2030
– Estimated to cut 85% of soot emissions
– The cost benefit is apparent:
– Winter Heating Prices in the Northeast
6. Urban Farming
– Dirt-beds can be put almost anywhere
– Foodprint makes up 21% of our carbon footprint
– The average meal travels 4,200 miles from farm to table–what if it traveled 10, 5, 1… or 0?
5. Green Roofs
– Build more dirt-beds for greenery
– They look good and reduce both pollution and temperature
– NYC’s green roofs can:
– Hold up to 90% of rainfall for later use
– Reduce runoff 50-60%
– Reduce ambient temperatures 9 degrees Fahrenheit
– Save 15-45% on energy consumption
4. Grassroots Initiatives
– Start a farmer’s market or local community-supported agriculture (CSA) pickup point
– There are nearly 7,200 farmer’s markets in the US
– Community swap meets to trade unwanted items and make social connections
– Turn libraries into share centers, where more than just books are shared
3. Reduce Waste
– About 50 cities in the US have banned plastic bags
– We use over 1 million plastic bags per minute worldwide
– Encourage recycling
– 75% of solid waste is recyclable… but 70% is still thrown away
– Buy long-lasting quality products
2. Open Space and Natural Features
– Improve aesthetics and recreation
– Open space can also support other improvements like green materials
– Seattle has 75 miles of trails
– Jacksonville, FL has 103,000 acres of green space, including plenty of parks and activity centers
1. Improve Public Transportation
– 2011: 10.4 billion public transportation trips
– 2.3 increase from 201
– Ridership in towns under 100,000 people rose more: 5.4%
– Buses using alternative fuels in 2000: 1 in 10
– Buses using alternative fuels in 2009: 1 in 3
Customers can now pay by app in Westfield, instead of fishing for quarters
For students and lovers of cities, the Pew American Cities Project is like oxygen! This comprehensive research undertaking gives tremendous insight into the statistics, history of and policy implications for US cities. Whether you are curious about how State policy effects local government, or how cities are faring in this economic nadir, you will find something both to fulfill and stoke your curiosity. Visit the homepage at the link below. But one cautionary note: Make sure you’re not in a rush. There’s LOTS to see.
Click here for Pew American Cities Project.
In the video below, Jennifer Pahlka, the Founder of Code for America, discusses the immense possibility that technology offers for government. As part of her February 2012 TED presentation she distinguishes the difference between politics and government, addressing the national contempt for the former, versus the immense possibility offered by and expected of the latter. This video is of utmost importance to government leaders and citizens alike, especially those in cities. Pahlka points out in the clearest possible terms what the new paradigm of government — one based on the model of the Internet itself — can make available to individuals, families, organizations and the world. By adopting the openness of the Internet, using the wisdom of crowds and opening access to data, government can truly be by the people, of the people and for the people; accomplishing those very things that we cannot do well individually, but which collectively, can be done superbly.
In the video below, found on the NRDC website, the American Society of Landscape Architects provides a terrific introduction to the whole notion of urban farming. Having set the stage for the subject matter, they use animation techniques to depict a variety of ways that cities can accommodate farming in public spaces, rooftop gardens, backyard gardening and much more. A wonderful video! For more information on these subjects, also, check out the links below the video.
- Transforming a derelict city building into vertical gardens for nearby residents (February 20, 2012)
- DC charity develops large rooftop garden to serve the city (April 20, 2011)
- ‘Peace Gardens’ bring needy communities together, ‘saving our own neighborhood’ (August 9, 2010)
- ‘Urban farming’ is not always the right answer (May 20, 2010)
- City gardens that respect the urban fabric (July 15, 2009)
Would it be useful for property owners in your city to see the real dollars and cents associated with energy use and retrofitting their energy systems? It seems that if a property owner could see the predictable savings he might gain by adding solar, or selling back to the grid, it would encourage more sustainable property retrofits. In fact, in places where those benchmarks are available, they are incredibly good resources. Along with the benchmarking data, there is overwhelming information in several studies that demonstrate that retrofitting pays back the investment — and well. It’s hard to know this data exist, and that makes finding the funding to retrofit virtually impossible. Both cities and private citizens struggle to finance retrofitting — yet banks and the investment banking world stand by and decline to provide funding. Maybe they too lack access to the data! We think these studies and ongoing benchmark data could help. “One of the key findings of the report is that half the examined properties could fully support loans with energy savings. That is huge news for an industry that’s been trying to attract investor interest with minimal success. It’s even greater news for the long term prospects of green job creation as more workers will be needed to support investor-backed retrofit programs operating at a larger scale.”
