Green urbanism

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Green urbanism has been defined as the practice of creating communities [1] beneficial to humans and the environment. According to Timothy Beatley, [2] it is an attempt to shape more sustainable places, communities and lifestyles, [3] and consume less of the world's resources. [4] [5] Urban areas are able to lay the groundwork of how environmentally integrated and sustainable city planning can both provide and improve environmental benefits on the local, national, and international levels. Green urbanism is interdisciplinary, combining the collaboration of landscape architects, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, transport planners, physicists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and other specialists in addition to architects and urban designers.


Urbanization and environmental degradation

Urbanization and environmental consequences has always moved hand in hand. Odum in 1989 has called cities as ‘parasites’ on natural and domesticated environment, since it makes no food, cleans no air and cleans only a little amount of water for reuse [6] and Mayur (1990) has argued that such disharmony may result in environmentally catastrophic events (cited in Leitmann, 1999). [7] Leitmann mentioned such critical urban environmental problems as the ‘brown agenda’ which deals with both environmental health and industrialization. [7] He further pointed out that throughout the 19th century; developing countries were more concerned of the public health impacts of poor sanitation and pollution. [8] Moreover, he figured out the links between cities and ecosystems into three phases. Early Urbanization phase, starting from 3000 BCE to 1800 CE, was of more productive agricultural techniques yielding a surplus that was able to support non-agricultural concentrations of people. In second phase, Urban Industrialization (1800 CE - 1950 CE), energy consumption, particularly fossil fuels, was increased rapidly with mechanization of production. Since the 1950s the city/environment relationship has entered into third phase, Global interdependence, with rapid population growth and globalization of economy. Cities became the nodal points for large and globally interconnected flows of resources, wastes, and labor. Also, environmental problems are local, regional and global in scale, with cities increasingly contributing to global environmental damage.

Since the 1960s, the number of people living within towns and cities has grown exponentially. [9] According to the United Nations, 2009 is the year that the number of people living in urban areas surpassed those in rural areas. [10] With the current urbanized growth rate, it is projected that by 2050, the global population living in urban areas will be at 68% or slightly over 6.5 billion, with a global population of 9.7 billion. [11] With such a large population making the change to live in an urban area, it is vital to the health of cities to be able to provide enough resources and energy to the population by the means of environmentally sustainable resources. Meeting the growing production and consumption needs of urban populations causes an immense amount of strain on the surround suburban and rural communities. Nearby ecosystems can easily become compromised due to the physical expansion of urban areas.

Rydin (2010) accused the cities as both villains and victims of climate change pattern. Climate change affecting urban sustainability in regards to temperature increase which may exacerbate urban heat island (UHI) effect [12] and rainfall patterns (Rydin, 2010). Some other cities may also go through environmental catastrophes, like cyclone and storm, coastal erosion, sea-level rise, ground instability and changes in biodiversity. The whole scenario called for an urgent need to focus on rebuilding the urban ecosystem with given emphasis on the human settlements.


A glimpse on the history of green urbanism of the U.S. as found in Karlenzig's, et al. ‘How Green is Your City’ book (2007, 06–07). The concept had a gradual start in the late 1800s, when some large cities of the United States (U.S.) started using advanced drinking water, sewage and sanitary systems. Consecutively, public parks and open spaces were implemented in New York City. At the end of the World War II, the US government offered its citizens affordable housing through easy loans to boost up the city population and also introduced a new federal Interstate System; combined with a rise of automobile ownership, this gave way to a novel way of life called ‘Suburbia’. Meanwhile, in the 1950s, the inhabitants of other industrial cities, including Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland and Philadelphia, had already experienced greener suburban pastures. But all those green trees died because of old age or pollution, and were not replaced. The first book describing the comprehensive rebuilding of cities toward balance with nature is "Los Angeles: a History of the Future" (1982) by Paul Glover (activist). After a decade of the ‘Urban Renaissance’, the term used by Richard Rogers, came into light in 1990. Europe was never far behind to endorse urban sustainability. ‘The Green Paper on the Urban Development’ published in 1990 has been considered as a ‘milestone’ document in promoting sustainable city projects as a solution to global environmental role (Beatley, 2000). Lehmann (2010) mentioned that since then, cities have engaged themselves in a global-scale competition with each other in three distinct areas. Firstly, to be regarded as an attractive, creative place and a cultural hub to attract highly skilled workers and Melbourne, Australia was strong competition with arts, museum and university; secondly, to get recognition as a place for secure investment, mention worthy, Dubai, Shanghai, and Singapore have topped in attracting and facilitating global investment capital; and thirdly, to become a leader of green vision by technological advancement and offering environmentally sound lifestyles and also providing green jobs; Hannover and Copenhagen have done well in this field.

