Four Surprising Sustainable Cities Across the Globeby Ashley Halligan
Philadelphia, PA photo credit: vic15 via Flickr
Guest blogger: Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice, an Austin-based company
Cities all around the world are placing more emphasis on sustainability initiatives, some whose sustainability projects are widely known, and some that you may not have heard of -- yet are still achieving massive steps forward. Here are four diverse cities all facing urban challenges such as crime and litter, yet all with admirable initiatives in place.
Medellin, Colombia is a city known for violence and crime as a central part of a widespread drug cartel. Lesser known is its recent international transportation award: the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award, awarded by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, which also awarded San Francisco. Medellin recently installed a sophisticated series of escalators joining its former most dangerous and poor neighborhood, Comuna 13, to its city center. Since the installation, the city has seen crime rates drop. Additionally, Medellin has significantly boosted public transit options with things like a ride-sharing program and a public bicycle program.
Another city with historical challenges around garbage and crime, Naples, Italy, has recently demonstrated extreme efforts to clean up and move forward. A far more social effort, Naples residents and world organizations have bonded to take drastic measures to positively impact the prevailing trash crisis, restoring residential neighborhoods with guerrilla gardening groups and flash mob clean-ups. In September 2012, Naples will be one of 94 global cities to participate in World Cleanup 2012, focusing on the trash surrounding Mount Vesuvius.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia, PA, has quickly become recognized nationally as one of America's greenest cities, on the same level as better-known green cities like Portland and San Francisco. In fact, in 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy declared Philadelphia a “Solar America City,” stating Philadelphia “both a compelling need and an important opportunity to accelerate solar application.” In 2009, Mayor Michael Nutter launched the city's ambitious GreenWorks Philadelphia sustainability plan. Mayor Nutter promised to make Philadelphia "America's greenest city," in his inaugural speech, and he has largely delivered on that promise. Implementing 14 goals, Nutter vowed to lower governmental energy consumption by 30%, double the number of jobs in green-related roles, and divert 70% of solid waste from area landfills. A six-year plan, altogether, Nutter's original vows are showing huge improvements in the city's overall consumption and environmental performance. In 2010, Philadelphia received the Siemens Sustainability Award in the Large Community category.
Songdo, South Korea
Lastly, and on another end of the spectrum, we have Songdo, South Korea--a city just 60 miles outside of Seoul--a city, that is, built entirely from scratch atop South Korean swampland. Initially, this may seem in opposition of standard environmental initiatives; however, the city's facilities and buildings (including South Korea's tallest building) all meet or exceed LEED standards. Being the first LEED-certified neighborhood in South Korea, Songdo represents a collective idea of developmental masterminds who've begin factoring sustainability into the very core of their design projects.
Overall, these cities--vastly different--provide inspiration the world over, whether overcoming horrific conditions like filth, poverty and violence--or the latter, building a city solely with sustainability in mind. Also showing that the benefits of such projects address not only environmental concerns, but also have massive impacts, socially, it sincerely shows that any city can begin a very successful environmental or sustainability plan.