Monday, December 3, 2012

Greening Cities And Green Technologies Are Going To Save Our Planet

It is evident that our environment is suffering from the overuse of fossil fuels and the destruction of land and trees.  There is a movement towards greening cities and everyone should be on board.  Cities are moving towards a more sustainable way of life and little things like planting trees in cities will help lead to a healthier lifestyle and furthermore a healthier earth.  There are a few things that cities can do to join the movement towards a greener earth.  

What does it mean to be a green city?

"Green" means applying a holistic approach to design, demolition, construction, and remodeling that minimizes a structure’s impact on the environment, the occupants, and the community by creating measures to reduce impacts including but not limited to the following: site planning, energy efficiency, water efficiency, materials and resource efficiency, indoor air quality and environmental quality.  Green cities have large amounts of greenery consisting of a variety of trees and plants.  Alternative energy sources are key to create a “green” sustainable city. 

What are the benefits of greening cities?

Researchers specifically looked at the impact of green areas in urban areas, they specifically looked at things like climate impact, pollution, noise levels, and traffic congestion.  Researchers found that in green areas there was cleaner air quality, lower noise levels, and an overall better quality of life.  Green areas can help with water quality and acts as a protector against harmful materials.  With proper landscaping, trees can help prevent nitrate from dissolving into the water and harming it.  Proper landscaping techniques can also help reduce surface water runoff, which keeps phosphorus and other harmful chemicals out of the water.  Positioning trees in certain spots can help with flooding and can prevent septic system overloads, by acting like sponges the trees roots absorb the water.  Studies also suggest that trees help to reduce smog and green house gases.

Chicago is a great example of a green city in the United States.

Chicago has been living with the motto urbs in horto, which means “city in a garden” for over 175 years.   Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley’s environmental commissioner Sadhu Johnston believes that cities are the answer to earth’s environmental ills.  He is determined to make Chicago the most environmental city in the country.  Chicago drew lots of attention when it planted a very large garden on the top of City Hall.  Now Chicago is recommending that all buildings should have “green rooftops” which consists of lush gardens.  Companies like Apple, Wal-Mart, and McDonald’s already have green roofs on their buildings.  The city has planned to have over 2 million square feet of rooftop gardens, which would be more than the entire countries cities combined.  A crucial element of green cities is having alternative renewable sources of energy.  Chicago is moving towards have a fourth of their city run by solar energy.  To help fulfill this goal, it has already attracted two separate solar panel manufacturing companies to set up shop out of the Chicago. 

When planting trees in cities, it is important to plant a variety of species of trees.

Trees are a very important part of making a city green.  Trees serve many roles in cities and are very beneficial.  They serve as sponges during storms and help to soak up runoff, which prevents severe flooding.  They also act as air filters and create cleaner air in cities.  How should cities go about planting trees?  When deciding what trees to plant and where many variables have to be considered.  Pests and diseases are known to wipe out large sums of trees and in order to prevent that from happening you have to plant a variety of different trees.  Different kinds of trees are immune to certain diseases and pests.  In order to prevent all trees from dying in an outbreak of a disease, planting a variety of species serves as an insurance policy.  This way not all the trees will be wiped out at one time.   In this video interview Marla McIntosh, who is a greening cities professor and plant science expert explains why it is important to plant a variety of tree species in cities.

Technologies that help make cities greener are becoming more relevant.

Victoria, British Columbia is looking to have one hundred percent of its waste treated on site.  Water will be treated and reused in flushing toilets and garden irrigation.  But one of the key technologies being used in this futuristic city is a biomass-gasification plant.  The plant will turn wood waste into energy for heat and hot water.  The biomass-gasification plant reduces disposal costs and landfill space, and in return turns waste into power and fuels.  These plants have endless benefits such as reducing space in landfills, decreasing methane emissions from landfills, and it greatly reduces the risk of ground water contamination from landfills.  Technologies like this are becoming more relevant in green cities; the key to become a sustainable “green” city is having alternative energy sources.  These biomass-gasification plants serve two key roles in green cities.  It is a waste disposal plant and an alternative energy plant that will help reduce the amount of fossil fuels used in cites.  As the years go on, more cities will have these technologies and it will serve as a starting point of moving to a more sustainable lifestyle. 

Photo Credited to chicago-roof.jpg

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