Cities are now the economic powerhouses in America. Most Americans live in urban areas, and the top 20 cities countrywide generate the majority of the country’s GDP. They also are responsible for creating the majority of waste, emissions, and pollution. As local leaders search for ways to mitigate the negative emissions from their cities, they must also consider the health, economic and standard of living of residents. Increasingly, a new solution is being implemented: make sustainability the default.
Retrofitting buildings, transitioning to renewables, and converting to mass transit are only a small sample of some of the steps that cities are taking to decrease their environmental footprint. And while these positive changes are critical elements of moving towards sustainability—they are also costly, time consuming, and face bureaucratic hurdles. A better approach is to develop intelligently in the first place.
Implementing a sustainable default is a strategy already underway. For instance, city leaders in Palo Alto, California have adopted new rules for construction—making sustainable materials the default. They have also implemented plans to achieve carbon neutral energy supplies and to drastically slash the amount of waste sent to landfills. Austin, Aspen, Burlington, Greensburg, Indianapolis and countless other cities have made similar commitments—recognizing that city governments have the power to implement sustainable action plans that improve the environment and their community.
Sustainable cities are not just good for the environment. They are good for the economy, for businesses, and most importantly, for residents. And increasingly, advancing climate solutions is becoming a political winner for local and community government officials. Check out how to transition to climate solutions in your community by visiting Path to Positive.
Cities are the 21st-century battleground for mankind’s adoption of sustainability. It is in cities and their surrounding urban areas where 54 percent of the world’s population live, including 270 million Americans.
Cities, rather than farms or factories, are now the largest driver of economic growth. Our top 20 metropolitan areas account for 52 percent of our national GDP. It is inside our cities where we convert most of our consumerism into garbage, emissions and excretions. Most of the pollution we breathe is either sourced inside a city or created to generate electricity for a city. Our daily lives are now tied to the ability of municipal infrastructure to withstand or repair the damaging impacts of storms made more intense by global warming.
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