But whether benchmarks or studies, finding corroboration for the value of retrofitting is harder than you might imagine. There are almost no institutionalized procedures to post energy usage by buildings. And where there is an ordinance requiring those numbers be posted, they are only applicable to the largest users, and so are only illuminating for property owners of that scale; That doesn’t help small property owners, who make up the majority of landlords in most cities. “This is the problem that advocates like Andrew Burr of the Institute for Market Transformation want to fix. Burr pushes cities and states around the country to adopt policies that require building owners to measure their properties’ energy use and disclose it to the public, the local government and in some cases, directly to tenants.” (Click here for full article).
There is even more benefit — especially for cities — in attacking energy inefficiency. More and more studies show that the jobs created through these efforts are significant, and do not merely create short-term relief for casual workers. And with the recession only slowly receding, that may be the best short-term news possible. Of course, the long-term benefits of benchmarks are clear — more retrofits, funding for energy companies and sustainable construction, greater energy saving, reduced carbon emissions, and jobs. What is your city waiting for?
MindMixer provides customized, web-based citizen engagement to cities, agencies, and institutions — tools that are intuitive and fun for citizens to use and extraordinarily robust as data generators for cities. S4C is proud to have MindMixer as a client, and even more delighted that the service is now available here in our home town, Tampa, Florida. For more information on MindMixer, please click here. To see how Tampa is utilizing this invaluable tool, click here.
This is a fascinating article that presents a set of 10 “paradigm shifts” that Vancouver made and which underpinned it re-imagining itself. Each proposed concept is a mini-article written by a different author, so there are multiple perspectives and voices represented here. I think that is part of what makes it interesting. Amongst the ideas here are “See transit as a net, not a web”, and “Think small — New York City small”. These obviously require some unpacking to be really clear. But instead of my abridging the concepts here, read the full article!
In this terrific short film, every aspect of urban farming and local food production is addressed. How can a local urban farm be scaled to really feed a significant number of people? Can it be done in an economically feasible way — as a business, not a charity? How do you transport the crops? How do you sell them, and at what price? Rooftop or park farm? Subway as delivery model? So many questions are addressed. This is a wonderful project and addresses many of the kinds of questions that arise as communities attempt to form urban farming cooperatives. Bookmark it and you will find that you return again and again!
About 6 months ago the City of Pittsburgh launched a contest to attract attention and newcomers to the City. This was one of the first successful contests in the country and began a succession of city contests, many of which have been featured here, on the S4C Featured Ideas pages. In fact, S4C is holding its own Contest Contest, for cities to enter their own contests and vie to win nationwide publicity and kudos (we are still taking entries, click here).
The Pittsburgh contest, called “Experienced Dreamers” offered a $100,000 prize to some mid-life professional who wanted to relocate to Pittsburgh and bring a mission or business with him or her. Now the finalists have been announced, and you can vote on which of them should win. Check it out here.
It’s not often a big city Mayor gets to spoof himself, his hometown and cities generally in such a sly and clever way. Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and members of his administrative team star in a spoof video, launching “e-lanes” — pedestrian lanes for those reading, texting or otherwise utterly distracted by their smart phones while walking. The video perfectly imitates all the conventional conceits of municipal news features and public service videos — including irate protesters, oblivious onlookers, opinionated but ill-informed “man-in-the-street surveys and mediocre camera work — all with tongue firmly in cheek. Kudos to the city and its leadership for having a sense of humor and sharing it with the world!
In an amazing array of creativity and commitment, colleges and universities present their sustainability programs, large and small in inspiring videos as part of their efforts to win the Climate Leadership Award. The initiatives range from recycling to solar energy, from urban farming to geothermal energy production — and even include integrated curricula that require students to understand these efforts. “The top vote getters will be featured at the GW Moving the Planet Forward conference this April, and have the opportunity to be featured in blog posts on The Huffington Post and National Geographic’s Great Energy Challenge blog“. Here is just one video that inspired me — but there are so many more here. Your vote counts, so make sure you choose a favorite.
S4C client, Mobile NOW! has launched their ParkNOW! phone parking service at UNL. Now anyone who drives onto the UNL campus in Lincoln can pay to park at a meter by simply scanning a QR code and activating an eWallet payment.
Mobile NOW! is the most technologically flexible and advanced mobile payment provider to the parking and transit industry. Along with providing service at UNL, Mobile NOW! also provides service in 8 countries and multiple other locations in the US, including Montgomery County, MD, one of the largest parking enterprises in the country.