After the Earth Summit in 1992, different terms, including, sustaining cities, [7] sustainable cities (Beatley, 2000), sustainable urbanism (Farr, 2008), green city (Karlenzig, 2007), eco-towns, eco districts and eco-cities (Lehmann, 2010), have tried to reduce environmental impacts of cities and achieve sustainable development. Thus, to live more peacefully there. Both green and sustainable cities present fundamental opportunities to apply new technologies. For example, public transport, district heating, green buildings, and green design also bring major lifestyle changes such as, walking, bicycling, and reducing energy consumption. The major agenda of the above-mentioned cities are tackling global climate change, biodiversity loss, and also lifting themselves as ‘hosts’ of all environmental challenges.

It has been argued that the focus of these theories are mainly on adjusting the relationship between the city and nature and also creating new cities other than renovating existing cities. To address the gap, Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann used the ‘green urbanism’ theory that aims to transform existing cities from fragmentation to compaction.

Plans of Action

Global Platform on Sustainable Cities

Cities play an important role in the concept of green urbanism. Many cities succeed in harming the environment versus preserving it. However, numerous cities are already taking action to enhance the sustainability of growing urban populations. Mayors and authorities of larger cities are pushing for greener development projects and governmental services to adhere to. Various organizations are calling for a plan of action to promote cities as natural places that have the capability of generating multiple benefits to the environment. A program had recently been launched that is known as the Global Platform on Sustainable Cities. The platform was created in March, 2016. Within four years, it has grown to comprise 28 cities throughout 11 countries. It is committed to finding various approaches to waste management, environmental conservation, transportation, and energy production and consumption. Urbanized areas have the largest energy consumption and pollute the environment the most. [13]

'Die Energiewende' - The Energy Turnaround in Germany

Some countries have quickly become global leaders in green energy during the previous decade. Germany held the title for the nation producing the most amount of solar energy in the world, up until China amped up their green energy production. [14] Germany became one of the first industrialized nations to strive for an energy supply from renewable energy sources. The German society had been looking into green energy since the 1970s, but without much government support. After catastrophes such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, “Die Energiewende,” otherwise known as the energy turnaround became a main political movement within German borders. During the 2010s, Germany saw tremendous leaps in green energy production. From 2012 – 2019, [15] onshore and offshore wind capacity doubled from an installed capacity of 30,979MW to 61,357MW, and solar grew from 34,077MW install capacity to 49,061MW. [16] Much of this has to do with laws and incentives that were passed during the leadership of Angela Merkel, who studied physics and earned her doctorate in quantum chemistry and has been nicknamed as "The Climate Chancellor". Part of the Energiewende goal is to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 90% by 2050. The advancement of renewable energy technologies and the reduction in costs has greatly helped Germany and other countries improve their renewable energy sectors. Germany has vowed to dismantle all 17 of their nuclear rectors. [17] As of 2019, 6 nuclear reactors remain, with demolition dates set in 2021 and 2022 respectively. [18]

Copenhagen - The World's First Carbon-Neutral Capital

Cities around the globe are diligently working to reduce the amount of carbon emissions being produced. Denmark has quickly become a buzzling metropolis of green energy and eco-friendly projects. Copenhagen has vowed to become the world's first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. [19] It's a rather ambitious project, with most capitals planning to become carbon-neutral close to 2050, but Copenhagen is becoming a trailblazer and proving to others how easy it is to go green without going bankrupt. Officials are hoping to set an example to others and show that society also plays a large impact on achieving such goals. Copenhagen is constantly ranked as being the most bike-friendly city in the world. [20] The city is working to offer all-electric public transportation that is constantly moving, encouraging more people to ride a bike or take public transportation instead of driving vehicles. [21] To further shrink the carbon footprint of the city, Copenhagen has installed 62 wind turbines with a capacity to produce upwards of 158 megawatts. The city plans to have a wind turbine energy production capacity of 460 MW by 2025; more than doubling there capacity as of 2019. [22]


Beatley remarked that the vision of green urbanism includes programs, policies and creative design ideas for urban renewal and environment sustainability. Lehmann added the phrase also provides a proactive vision of what might be our zero-carbon, fossil fuel free future: overlapping mixed-use activities, living and working building typologies explored on the urban scale, infrastructures systems for renewable energies, public transport and individual energy-efficient building designs. According to Beatley, cities that exemplify green urbanism are:


