The Future of Sustainable Communities

When you picture a city, what do you think of? Smog? Overcrowding? Bumper to bumper traffic? While these unfortunate realities are often the case in major cities across America, urban community life has a future in sustainable, environmentally conscious practices, which we are seeing take root across the country. As we push our natural resources to their limits while pushing the capabilities of urban communities themselves, we must look to sustainability to maintain our urban lives and make a lasting effect on our global future.

While cities only take up four percent of our earth’s surface, a staggering 50% of the world’s population resides in them. This figure is due to grow higher, as 50% of the world’s population is expected to live in city centers by 2030. A future in city life can only be accommodated by incorporating sustainability into urban futures. The modern sustainable city combines resources with the future in order to plan for the future and save the health of the entire community. In order to understand how city life and environmentalism coexist and how modern urban centers must preserve their futures, one must dissect the modern sustainable city into their developments in transportation, energy, agriculture, and waste management.

Fig. 2- Modern public transportation- Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_transport

Sustainable Transportation

Transportation is a staple in any modern community, and in an urban setting, it is vital to keep a city running. All forms of transportation, whether they be public or private, are necessary to keep a city on its feet in today’s connected world. While a necessity, many forms of transportation rely on fossil fuels, furthering a dependence on nonrenewable fuels. Private transportation companies, such as the innovative (and now famous) Tesla Motors, have made drastic developments in sustainable, eco- friendly transportation. Major car companies, both domestic and abroad, have embraced a future in implementing zero emission, fully electric cars, moving private transportation in America in a sustainable direction.

Fig.3 – The progressive Tesla Model S- Source:http://www.barrons.com/articles/tesla-its-future-in-four-tweets-1492122557

As private enterprises take steps towards sustainability, one of the most critical factors in promoting sustainable communities is widely available: eco-friendly public transport. Public transportation not only inherently gets cars off the road and reduces further co2 emissions and fossil fuel consumption, but many urban centers are turning to hybrid and natural gas powered buses. This is a major step towards sustainable community living and fosters a global community around eco- friendly public transportation.

Fig. 4- Hyperloop, the potential future of public transport- Source: http://hyperloop.global

In addition to the progress these steps symbolize, innovators in transportation are taking progress to new levels. Elon Musk, chairman of Tesla, epitomizes the future of public transportation with his Hyperloop prototype. In this visionary form of transportation, travelers may have the option to commute at extremely high speeds and at low cost to the environment. In the future, we may see travelers commute from sustainable urban communities such as L.A. and San Francisco within minutes, connected by this rapid transit system. With sustainable developments in transportation, our modern connection and community links will be faster than ever without the unfortunate negative effects on our environment.

Sustainable Energy

As developments in sustainable transportation shape the future of urban life, cities themselves need power in order to function. Massive electricity plants that power our cities are often out of sight and out of mind, chugging away on fossil fuels and powering urban communities from dirty power.

Fig. 5- The current energy norm, coal power- Source: http://ohiocitizen.org/bruce-mansfield-coal-power-plant-idled-because-of-low-power-prices/

Thankfully, many cities are harvesting solar energy from rooftops, recycling heat, using wind power, and adopting natural gas to consciously make a difference in creating sustainability in their communities. This vision of a future in renewable energy is exemplified by Costa Rica and their transition to only using renewable energy. Costa Rica is a pioneer in sustainable energy, showing the possibilities on powering entire nations on clean energy sources.

Fig. 6- The Reventazon River hydropower dam in Costa Rica- Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/costa-rica-renewable-energy-electricity-production-2016-climate-change-fossil-fuels-global-warming-a7505341.html

In addition to reducing reliance on outdated power sources, the future of urban sustainable power lies in improving infrastructure and energy delivery systems. With global warming threatening our future, we need to prepare and protect central core energy delivery systems.  If we implement more up to date power systems, less energy will be wasted and the same amount of energy will go farther. While changes like these can be rather extreme for urban communities, we need to remember that fostering sustainable energy practices in the community is vital to promoting environmentally conscious populations worldwide.

Sustainable Agriculture

Another vital component in moving towards a worldwide environmental conscientiousness lies in the food and farming industry. Our increased reliance on industrial agriculture has created a system of dependence on industrial, commercial, and processed food. The unfortunate truth is that industrialized, genetically modified, and highly processed foods have become staples in many of our diets, yet industrialized agriculture poses major risks to human health and safety and devastates farmland and the environment.

Fig. 7- A community garden in the Bronx- Source: https://communitygarden.org/resources/10-steps-to-starting-a-community-garden/

The current status quo of industrialized food is daunting, but the future is bright with developments in sustainable agriculture. Through embracing eco-friendly farming techniques that protect nature, public health, and global welfare, agriculture can not only grow community but can encourage sustainable practices in all of us. In addition to these agricultural developments, individuals in urban settings have the potential to change their own neighborhoods by implementing community gardens. By sharing gardens with neighbors, the entire community has the chance to grow together and grow a culture surrounding sustainability.  It’s important for each of us to learn about the systems in place in our own communities, and to invest in sustainable food systems. If you’re interested in learning about the sustainable agriculture industry, check out LoaTree’s Better World Series here. 

Waste Management

Waste is always a hard issue to tackle when it comes to urban planning. The current systems of waste disposal have resulted in contamination and pollution, destroying ecosystems and the environment. Additionally, increased plastic waste has led to massive trash buildups in our oceans, polluting marine communities in addition to our own.

Fig. 8- The sad reality of a garbage dump- Source: http://imgur.com/gallery/TNZQs

While this continues to be a worldwide problem, urban centers have the opportunity to take steps to combat this waste disposal issue; Cities like Seattle, for example, have instituted curbside compost systems, bringing organic recycling to all. Additionally, many cities are taking steps to reduce plastic waste by banning plastic bags, implementing legislative measures, and investing in technologies that benefit our environment. The future of sustainable waste management is evident in RegenVillages self-sufficient communities in Almere, Netherlands. This sustainability focused enterprise creates a fully self-sufficient community that turns waste into resources, creating a looping system that not only manages waste but harvests it.

Fig. 9- Regen Villages in The Netherlands- Source: https://www.treehugger.com/culture/housing-development-designed-be-fully-self-sufficient-energy-food-waste.html

Communities that fight against disposable and one-time plastics — like RegenVillages in the Netherlands — exemplify the future of sustainable communities and where we are headed.

Regardless of where you live, it is important to look to sustainable practices to preserve our community life. By understanding the future of sustainable transportation, energy, agriculture, and waste, our communities have the chance to bond together and support a future that promotes sustainability and ecocentrism. Even little changes in our communities have the strength to make a big difference in our future and to preserve our planet for generations to come.

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