12 Ways That Green Cities Help the Environment

Published Categorized as Sustainability
Green Cities - Tram

Green cities are the future of environmental preservation, as every aspect of a green city is designed to enhance environmental sustainability. This includes city design, governance, legislation, development incentives, resource allocation, etc. So, what makes “green” cities helpful for the environment?

Here are 12 ways in which green cities help the environment:

  1. They are designed to reduce traffic congestion.
  2. Green cities have better public transportation systems.
  3. They have more parks and other green areas.
  4. They recycle more of their waste.
  5. They have bike lanes.
  6. Green cities have more sustainable buildings.
  7. Green cities promote sustainable energy.
  8. They use “Green” technologies.
  9. Green cities support wastewater conservation.
  10. They support electric transport.
  11. They have high environmental standards.
  12. Green cities have more trees.

This article will discuss how green cities promote environmental sustainability. It will also look at proactive methods cities can use to become more eco-friendly.

1. They Are Designed To Reduce Traffic Congestion

One of the significant differences between green cities and other cities is the road infrastructure and traffic systems. Green cities are designed to allow for better flowing traffic and reduce congestion. They may do this with better road infrastructure and more effective traffic control systems.

Many green cities achieve a better traffic flow by using smart technology. This includes satellite information, real-time traffic data, smart traffic light sensors, and other cutting-edge technologies designed to improve traffic flow. Studies have shown that something as simple as maintaining the correct distance between vehicles will significantly impact traffic flow.

Many cities such as Dubai and Singapore have already implemented such systems to reduce pollution. A better traffic flow has many advantages for the city regarding economic viability and pollution control.

2. Green Cities Have Better Public Transportation Systems

While all modern cities have public transportation systems, green cities have more effective systems. The effectiveness of a city’s transportation system is often measured by the proportion of the population who use the transportation facilities.

More than 50% of the population regularly uses public transport in many green cities. In Copenhagen, the public transport system is so effective that more than 75% of the population commute on public transport.

Rail and bus systems are the greenest forms of public transport, and many green cities have well-developed rail systems. These transport systems are also well-connected, reducing the need for private transportation. For example, a green city’s rail and bus systems will cover most major residential and business areas, allowing for a streamlined daily commute.

Digital booking, transport passes, and other booking systems are also featured in these transport systems, making it easy for the public to book their rides. So, while most cities have public transport systems, they are better developed and more accessible in green cities.

3. They Have More Parks and Other Green Areas

If you take a stroll through a green city like San Francisco, you’ll notice the city’s accommodation of green spaces and parks. Green cities will have more green spaces per unit area as compared to congested concrete cities.

Take San Francisco, for instance. The city is named the greenest city in North America because of its policies. More green space means that the city has a lower net carbon footprint and may help combat pollution, warmer city temperatures, and achieve cleaner air standards.

Many new cities are using the concept of “integrated green spaces” to make the city more eco-friendly. Many city planning authorities have to follow new regulations for the minimum area allocated to green areas.

4. They Recycle More of Their Waste

Waste disposal systems are designed for sustainability in green cities. These cities have more effective recycling systems. Therefore, they will recycle more of their total waste in eco-friendly and cost-effective ways. For example, San Francisco recycles more than 80% of its total waste!

Futuristic green cities also convert their waste into energy sources. For example, Singapore has incineration plants that can produce 2500 Mwh of daily electricity. Not only does this improve waste usage, but it also reduces the effect of landfills. So, instead of creating large landfills with a high environmental impact, the city can allocate the land to green spaces.

Many European cities have separate waste disposal systems for plastics, paper, electronics, and other waste. This systematic approach to waste management creates a culture of recycling, which is more effective than awareness drives.

5. They Have Bike Lanes

Transportation accounts for a significant portion of the greenhouse gasses released in large cities. Green cities use various initiatives to promote eco-friendly transportation systems. They do this by creating bicycle and pedestrian lanes to encourage combustion-free transport.

Bike lanes are already a reality in many large cities worldwide. They have lower infrastructure development costs than public transport systems and encourage healthy living. Effective cyclist lanes are more effective in cities where residential and business hubs are closer.

However, bike-sharing systems introduced in larger cities can link to public transport, helping commuters move towards sustainable transport.

6. Green Cities Have More Sustainable Buildings

Green cities focus on improving the architectural design to create sustainable and eco-friendly buildings. They do this by using smart technology, natural designs, integrated systems, and greener resources in building design. Sustainable buildings are also less costly to manage.

Here are some initiatives present in sustainable building design:

Smart Technology Systems

Innovative technology can transform building design, making buildings more energy effective, easier to manage, and more eco-friendly. Smart power management systems, such as appliance controls and smart meters, can also help reduce electricity wastage.

Natural Designs

Green buildings go beyond the minimum requirements of building design. These buildings have better natural ventilation and lighting systems and make more efficient space usage. Green architecture aims to have a minimum environmental impact on the building design.

Here are some ways in which green buildings use architecture to create sustainable buildings:

  • Better ventilation systems for effective natural temperature control
  • Native vegetation in gardens to protect the local flora
  • Constructed with locally sourced materials
  • A space-saving design that blends in with the natural setting

Additionally, many green buildings have rainwater harvesting systems and water-saving fixtures. Green architecture is slightly more costly, but it creates more efficient buildings leading to cost savings in the long run.