It has been noted that urbanisation is widely understood to be a key driver of carbon emissions, resource depletion and environmental degradation. The principles of green urbanism are based on the triple-zero frameworks. These are zero fossil-fuel energy use, zero waste and zero emissions especially aimed for low-to-no-carbon emissions. Lehmann(2010) tries to put up a strategic case study of green urbanism with the seaport city of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. According to him, there are 15 such principles of green urbanism those are practical and holistic and integrated framework, including all the aspects needed to achieve sustainable development and encouraging best practice models, as follows:

  1. Climate and Context: Based on climatic condition prior to selected city, every sustainable design project needs to maintain a complexity within biodiversity, eco-system or neighbourhood layout. Enhance the opportunities offered by topographies and natural settings and use of the buildings’ envelope to filter temperature, humidity, light, wind and noise.
  2. Renewable Energy for Zero CO2 Emissions: Transform city districts into local power stations of renewable energy sources including solar PV, solar thermal, wind on-and-off-shore, biomass, geothermal power, mini-hydro energy and other new technologies. Some most promising technologies are in building – integrated PV, urban wind turbines, micro CHP and solar cooling.
  3. Zero Waste City: Waste prevention is better than the treatment or cleaning-up after waste is formed. So cities should adopt zero-waste urban planning in line with the manufacturing of metals, glass, plastics, paper into new products and better understanding of nutrient flows is needed to control global nitrogen cycle.
  4. Water:Cities can be used as a water catchment area by educating the inhabitants in water efficiency, promoting rainwater collection and using waste water recycling and storm water harvesting techniques. In terms of food yielding level, less water needed and drought resistant crops can be developed.
  5. Landscape, Gardens and Biodiversity:Introduce inner-city gardens, urban farming/agriculture and green roofs to maximise the resilience of the eco-system through urban landscape thus to mitigate UHI effect. Plants can be used for air-purification and narrowing of roads for urban cooling. Moreover, preserving green space, gardens and farmland, maintaining a green belt around the city is necessity to absorb CO2.
  6. Sustainable transport and good public space. Compact and poly-centric cities: An integration of non-motorised transport, such as, cycling or walking and bi-cycle or pedestrian-friendly environment with safe bicycle ways, eco-mobility concepts and smart infrastructure that is electric vehicles, integrated transport system of bus transit, railway and bike stations, improved public space networks and connectivity and a focus on transport-oriented development (Green TODs).
  7. Local and sustainable materials with less embodied energy: City construction by using regional, local materials with less embodied energy and applying pre-fabricated modular systems.
  8. Density and retrofitting of existing districts: The city is with retrofitted districts, urban infill, and densification/intensification strategies for existing neighbourhoods.
  9. Green buildings and districts, using passive design principles: The city, here, applies deep green building design strategies and offers solar access for all new buildings.
  10. Liveability, Healthy Communities and Mixed-Use Programmes: The prime concern of the city is for affordable housing, mixed-use programmes and a healthy community.
  11. Local food and short supply chains: High food security and urban agriculture by introducing ‘eat local’ and ‘slow food’ initiatives.
  12. Cultural heritage, identity and sense of place: A sustainable city with high air quality, no pollution for good health, fosters resilient communities having public space networks and modern community facilities.
  13. Urban governance, leadership and best practices: The city applies best practice for good urban governance through combined management and governance approaches and sustainable procurement methods, such as, environmental budgeting.
  14. Education, research and knowledge: The city with education includes technical training and up-skilling, research, exchange of experiences and knowledge dissemination for all in sustainable urban development.
  15. Strategies for cities in developing countries: Particular sustainability strategies are needed for cities in developing countries, such as, train local people to empower communities, creating new jobs and diversifying new job structures to harmonize the impacts of rapid urbanisation and globalisation.

Practical approaches

Many cities now have Sustainable Action Plans [23] which is a roadmap towards sustainability. Green Urbanism has grown from textbook methodologies to living action plans that survive beyond the election cycles of city mayors and counsellors.

Green Urbanism poses the demand for an applicable method in planning and management of a city. Wybe Kuitert proposed analyzing the city as a landscape system to reach at a more comprehensive approach towards this end. The urban landscape connects the cultural components, like identity and history with the natural physics of a city, like its geography, water and natural ecology. As such it poses a vision that can be applied to any city, rich or poor. [24] Discerning the potential quality of wild nature in the city is a first step to see what nature can give, if we only have an open eye for it. It is discovered through the potential vegetation map for the city. [25] There is a lot of Conferences talking about this Field as ‘Green Urbanism’ which will be held in Italy from 12 to 14 October 2016.

