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How Can We Build A Sustainable City? A Kid-Friendly Guide

July 3, 2023 - Jenny Tsui

Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities (that’s 4.4 billion people!) and in the future, cities will grow even bigger. In fact, almost 7 billion people may live in cities by the year 2050. What will cities look like in 30 years? As the growing population leads to demand for even more of Earth’s resources, the time has come to find ways to make cities greener and more liveable. Read on and find out more about how we can build a sustainable city and why it is so important for the future and wellbeing of our planet and its inhabitants.

What Is A Sustainable City?

A sustainable city is one that is able to take care of its people for a long time. To do so, it needs to be able to face the challenges of the future. Can it provide food, housing, and electricity for a growing population without harming the planet? How can it adapt to the a rapidly changing climate?

How Can We Build A Sustainable City?

1. Clean Energy

Cities use a lot of power. Today, they use almost 80% of the world’s energy, most of which comes from burning fossil fuels. This is not sustainable in the long run as fossil fuels are not renewable – meaning they are a finite resource. Many scientists think that we will run out of fossil fuels within this century. Most importantly, they threaten the health and future of our planet by contributing to climate change

To make cities sustainable, we need to power them with clean energy such as solar and wind energy. These energy sources are renewable, which means that they will never run out.

Check this out next: What is Renewable Energy?

2. Green Buildings

As the urban population grows larger, cities need more homes, facilities, and work spaces to accommodate everyone. It is important that we build them in a way that reduces their impact on the environment. One way to do so is to build them with materials that are environmentally friendly. We can also design them to be more energy-efficient. Low-flow toilets, for example, can save water, while a “cool roof” that absorbs less heat can save energy by naturally keeping the building cool. Green buildings may even have their own solar panels to generate their own energy from the sun.

3. City Farming

You may have heard of rooftop farms and vertical farms – they are both examples of city or urban farming. A city may not have space for big farms, but it will likely have pockets of green spaces. City farming is the use of these spaces to grow produce and even raise small animals such as chickens. While we cannot rely on them to feed an entire city, tiny farms are a great source of food for small communities and neighbourhoods.

4. Waste Management

Waste management is a big problem in the world today. According to experts, we dump at least 2 billion tons of waste globally each year. Through recycling, reducing and reusing, cities can prevent waste from ending up in landfills. In San Francisco, for example, recycling and composting laws have helped the city cut 80% of its waste!

Do you want to challenge your friend and family to go zero waste for a week? Check out our Zero Waste Guide

Are There Any Sustainable Cities in the World Today?

Around the world, some cities already practice sustainability. Gothenburg in Sweden, for example, is one of the most sustainable cities in the world today. To get around, you can jump on a bike, an electric scooter, or use its wide range of public transport options from electric trams to electric buses. Sustainability is also a big theme for businesses. In restaurants, chefs cook with organic ingredients that are grown using healthy farming practices. Even shopping can be sustainable, too. Local brands use organic materials to make low-impact clothing. Second-hand shops promote the longevity of clothing, furniture, and books. 

Gothenburg topped the ranking for the world’s most sustainable cities five years in a row.

Gothenburg topped the ranking for the world’s most sustainable cities five years in a row.

Interestingly, Gothenburg was not always a green city. In the past, it was a polluted industrial town. With a vision and hard work, its government and people turned it into a leader in sustainability and its transformation now provides lessons and inspiration for cities around the world. We can learn from each other to achieve a sustainable future!

Check out this next: What are Sustainable Floating Cities?

About the Author

Jenny Tsui

Jenny is a writer and editor in the field of education. She is an aspiring environmentalist who hopes to inspire young learners to care for the planet – one article at a time!