THE UN MEETS IN PARIS THIS week to try to come to a global agreement on climate change. Getting the whole world to agree on anything is obscenely difficult, and it can often be a frustrating process. But that said, many cities around the world are already doing cool and innovative things to make sure we don’t leave our children a planet that’s a total disaster. Here are just a few of the cool things cities are doing to make themselves cleaner and more environmentally-friendly.
1. China’s sponge cities.
China’s rapid industrialization has meant a lot of really bad things for the environment. One of those things is that, thanks to deforestation, poor drainage, and insane amounts of concrete that water can’t be absorbed into, the country has had a massive uptick in flooding.
In order to fix the flooding, China is starting a “sponge city” initiative, which is aimed at making 15 selected cities more greener and more ecologically friendly. It will do this by creating wetlands, building permeable roads and public spaces (instead of giant slabs of concrete like Tiananmen Square) and by encouraging rooftop gardens.
2. North Vancouver’s gas pump warning labels.
In trying to get the world to smoke less, many countries have put warning labels on packs of cigarettes. One Canadian town, North Vancouver, has passed a law that will take this concept and apply it to gas pumps: anyone putting gas into their car is going to get a warning label.
Some of these labels are going to focus on things one can do to reduce their carbon emissions, while others will explain the negative effects of carbon emissions. If the labels (which have yet to be installed) are effective, they may do quite a bit to lower emissions in the area.
3. Austin’s green choice.
Austin, Texas, has come up with a cool plan that allows homeowners to do their small part in saving the environment: if they pay a little extra (three-quarters of a penny per kilowatt hour) for their energy, the power company guarantees it comes from a renewable source.
The plan has been running for nine years now, and is the most successful of its kind.
4. The Bronx’s low-income community gardens.
It’s not unusual for the green movement to be represented as an upper-middle-class hipster trend, one that goes hand in hand with craft beer and gentrification. But a neighborhood in the South Bronx is bucking that trend by building low-income housing that’s geared towards green living.
Via Verde is a low-to-medium income housing development that features rooftop community gardens, rainwater collection, public green spaces, and, of course, bicycle storage.
5. Portland’s communal compost heap.
The city of Portland is probably the greenest city in the United States. One of the coolest things it has done is an extremely simple: aside from merely collecting garbage and recycling each week, it has started collecting compost, too. The program is simple enough: homeowners put their food waste in a separate container, where it is to be placed in a community compost pile. The program has led to a 38% drop in the city’s trash output.
6. The bicycle city of Copenhagen.
While talking about the future of transportation, people tend to dwell on technologies like electric cars and public transportation. But there’s already a totally green, no-emissions way for us to get from place to place: by bike.
No city understands this better than Copenhagen. The Danish capital has one of the lowest carbon emissions per capita of any city in the world, and this is due in large part to the fact that 40% of the city does their commuting via bike.