See also

Further reading

  1. Kevlar, M. (2017) How Green is Your City? An ongoing study of the anthropogenic footprints of cities. GreenScore Canada
  2. Evans, J. (2011). Environmental Governance. Routledge: London
  3. The Course Team (1973). The Future City. Social Sciences: a second-level course Urban Development Units 30–33. The Open University Press; Walton Hall Milton Keynes
  4. Schuyler, D.(1988). The New Urban Landscape: the redefinition of city form in nineteenth-century America. The Johns Hopkins University Press: London
  5. Karlenzig, W. (2007) How Green is Your City? New Society Publishers: Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada
  6. Riddell, R. (2004). Sustainable Urban Planning: tipping the balance. Blackwell: Oxford
  7. Burtenshaw, D., Bateman, M. and Ashworth, G. (1991). The European City: a western perspective. David Fulton Publishers: London
  8. Smith, M. P. (1988). City, State, & Market: the political economy of urban society. Basil Blackwell: Oxford
  9. Heynen, N., Kaika, M., and Swyngedouw, E. (2006). The Nature of Cities: urban political ecology and the politics of urban metabolism. Routledge: London
  10. Berg, Zuckerman, Magylavy (1989). A Green City Program for San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond. Planet Drum Books : San Francisco.
  11. Personal rapid transit (PRT) synchrotrain (en)

Related Research Articles

Infrastructure Facilities and systems serving society

Infrastructure is the set of fundamental facilities and systems that support the sustainable functionality of households and firms. Serving a country, city, or other area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function. Infrastructure is composed of public and private physical structures such as roads, railways, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, and telecommunications. In general, infrastructure has been defined as "the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions" and maintain the surrounding environment.

Sustainable living describes a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual's or society's use of the Earth's natural resources, and one's personal resources. It is often called as "earth harmony living" or "net zero living". Its practitioners often attempt to reduce their ecological footprint by altering their methods of transportation, energy consumption, and/or diet. Its proponents aim to conduct their lives in ways that are consistent with sustainability, naturally balanced, and respectful of humanity's symbiotic relationship with the Earth's natural ecology. The practice and general philosophy of ecological living closely follows the overall principles of sustainable development.

Carbon neutrality refers to achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emissions. This can be done by balancing emissions of carbon dioxide with its removal or by eliminating emissions from society. It is used in the context of carbon dioxide-releasing processes associated with transportation, energy production, agriculture, and industry.

Eco-capitalism, also known as environmental capitalism or (sometimes) green capitalism, is the view that capital exists in nature as "natural capital" on which all wealth depends. Therefore, governments should use market-based policy-instruments to resolve environmental problems.

Sustainable transport

Sustainable transport refers to the broad subject of transport that is sustainable in the senses of social, environmental and climate impacts. Components for evaluating sustainability include the particular vehicles used for road, water or air transport; the source of energy; and the infrastructure used to accommodate the transport. Transport operations and logistics as well as transit-oriented development are also involved in evaluation. Transportation sustainability is largely being measured by transportation system effectiveness and efficiency as well as the environmental and climate impacts of the system.

Green building

Green building refers to both a structure and the application of processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle: from planning to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation, and demolition. This requires close cooperation of the contractor, the architects, the engineers, and the client at all project stages. The Green Building practice expands and complements the classical building design concerns of economy, utility, durability, and comfort. In doing so, the three dimensions of sustainability, i.e., planet, people and profit across the entire supply chain need to be considered.

Sustainable urban infrastructure

Sustainable urban infrastructure expands on the concept of urban infrastructure by adding the sustainability element with the expectation of improved and more resilient urban development. In the construction and physical and organizational structures that enable cities to function, sustainability also aims to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the capabilities of the future generations.

Sustainable architecture Architecture designed to minimize environmental impact

Sustainable architecture is architecture that seeks to minimize the negative environmental impact of buildings by efficiency and moderation in the use of materials, energy, development space and the ecosystem at large. Sustainable architecture uses a conscious approach to energy and ecological conservation in the design of the built environment.

An eco-city or ecocity is "a human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems", as defined by the Ecocity Builders. Simply put, an eco-city is an ecologically healthy city. The World Bank defines eco-cities as "cities that enhance the well-being of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that harness the benefits of ecological systems and protect and nurture these assets for future generations". Although there is no universally accepted definition of an 'eco-city', among available definitions, there is some consensus on the basic features of an eco-city.