Green Resources in Building Design

Not all building materials have the same environmental impact. For example, tiling and certain types of brick have a larger carbon footprint than wood and other natural materials. Green buildings also use recycled, non-toxic and non-synthetic materials, making them more eco-friendly.

7. Green Cities Promote Sustainable Energy

Fossil fuels are still the primary energy source for most activities within major cities. They are used in industry, transportation, residential areas, and other areas. Since direct energy usage makes up 75% of the CO2 emissions in major cities, many cities are shifting towards ‘green’ energy sources.

Many green cities have already made the shift towards renewable energy sources. Let’s look at renewable energy technologies used in green cities worldwide:

  • Integrated solar energy: Sustainable buildings have integrated solar systems that help power many homes and provide heating and cooling solutions. Solar systems are often subsidized in green cities, encouraging more houses to go solar. Similarly, many modern homes have built-in solar geysers that can significantly reduce water heating costs.
  • Wind farms: Centralized renewable energy systems that power green cities like Adelaide are often run on wind farms. Setting up wind farms can be expensive, but they are more consistent and generate more power than solar systems.
  • Biogas generation: Biogas is not as clean as solar or wind energy, but it’s a better alternative to current fossil fuels. Many green cities generate biogas from wastewater treatment plants and waste disposal plants from waste sources.

8. They Use “Green” Technologies

Green technologies or clean technology aims to use technology and electronic devices to help preserve and conserve the natural environment and resources. Green technology also aims to reduce the negative impact of human development on the environment.

The main examples of green technologies used in green cities are purification and waste management. Let’s look at some of these technologies used in green cities worldwide.

  • Solid waste management: This involves the purification, disposal, and reuse of solid waste. Green cities have effective recycling systems that can recycle solid waste, whether plastic, paper, glass, tin, or metal.
  • Water treatment: Water pollution has become rampant over the past century, especially in major cities worldwide. Not only does this lead to less clean drinking water, but it also destroys precious water ecosystems. Green cities have the infrastructure to purify water and prevent water pollution.

9. Green Cities Support Wastewater Conservation

Green cities are improving wastewater conservation techniques in order to minimize the usage of water resources. Wastewater management also helps with drought preparation, and cities can reuse wastewater for many important purposes.

These include:

  • Agriculture irrigation
  • Providing a critical water flow supply through rivers and streams in times of drought.
  • Providing water for parks and green areas.

Wastewater conservation techniques, although effective, are costly. This is why green cities have been improving the infrastructure and techniques for wastewater preservation to make it more cost-effective and, more importantly, improve recycled water quality.

10. They Support Electric Transport

Another difference between green cities and normal cities is that green cities support electric transport by providing the infrastructure to sustain them. Electric transport doesn’t generate the same greenhouse gas emissions as combustion vehicles, making it a greener alternative.

Electric transport in green cities is second to public transport when it comes to reducing transport impact on the environment. Green cities such as Singapore have made huge strides in promoting electric transport. As a result, the electric vehicle market has boomed recently in Singapore.

Green cities are also implementing strategies such as car-free zones to promote alternate modes of transport such as e-bikes or bicycles. Many cities have also set up charging stations to promote electric cars.

Although electric vehicles are not a long-term sustainable option, they are just one among many means of reducing emissions. Most electricity is still produced unsustainably, which may reduce the eco-friendliness of electric transportation.

11. They Have High Environmental Standards

Every green city has environmental standards and implements laws to help achieve those standards. For example, a green city will limit the volume of greenhouse gasses that industry and individuals can emit for the year. The administration will then set out rules to achieve these goals.

These regulations are extensive but can be broadly divided into three categories:

Laws Regulating Industry Emissions

Industry still accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. Many cities have laws limiting the emissions of certain gasses from factories and industrial complexes. These laws are usually stricter for industry near residential areas to protect population health.

Laws Regulating Resource Usage

Many cities are implementing systems that regulate the maximum resources households can use for effective resource preservation. For example, Cape Town regulated water supply to households based on their necessity during a period of drought. Technology such as smart meters is making these regulations easier to implement.

Other Emission Control Laws

Green cities have stricter laws on emission control. For example, many cities require vehicles without catalytic converters not to be allowed on the road. Similarly, they have laws on public smoking, preservation of natural resources, and waste management to achieve sustainability.

12. Green Cities Have More Trees

Green cities have more trees on the sidewalks, in regular gardens, rooftop gardens, and hanging gardens, making the city ‘green!’ More trees help reduce the city’s carbon footprint and the impact of global warming. An aerial view of cities like San Francisco or Cape Town shows the effect that trees have on environmental preservation.

These trees also help beautify the city and are an inexpensive way to reduce pollution. Some cities are experimenting with urban farming by planting fruit trees in public areas.

So, while most cities will have dedicated green areas for parks, a green city will have an integrated system, making it one large park. This is why modern green cities are called “urban forests.” Tokyo, Belfast, and Washington DC are examples of cities that have embraced the urban forest concept for nature preservation.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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