By mid-summer, ParkNOW! service will also be available in Florida, New Jersey, California and Ohio.
For more information on Mobile NOW!’s ParkNOW! service, click here.
For more information on paying by cell phone or app to park at UNL, click here.
Several cities have added Chief Innovation Officers to their teams. For example, in San Francisco, Jay Nath was Appointed by San Francisco Mayor Lee to “introduce new ideas and approaches to make city government more transparent, efficient and focused on our customers — San Francisco residents, businesses and visitors. The chief innovation officer will make sure technology is a driver of change in city government and a job creator.” That is certainly a specific role for a innovator, and one that is understandably central to San Francisco’s unique mission to be the quintessential 2.0 city. As a result of this emphasis and focus, San Francisco has taken the lead in numerous technological innovations, including acting as the home of Code for America, creation of the Open Cloud, and the first American city to begin an experiment in dynamic parking, in which, through the use of in-street sensors, on-street parking prices change depending on supply and demand.
In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter also appointed a Chief Innovation Officer, Adel Ebeid, formerly of the State of New Jersey. This role looks somewhat different than the front-facing, forward-looking role in San Francisco. In Philadelphia, Ebeid replaces a previous executive who was IT Director, overseeing an apparently obsolete technology infrastructure. Further comments from Ebeid seem to focus on using technology to address specific challenges within the city’s inner workings, like bringing the IP system up to date and creating citizen services that allow simple tasks to be performed by customers on-line. There is also a sense that there will be a focus in his tenure on furthering the cause of technology and open-government in Philly as the role progresses. But clearly, these are two very different versions of Chief Technology Officers.
So should your city add such a person? Apparently, it’s becoming “all the rage” according to a new article in Atlantic Cities. These roles really serve two masters: “The birth of the municipal chief innovation officer job is a response to these two trends: to fundamental changes in technology that are revolutionizing citizen engagement, and to a cultural movement that is turning the data-dense inner workings of city halls into public challenges that are actually kind of a kick to solve.” In other words, technology is here, and it can clearly make a difference. Customers are and should be excited about what this innovation portends for the delivery of municipal services. But to hire a person whose role is simply to legitimize “vigilante” municipal app-writing seems odd. Yes, there are hackers — and there are millions of folks utilizing public data to create interesting functions. Does that require a Sheriff to patrol? That’s less clear. Perhaps there is a genuine role for a Chief Innovation Officer — not in the role of either of these examples. In our opinion, the ideal C. In.O. is a curator. Someone who is charged with scouring the landscape for opportunities and innovations that can better serve customers, add efficiency, reduce costs or solve problems through a combination of private/public and technological partnership. That might include vetting hacked apps or soliciting their design; it might also include procuring off-the-shelf software to add openness to government activities. And it might include funding software development that might eventually be sale-able, with a percentage owned by the municipality. Those would all fall under the purview of the Chief Curator. We may be biased though, since that us also the mission of S4C!
They call it Tactical Urbanism — efforts by small groups or individuals to improve the local quality of life. “These small-scale interventions are characterized by their community-focus and realistic goals. Maybe the most widespread of these tactics is the annual Park(ing) Day, in which parking spaces are turned into temporary park spaces.” So says Mike Lyndon, a principal of Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning firm that is responsible for publishing the Tactical Urbanism Handbook. The book contains a wealth of information to assist those who are interested in undertaking some kind of project, and also has a Facebook page where interested readers can “meet”. Equally interesting though is the historical perspective provided, with examples of analogous activities going back to the 16th century in France. As you peruse the hundreds of examples of Tactical Urbanism, what strikes most is how diverse the projects can be. In Miami, a “chair bombing” day has folks placing Adirondack chairs arbitrarily in Bayfront Park to create “random moments of urbanism”. Compare that to the “guerrilla scupture” in a small Yorkshire town in England, where artists have carved exquisite and complex sculptures of the trees. Other examples can include the truck farms that have taken root in multiple US cities (see an earlier Featured Idea), or the vigilante crosswalk painting that citizens undertook in Baltimore to ensure safe street crossings. There is plenty for everyone. for a great recent article on Tactical Urbanism, click here.