Sustainable city City designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact

Sustainable cities, urban sustainability, or eco-city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact, and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 defines sustainable cities as those that are dedicated to achieving green sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability. They are committed to doing so by enabling opportunities for all through a design focused on inclusivity as well as maintaining a sustainable economic growth. The focus also includes minimizing required inputs of energy, water, and food, and drastically reducing waste, output of heat, air pollution – CO
, methane, and water pollution. Richard Register first coined the term "ecocity" in his 1987 book Ecocity Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future, where he offers innovative city planning solutions that would work anywhere. Other leading figures who envisioned sustainable cities are architect Paul F Downton, who later founded the company Ecopolis Pty Ltd, as well as authors Timothy Beatley and Steffen Lehmann, who have written extensively on the subject. The field of industrial ecology is sometimes used in planning these cities.

A green-collar worker is a worker who is employed in the environmental sectors of the economy. Environmental green-collar workers satisfy the demand for green development. Generally, they implement environmentally conscious design, policy, and technology to improve conservation and sustainability. Formal environmental regulations as well as informal social expectations are pushing many firms to seek professionals with expertise with environmental, energy efficiency, and clean renewable energy issues. They often seek to make their output more sustainable, and thus more favorable to public opinion, governmental regulation, and the Earth's ecology.

Ecological design or ecodesign is an approach to designing products with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole lifecycle. It was defined by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan as "any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes." Ecological design is an integrative ecologically responsible design discipline. Ecological design can also be posited as the process within design and development of integration environmental consideration into product design and development with the aim of reducing environmental impacts of products through their life cycle.

Outline of sustainability Overview of and topical guide to sustainability

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to sustainability:

This page is an index of sustainability articles.

A zero-carbon city runs entirely on renewable energy; it has no carbon footprint and will in this respect not cause harm to the planet. Most cities throughout the world produce energy by burning coal, oil and gas, unintentionally emitting carbon. Almost every activity humans do involves burning one of these fossil fuels. To become a zero carbon city, an established modern city must collectively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases to zero and all practices that emit greenhouse gases must cease. Also, renewable energy must supersede other non-renewable energy sources and become the sole source of energy, so a zero-carbon city is a renewable-energy-economy city. This transition which includes decarbonising electricity and zero-emission transport, is undertaken as a response to climate change. Zero-carbon cities maintain optimal living conditions while eliminating environmental impact. Instead of using established cities, many developers are starting from scratch in order to create a zero-carbon city. This way they can make sure every aspect of a city contributes to it being carbon free.

Index of environmental articles Wikipedia index

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, includes all living and non-living things occurring naturally on Earth.

Green growth is a term to describe a path of economic growth that is environmentally sustainable. It requires a decoupling of economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts. As such, green growth is closely related to the concepts of green economy and low-carbon or sustainable development. A main driver for green growth is the transition towards sustainable energy systems. Advocates of green growth policies, argue that well-implemented green policies can create opportunities for employment in sectors such as renewable energy, green agriculture, or sustainable forestry.

Environmentally sustainable design is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of ecological sustainability.

Sustainable urbanism

Sustainable urbanism is both the study of cities and the practices to build them (urbanism), that focuses on promoting their long term viability by reducing consumption, waste and harmful impacts on people and place while enhancing the overall well-being of both people and place. Well-being includes the physical, ecological, economic, social, health and equity factors, among others, that comprise cities and their populations. In the context of contemporary urbanism, the term cities refers to several scales of human settlements from towns to cities, metropolises and mega-city regions that includes their peripheries / suburbs / exurbs. Sustainability is a key component to professional practice in urban planning and urban design along with its related disciplines landscape architecture, architecture, and civil and environmental engineering. Green urbanism and ecological urbanism are other common terms that are similar to sustainable urbanism, however they can be construed as focusing more on the natural environment and ecosystems and less on economic and social aspects. Also related to sustainable urbanism are the practices of land development called Sustainable development, which is the process of physically constructing sustainable buildings, as well as the practices of urban planning called smart growth or growth management, which denote the processes of planning, designing, and building urban settlements that are more sustainable than if they were not planned according to sustainability criteria and principles.

Green industrial policy

Green industrial policy(GIP) is strategic government policy that attempts to accelerate the development and growth of green industries to transition towards a low-carbon economy. Green industrial policy is necessary because green industries such as renewable energy and low-carbon public transportation infrastructure face high costs and many risks in terms of the market economy. Therefore, they need support from the public sector in the form of industrial policy until they become commercially viable. Natural scientists warn that immediate action must occur to lower greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change. Social scientists argue that the mitigation of climate change requires state intervention and governance reform. Thus, governments use GIP to address the economic, political, and environmental issues of climate change. GIP is conducive to sustainable economic, institutional, and technological transformation. It goes beyond the free market economic structure to address market failures and commitment problems that hinder sustainable investment. Effective GIP builds political support for carbon regulation, which is necessary to transition towards a low-carbon economy. Several governments use different types of GIP that lead to various outcomes.


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