What Sustainable Innovations Are Cities Rolling Out?

The COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted our sense of normal and forced many cities to reconsider how they view sustainability. Shutdowns have resulted in fewer greenhouse gas emissions, raising questions regarding what more cities can do to promote sustainability over the long term.


A more sustainable future requires cities to think beyond current plans and envision how a better future should look. Sustainability in cities has the potential to positively transform how municipalities interact with citizens and how citizens view the places they live.


Smart Technology: Sustainability Already Exists in Cities

Many assume sustainability in cities means smart technology with sensors and data-tracking capabilities, but cities do not always have to invest heavily to increase efficiency. Most city governments already have access to crucial data — city buildings and services offering online services present opportunities to track and leverage data.

One of the easiest ways to maximize sustainability in cities comes through K-12 school energy management. Public schools receive a portion of their funding from local governments, and bond elections often decide district improvements. Since schools have a unique opportunity to take advantage of energy management platforms with advanced analytics, including cloud-based analytics, the city can see tangible results immediately.

Look no further for how to maximize the value of smart data than Indianapolis Public Schools. The district has cut energy use by 26 percent and recently earned Goal Achiever status in the Better Buildings Challenge through smart energy management and a partnership with Cenergistic. This example reflects how public agencies are moving toward a more sustainable future, and cities need to take note.


Innovation Trends: The Impact of COVID-19

Nationwide shutdowns and restrictions have altered the way cities function, both temporarily as the country adjusts to a new normal and perhaps long-term as new trends develop.

Transportation has seen major change over the first half of 2020. Social distancing and mass quarantine dealt a blow to the public’s faith in public transit. Demand for personal vehicles — e.g., cars, electric scooters and bikes — has soared in response. These forms of transportation minimize contact and are perceived as safer for those who must travel for work or essential activities.

How have sustainability efforts in cities adapted to these recent trends? To encourage alternatives to carbon-emitting vehicles, communities around the world have boosted access to personal rideshares — electric scooters and bikeshare stations — repurposed street lanes to create temporary walkways and banned cars in downtown areas. With nationwide shutdowns hastening the “retail apocalypse,” some cities such as Seattle have turned massive retail spaces into residential housing. These efforts can stay in place, at least in some fashion, even after the pandemic ends.


Natural Sustainability: Increasing Quality of Life Through Green Planning

Quarantine and social distancing have reignited the debate over public parks. Advocates argue parks give necessary recreational space with enough room for people to social distance. Investing in efforts to expand or improve public parks is not only an effective way to boost sustainability in cities, but can boost residential quality of life.

One trend to keep an eye on: Pittsburg is repurposing a post-industrial stretch of land into a recreational park. Potential benefits include added hiking and biking trails, opportunities for hands-on learning for local students and a repopulation of the native bald eagle population.

For cities without the space necessary for park development, a recent innovation promises to bring greenery to the quarantined. The Vertical Forest, a project to fuse trees into the architecture of residential and commercial high rises, adds aesthetic beauty to neighborhoods while boosting local air quality. The trend has caught on in Italy and could soon make its way to America.


The Long Future: Working Toward a Carbon-Neutral City

There are more innovations on the horizon which could radically alter our perceptions of a green city. Specifically, alternatives to waste collection and plentiful clean energy have many cities planning for a more sustainable future.

The Italian town of Capannori pioneered a program that boasts nearly zero-waste efficiency. Through municipality-wide initiatives to minimize waste sent to a landfill — e.g., separating waste beyond trash and recycling to include the collection of organic waste, providing financial incentives for home composting and subsidizing reusable products to prevent the discarding of their disposable counterparts — this small city has provided a blueprint for reduced waste hundreds of cities across the world use, while creating jobs and reducing overall costs.

Cities and towns across the country continue to pledge carbon neutrality within the coming decades, from metropolises as large as Boston to the college town of Laramie, Wyoming. A commitment to divesting from fossil fuels makes sustainability in these cities a top priority, setting them on course for a greener future.


Take the First Step Toward a More Sustainable City

While a carbon-neutral city may or may not be your city’s long-term ambition, there are movements you can start today that build toward the end goal of a sustainable city.

Find out how your city can unlock the benefits of sustainability through an energy conservation program by contacting Cenergistic online or calling 1-855-798-7779 calling today.


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