Many cities have invested millions in sports stadiums — often tax dollars — with the expectation that the advent of a modern sports venue will attract strong and disproportionate economic impact. But despite the hopes and dreams — and money — often invested in these massive structures, and further, even when they successfully become iconic local institutions — they are rarely true examples of modern planning or architecture. Many stadiums are in marginal parts of town, have tremendous built-in access and energy conservation problems — and the more successful the local franchise, the worse the resulting traffic and debris is likely to be. “Often times, these venues have acted like tumors for the city, sucking up fiscal and environmental resources while causing more problems for the surrounding community”. That is beginning to change.
At the thin end of the sustainable stadium wedge is the stadium intended for use in the London 2012 Olympics. “It has been made from materials 75 percent lighter than steel, the most common material used to build other stadiums. Low-carbon concrete was used in its construction, which contains 40 percent less carbon than usual.” But the sustainability of these mini-ecosystems — that can often be the size and scale of a town — should probably begin before the materials are considered, with the choice of location. Placing stadiums in inner cities may not be the best placement. perhaps they should go in open tracts where they are less likely to compound urban environmental impacts? Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is an example of careful choice of location. It is also a great example of a valiant attempt to temper a huge production of waste and excess with eco-friendly practices and systems.
Most of the real thrust of this trend though goes into the planning of the construction, fixtures, parking and internal systems of stadiums. For example, in Los Angeles, the efforts is going into retrofitting Farmers Field to make it the first LEED certified NFL stadium. IBM is bringing a somewhat different effort to Miami, using the tools of Smart Cities to collect and analyze all of the data within the stadium “that will mean greater insight into stadium-related analytics for the fan — like parking data. And stadium managers will be able to track visitor traffic, monitor inclement weather, and analyze visitor spending habits in real-time, increasing efficiency and reducing costs.”. One can only project that in the future, all of these practices will intersect, creating sports venues that are all at once located in appropriate settings, built of sustainable materials, and equipped with sensors and computers that permit the smartest possible operation, for the greatest efficiency and cost effectiveness. Stay posted!
The top 25 technology leaders have been anointed! As committed technophiles, S4C has been riveted to the results. The winners include people we have cheered and admired — like the Code for America Fellows, Mayor Ron Littlefield of Chattanooga and Greg Wass, CIO of Cook County — and many who are new to us! Don’t miss reading the full list and the extended stories of what these pioneers have accomplished! Our next anticipated list? The top 25 technologies for cities… (because like most of these leaders, we are most interested in functions and applications!)
In this video, the GSMA (global trade association of mobile-related professionals) walks us through a fully connected smart city. In this vision, everything from electric meters, to water pumps, traffic lights and mass transit, are connected through smart grids, and able to monitor their own energy and efficiency, as well as the needs of customers. The video is fast-paced and worth watching!
In most cities, rainwater does little more than create traffic or puddles, and is left to flow into gutters and ultimately, into storm-water drainage systems. This is noteworthy only because water is such a scarce and critical resource. In the US alone there are at least 36 States in which the lack of water is a genuine problem. According to the NRDC “rainwater collection systems on just half of the available rooftop space could supply between 21 and 75 percent of annual water needs [and] would also save residents a combined $90 billion in municipal water fees. (As a bonus, rainwater collection also reduces the amount of polluted runoff that flows into lakes, rivers and oceans.)” . So why don’t more poeple collect rainwater and more cities use it? There are lots of reasons, and some as simple as basic laziness or lack of knowledge. But in some places there are actual regulatory obstacles to residents seizing upon this money-saving and green opportunity. In some municipalities, rainwater in its untreated form is only permitted to be used for certain outdoor, non-potable functions, like lawn-watering and other irrigation uses. There are exceptions. Portland Oregon has created multiple standards and processes for the use of rainwater.
“Using purified potable water for purposes like flushing toilets or irrigating landscape is a waste of a valuable resource. Portland residents are asking more questions about the role of conservation in extending the supply of drinking water. Stored water can substitute for piped drinking water for many uses where a high level of purity is not required.”
For cities there are more strategic steps they should take to begin seizing the opportunity of rainwater as a conservation device, stem against storm-water contamination and replacements of city water for normal non-potable uses like toilet-flushing, irrigation and some cleaning. The first thing for cities to do is to adopt a clear set of guidelines for the use and treatment of rainwater. Here are the recommendations of the EPA:
- “Adopt stormwater pollution control standards that require on-site volume retention and allow rainwater harvesting and reuse, with appropriate health and safety standards, to be used to meet that requirement, thereby creating an incentive for on-site capture
- Adopt standards that require or promote rainwater harvesting and/or water efficiency
- Review building, health, and plumbing codes for barriers to capturing or reusing rainwater
- Provide incentives for decreasing storm-water runoff and promoting water conservation
- Require use of rainwater harvesting and reuse on all public properties”
CALLING ALL CITIES!
