Green Cities

GREEN CITIES ARE designed and operated to have a minimal environmental impact. Green cities embrace design, construction, and operation of urban environments that are environmentally friendly, less-toxic, less-wasteful, and work more with nature than conventional cities. Pedestrian-friendly green cities are built for people, bicycles, and mass transit (as compared to conventional cities often constructed to optimize automobile transportation). Green cities are powered as much as possible by a combination of renewable energy sources such as wind, geothermal, and solar energy.

Green cities can also be known as eco-cities, eco-friendly cities, earth-friendly cities, environmentally preferable cities, and sustainable cities. Although it is unlikely that any modern city has obtained true sus-tainability, green cities have sustainability and even restoration of the natural environment as a goal. All cities are on a green to gray continuum, where gray represents the polluted post-industrial fossil-fuel powered city and green represents the way the area was before human intervention, the green economy based on ecologically favorable practices, or a mixture of both. The location of any city on the spectrum of gray to green will soon be able to be quantified by a forthcoming rating and certification scheme for neighborhood environmental design, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Congress for the New Urbanism. LEED-ND integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green building.

Green cities often are built on new urbanism principles, also known as traditional neighborhood design, neotraditional design, and transit-oriented development. New urbanism is an American urban design movement that arose to reform all aspects of current sprawling real estate development and urban planning, from urban retrofits to suburban infill. New urbanist neighborhoods are designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs (mixed use), and to be walkable. This movement seeks to restore a civil realm to urban planning and a sense of place to communities. It is a tangible response to the failed modernist planning in the United States that has resulted in unchecked suburban sprawl, non-human scale, automobile dependence, and the abandonment and pollution of the urban centers of many modern cities.

The green city represents the ultimate challenge in urban and human planning. The city must be planned so that all the elements that make it up (people, technology, nature, and material byproducts) are harmonized in aesthetic, safe, and sustainable relationships. Putting urbanism and nature together provides humanity with an opportunity to create cities that are healthy, civilizing, and enriching places in which to live. Green cities are not only designed and constructed, they must be governed and operated in an environmentally conscious manner to remain green. Green city governments use environmentally preferable purchasing programs, commercial and residential green building incentives, composting and recycling services, public transit incentives, carpooling coordination, car sharing programs (public or private), and other tools to reduce the impact of the operation of the city on the environment.

There are several advantages to living in a green city. Green cities are easily navigated by people on foot and by public transport because they are designed to the scale of the pedestrian and seek to promote a symbiotic relationship between urban development and public transportation. This reduces family transportation costs, congestion, and eliminates stressful and time-wasting automobile commutes. Those living in green cities run errands and commute using their own bodies for locomotion, therefore, they benefit from improved physical wellness. Inhabitants of green cities also enjoy health benefits because of reduced air and water pollution. Reduced air pollution improves outdoor air quality, reduces air-pollution related illness and deaths, reduces smog, and smells better than conventional cities. Reduced water pollution improves drinking water, provides opportunities for outdoor water activities (such as swimming and boating) and enables local fish to be eaten. Green cities encourage green building for construction of both homes and work places, which in addition to improving indoor air quality, saves residents and owners money on operation due to improved energy and water efficiencies. Green cities support local food and regional agriculture, and many green cities even have community gardens where residents grow fresh fruits and vegetables. This fresh produce again improves the health of the residents and in general tastes better than less fresh food. Green cities are also literally green. They promote the rebuilding of essential soil and water resources, while increasing plant and animal biodiversity. This nature, which can be found within the city, improves mental health of the occupants.

These advantages make green cities very desirable places to live. This is reflected in the increased property values found in green cities and the aggressive competition to be listed among the environmental leaders by the Green Guide on Earth Day. The top 10 green cities are awarded for providing energy-efficient, least polluting, and healthy living spaces, and whose green achievements set the standard for others. These standards are currently of large importance due to the lack of federal direction. Cities across the United States and the rest of the world are taking environmental stewardship into their own hands and reducing their environmental impact. In relation to climate change, city mayors working to lower greenhouse gases best exemplify this: several hundred have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement.

SEE ALSo: Automobiles; Green Buildings; Green Design; Green Homes.

BIBLIogRAPHY. Timothy Beatley, Green Urbanism:Learning From European Cities (Island Press, 1999); Herbert Girar-det, Cities People Planet: Liveable Cities for a Sustainable World (Academy Press, 2004); David Gordon, Green Cities: Ecologically Sound Approaches to Urban Space (Black Rose Books, Ltd, 1990); Gwendolyn Hallsmith, The Key to Sustainable Cities: Meeting Human Needs, Transforming

Community Systems (New Society Publishers, 2003); Mike Jenks and Nicola Dempsey, Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities (Architectural Press, 2005); Peter Katz, The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community (McGraw-Hill Professional, 1993); Richard Register, Ecoci-ties: Rebuilding Cities in Balance With Nature (New Society Publishers, 2006); R.B. Singh, Urban Sustainability in the Context of Global Change: Towards Promoting Healthy and Green Cities (Science Publishers, 2001).

Joshua M. Pearce Clarion University of Pennsylvania

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