Editors Choice

6 Top-Notch Cities That Got Green Infrastructure Right



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Cities all over the world are keeping the future of the planet in mind and focusing on green infrastructure. Here are six of them that made particularly notable gains when meeting that goal.

1. Singapore

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Singapore is now known as one of Asia’s greenest cities, but it didn’t always do such an outstanding job on the sustainability front. There was a time when Singapore’s water supplies were so scarce that the city had to import water from Malaysia. However, it made numerous changes, including making two-thirds of the city’s surfaces — like roofs and sidewalks — able to capture rainwater and deposit it to 18 reservoirs.

The city also has a process of purifying used water with advanced methods to recycle it. Beyond water conservation, Singapore’s green infrastructure features a driverless metro and even incorporates sustainability into its meeting venues by helping clients figure out how to make their gatherings as green as possible.

2. Stockholm

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In 2010, Stockholm, Sweden became the first European Green Capital. One of the primary reasons for that designation is that Stockholm’s administrative system makes sustainability a priority, including when planning city budgets. People can get around in eco-taxis, which get priority placement at the front of taxi ranks. There are also more than 700 kilometers worth of bike lanes, and a community bicycle rental program.

Not to mention, the city’s Stockholm Waterfront Congress Centre features recycled building materials, along with solar panels on its roof.

Aside from having overarching sustainability measures that affect the city at large, Stockholm has an official “eco-district,” located in Hammarby Sjöstad. Its goal is to have half the environmental impact of a typical city. Residents get gas and electricity from renewable sources and live in houses made from raw materials that provide excellent insulation in the winter.

Some of the initiatives put forth in the Hammarby Sjöstad district of Stockholm have been adopted in specific venues outside of Sweden, such as a waste system used at London’s Wembley Stadium.

3. Virginia Beach, VA

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More than just a place where people throughout Virginia and elsewhere flock for their seaside vacations, Virginia Beach is making strides in green infrastructure progress in a variety of ways. When the city had its 50th-anniversary celebration, part of the festivities involved planting 50 trees.

Virginia Beach is ranked number two on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of mid-sized cities with the most buildings that received the ENERGY STAR rating for energy efficiency, as well.

Moreover, the city has received numerous accolades related to being an excellent place for families to live and visit. Something that helps Virginia Beach sustainably support its school-aged residents is its involvement with the Virginia Lottery. That program generates millions of dollars used to solely support K-12 education in the state annually. Virginia Beach received more than $32 million of the profits during the 2018 fiscal year.

In another school-related sustainability achievement, the Virginia Beach public school system was the only K-12 division to receive a Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. That distinction recognizes continual efforts made toward various types of conservation.

4. Portland, OR

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Many people view Portland as a progressive place in Oregon and the United States at large. Not surprisingly, that forward-thinking mindset applies to sustainability. When Portland residents went to the polls to vote in the 2018 midterm elections, they were in favor of a ballot initiative that imposes a one percent tax for large corporations.

The revenue generated for the tax will go toward supporting the city’s climate change minimization strategies. Advocates say communities dominated by people of color will be among those that benefit most, as well as those areas that are disproportionally affected by climate change.

At the beginning of 2018, the city also made sellers of single-family homes responsible for disclosing the energy efficiency of a home based on a professional assessment. This move could give potential buyers something else to think about if they are serious about sustainable living and want a home that reflects that value.

Businesses and nonprofits in Portland can also take part in a program that involves meeting with a sustainability advisor and getting advice on greening the workplace. The advisor can pinpoint problem areas, assist with creating sustainability programs that get employees engaged and more.

5. Boston, MA

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The city’s authorities in Boston recognize that sustainability is a collective effort. The Greenovate Boston website includes details on a plan to make Boston carbon-neutral by 2050, as well as to work toward a zero-waste goal.

City officials also recognize that action against climate change is a need they cannot overlook, and it’s something they have to accommodate for now. So, the climate change plan involves doing things like planting trees to help absorb the floodwaters that could result from worsening storms, as well as looking at ways to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by giving residents sustainable transportation options.

For example, there are nearly 200 stations in Boston where people can rent bikes and use them to get where they need to go. Boston is also evaluating how to accommodate owners of electric vehicles by installing charging points in handy places.

6. Vancouver, British Columbia

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Data published in 2017 highlighted Vancouver as the third most sustainable North American city. Numerous initiatives, both small and large, helped it earn that recognition. One example is the Tap Map app, which helps people find places to refill their reusable water containers instead of buying plastic bottles of water that get thrown away.

Also, in 2015, Vancouver banned organic materials from landfills and emphasized that people need to recycle their food scraps instead. City representatives then gave guidance for doing that based on the residences in which people lived.

Vancouver also features various eco-friendly buildings within its landscape. Those cater to sustainability-minded residents, as well as people who visit the city and are curious about the sustainable efforts made. Since Vancouver gets a higher-than-average rating for walkability, individuals can explore on foot instead of using transportation methods that aren’t as kind to the planet.

Sustainability Requires a Multitiered Approach

This list shows how these six cities did not copy each other when figuring out how to prioritize sustainability and green infrastructure. They evaluated the areas that would make the most impact on particular destinations and focused on those areas. Moreover, they did not only invest in one area for improvements — city representatives realized that a sustainability effort must encompass many aims.

As other cities seek to become more sustainable, they can look to these places for inspiration. The destinations on this list can also serve as case studies for discovering what worked well, and what didn’t.

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