S4C challenges you to use your best minds and strongest economic development techniques to develop winning contests. The rules are here, but the idea is simple. Craft a prize contest for the general public. The contest should seek to improve your city, county village, town or municipality by eliciting ideas, residents, businesses, technology, or any other resource you value. Click here for all of the rules of eligibility, guidelines to format your entry and so forth. We will publish the best ones. Deadline is July 1, 2012. The winner will be featured in our Cities at Work Newsletter as well as distribution of the contest through PR Newswire.
To follow updates on twitter, #S4CCCC. We’re rooting for you!
David Bornstein of the New York Times writes in a recent New York Times article about the ways that the Obama administration has used contests to stimulate ideas and participation. “Last year the president signed legislation granting all agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions in an effort to engage large numbers of people outside government in problem solving aligned with governing objectives, and to identify and spread solutions already on the ground.” Cities can seize upon the same wisdom and craft contests that will inspire the public to bring its genius, skill, enthusiasm and idiosyncrasies to the forefront for the general good. Some cities have already demonstrated the benefits of such contests. In Pittsburgh, a long-term contest is now in progress to attract a business-owning baby boomer to relocate to Pittsburgh from somewhere else. Why all the trouble for one new business or resident? The enormous amount of positive publicity stimulated by the contest makes the $100,000 winning award seem tiny by comparison. Imagine the number of productive, potential tax-payers who are learning of the contest and reconsidering Pittsburgh. It’s a great boon to economic development and image.
In Chattanooga, all geeks are on notice — the city is offering big prizes for great applications and corresponding business plans. Dubbed “Gig City” as part of the competition branding, the contest and its fruits have been big PR wins for the city. But more importantly, the actual work product of the competitors and businesses they generate will be in and for Chattanooga — and that kind of innovation and potential job growth is priceless. ““Chattanooga offers forward-thinking entrepreneurs a huge head-start in leading the next generation of Internet commerce,” Tom Edd Wilson, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The Gig Prize will provide the support and connections necessary to develop, prove and fund these paradigm shifting business models.”
Once the competitive engines are purring, it’s easy to see how this paradigm of ferocious creativity and collaboration can create something new and viral. The perfect setting may be the Code for America project, seeking to bring innovators to cities and counties, and to the nation itself to seize upon the opportunity to innovate in favor of improved operation and service delivery. So how does this effect your city? Go beyond school-age contests and essay competitions. One place to look is to the kinds of industry clusters you seek to cultivate. Looking for biotech? Why not launch a business/biotech contest. Give folks a year to apply and be vetted, require every inch of corroboration necessary to ensure a potential winner, and fund it with enough to make it attractive. The prize may be in dollars, but the real reward may be tax-free offices, guaranteed executive housing for a year, a partneship with a local hospital or medical school, places in a magnet school for relocated kids. Building an craft-ale cluster? The same principles apply.
How can your city leverage an investment in prize money? We want to hear your ideas. S4C challenges you to use your best minds and strongest economic development techniques to develop winning contests. To get all the details, including the rules and eligibility guidelines click here. We will publish the best ones. Deadline is July 1, 2012. The winner will be featured in our Cities at Work Newsletter and the contest information distributed nationwide through PR Newswire.
Coming soon, to a city near you, may be a way to download an app that allows you to call for a taxi, get the information on the specific car and driver, track its approach to you — all before you ever enter it — with the use of an iPhone app. The app is called Get Taxi, and it’s been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in Tel Aviv and is also in use in London. We are all familiar with paying by app or cell phone for parking through various services such as ParkNOW!, or paying for reserved parking through ParkHub, but so far, park and ride apps and pay for transit apps have not made it to the US. That is about to change. Around the globe, the use of mobile applications and integrations, whether for reservations, service requests or payment through apps, credit cards, NFC (Near Field Communications) and more is growing. In this BMW-sponsored article, some of the more popular international services are highlighted. And none seem nearly as amazing as they would have just a year ago. So you know it’s only a matter of a brief time until they are just “business as usual” for us too! Of course, at S4C, we are scouting for our next best-in-class client. When we find it, we will let you know first! To read the full article and see photos, click here.
- Cities at Work Newsletter
- About Us
- Services 4 Business
- Services 4 Cities
- Featured Ideas
- Contact Us