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Four Urban Sustainability Initiatives You May Not Know About (Yet)

May 24, 2012

Naples, Italy

It's becoming a global trend to become sustainable, both from a facility perspective and, more impressive--city-wide. Some cities have been long-known for their sustainability initiatives. Take Oslo, Norway for example--with more than two-thirds of its municapility either agricultural land or protected forest and waterways. Curitiba, Brazil is another world leader--where every inhabitant has approximately 52 square meters of green space. Some U.S. cities have been given substantial recognition for their ongoing environmental intitiatives--cities like San Francisco and Portland, for example. But, what about lesser known cities? Or cities with no (known) association with a positive ecological impact? Cities across the globe are adopting new initiatives and making surprising strides in terms of makeovers--and sustainable development. Here's four cities whose sustainable urban intiatives are lesser known.

Naples, Italy is a great example of a city whose residents have taken the upper-hand to make a difference. Paired with world organizations like Let's do it! World, the city is achieving quite a makeover. Residents and local organizations are hosting inspiring clean-up initiatives like guerrilla gardening groups and flash-mob park clean-up and beautification projects. In September 2012, Naples will be one of 94 global cities to participate in Let's do it! World's World Cleanup 2012--focusing on the heavily littered Vesuvius National Park surrounding Mount Vesuvius, much of which is toxic, industrial waste. Known for its long-lasting trash crisis and high crime rates, Naples demonstrates that citizens can, in fact, make a difference. 

Medellin, Colombia is another example of a historically violent (once considered the most dangerous city in the world), drug-centric, and high carbon footprint city. However, recent improvements to its public transportation systems and an emphasis on green improvements have proven valuable in two significant ways--environmentally and socially. According to an Audi’s Urban Future Initiative Project, A common thread that ran through all the mayor’s concerns was public safety [in both Philadelphia--below--and Medellin]. This might seem a strange pit stop on the way to a greener city, but Mayor Fetterman of Braddock was very clear: “Public safety underpins everything that you do in a city.” Every mayor on the panel had a brilliant record of reducing crime and violence in their cities. Medellin’s crime rate has dropped by 90% since Mayor Fajardo took over, and Braddock hasn’t had a homicide in two years.

Much of this can be credited to three transportation initiatives Medellin's mayor has implemented--a bikeshare program, rideshare availabilities--and most innovative: a collective series of escalators connecting its historically poorest neighborhood Comuna 13 with its city center. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is an example of a U.S. city little-known for its recent upgrades and efforts. In 2008, Mayor Mike Nutter vowed to make Philadelphia the U.S.'s "greenest city" following the declaration by the U.S. Department of Energy of Philadelphia as a “Solar America City,” stating the city displayed “both a compelling need and an important opportunity to accelerate solar application.” Since then, Mayor Nutter has implemented 14 initiatives tackling city problems like excessive energy usage in government buildings and stacking landfills. A 6-year plan, now in its fourth year is showing significant change in the city's overall 'green' character.

Lastly, and at another end of the sustainability spectrum, Songdo, South Korea reminds us that development can, in fact, be done with environmental impact being the central focus and goal. Designed by Kohn Pederson Fox and first opened in August 2009, Songdo was designed as South Korea's first LEED Neighborhood. Most significant though is all its buildings and facilities either meeting or exceeding LEED standards. Just 40 miles outside of Seoul, Songdo is a brand new city built atop a swampland--but, is a state-of-the-art example that development mustn't be environmentally detrimental. With 40% open space, a Central Park rivaling New York City's, and an entire plan devoted to energy efficiency, Songdo has addressed all points of sustainable development.

These cities provide vastly different examples of overcoming filth, environmental depletion, and even social turmoil--and developing a project, or city from scratch. Cities that prove successful at their environmental initiatives demonstrate that any city or municipality can create a plan--and succeed at becoming a world leader in their ecological footprint. 

The research for this article was originally conducted for Software Advice

Photo credit: Ashley M. Halligan

The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.

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