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Sustainable City Example: Characteristics and Its Future

by | Aug 10, 2022 | Sustainability

Cities around the world are at the heart of the environmental degradation spiral because they generate so much waste, and greenhouse gases, and are subject to energy overconsumption.

This is why the concept of sustainable city and green city is gaining a lot of attention. The reason to turn city sustainable is population explosion, climate change, and global warming that’s putting a lot of pressure on the human race.

What is a sustainable city?

The term sustainable city is used to describe the development of a community whose citizens have high environmental standards and strive to preserve natural resources.

Sustainable cities also called green cities are designed to provide access to nature and public green spaces to improve public health and mental well-being. These cities consider the social, environmental, economic, and resiliency of the people who live there.

The goal of a sustainable city is to create a place for present generations to enjoy and to leave a better environment for future generations. Among the many ways to create a green city is by planning its infrastructure with the future in mind.

These eco-communities focus on urban green spaces as these solve many problems at once. Urban green spaces improve pollution control, public health, and property values.

Importance of sustainable city

Cities are now at the front line of public health, economic, and climate crises. These crises are posing massive challenges to urban management and their ability to function as a whole.

Climate change and global warming are not just the reason to make urban areas more sustainable. Rising temperatures and natural disasters are expected to be more and more frequent. And the population explosion threatens to make things even worse.

The idea of sustainability in city is to bring together urban infrastructures and nature to improve the quality of life of its citizens and at the same time try to repay the “ecological debt”.

The development of eco-friendly cities responds to a strong need in terms of adaptation to the impacts of climate change. Here’s why:

Problem in city

The current environmental crisis is highlighting the share of responsibility cities has for global warming and climate change. It is becoming urgent to change the way of life through sustainable development.

One of the most important aspects of a sustainable city is its ability to reduce its environmental footprint and contribute to the health and well-being of citizens. In a world where global warming has already reached alarming levels, making cities sustainable is vital.

Developing a greener metropolis requires integrating various sectors to reach a common goal, and reduce harm while maximizing multiple benefits. A sustainable city recognizes the importance of public green spaces and has a plan in place to create these spaces.

While not every metropolis can afford to build a Central Park, many have devised creative ways to integrate green spaces into their urban fabric. Meanwhile, both green and non-green sustainable cities have recycling and composting policies.

The more city of green actively enforces these policies, the more likely they are to achieve the desired effect. Overconsumption is a major contributor to environmental degradation. A city’s efforts must focus on reducing the amount of waste generated.

This can be accomplished through sustainable city planning and a long-term shift towards renewable energy, vertical gardens, a reliable supply of alternative transportation, and a commitment from households to reduce energy and water consumption.

Scientists and urban planners are now integrating objectives related to the reduction of greenhouse gases into their strategy through better sustainable city planning for the development of urban areas. 

What is sustainable city planning?

To be sustainable, metropolis needs to be inclusive, resilient, and environmentally friendly. Sustainable city planning is an innovative and practical approach to land use and its impact on the environment and natural resources.

This kind of planning involves many disciplines such as engineering, environmental science, architecture, material science, biology, law, economic development, transportation, and technology among others.

All these help bring new sustainable solutions to urban planning problems. Green city planning help integrate nature with urban infrastructure as well as the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind.

Sustainable city planning involves addressing the needs of the entire population sustainably. It also contributes to better land use and improves urban areas into healthier and more efficient spaces.

13 characteristics of a sustainable city

Walkable and bikeable

There are many benefits to walkability in an urban area. Walking in a sustainable community can improve public health while also saving time and money. Walking reduces air pollution and promotes efficient time use.

Walkable communities also allow residents to save time by avoiding traffic and commuting. The streets and sidewalks in walkable neighborhoods are designed to make them safe and easy to navigate

In the US and Canada, urban planners are looking for ways to reduce pollution from cars, and are turning to bicycles as a means to achieve this goal. Walking and biking can even reduce the obesity rate.

Bikeability is an important factor in promoting a city green, and the importance of bicycles cannot be overstated. Walking and biking are the most sustainable way of moving around without affecting the environment.

Hence this also reduces CO2 emissions while promoting healthy living. The city of Copenhagen is the best example where there are 675,000 bicycles and just 125,000 cars.


The benefits of the metro are many and include improved air quality, lower transportation costs, decongestion, and increased social and economic well-being. Moreover, people are more productive because they do not spend time in traffic.

Furthermore, the metro is more eco-friendly and efficient than traditional transportation systems as it does not cause air pollution and produces much less sound pollution all that while carrying a large number of people.

Charging station

The importance of a charging station for electric vehicles is a significant factor in ensuring the success of a sustainable city. During the last couple of years, there has been a surge in interest in electric cars.

A lot of manufacturers and new market players are focusing on the electric vehicles market. A lot of people have already made their choice about electric vehicles but there is a need for new infrastructure to support this market.

Charging stations is an important component of a sustainable community since the people living in it are more environmentally and health conscious. Logically, people in an eco-city will opt for an electric vehicle. Ultimately, a charging station is an asset that benefits the entire society.

Solar farms

The importance of solar energy in an eco-metropole cannot be overstated. Solar energy is the cleanest and infinite resource available on earth. Using solar energy provides energy as well as improves the quality of air.

Solar power promotes energy independence and it also helps avoid deforestation, environmental degradation, and damage to habitats for energy alternatives. Switching to clean energy is essential for sustainability in cities.

Solar power can help ensure equal opportunity in urban areas by providing electricity to communities without grid connections. This can also help citizens save money on electricity bills if they have solar panels.

Green building

Green buildings are infrastructures that are designed, construct and operate to limit their impact on the environment. There are many advantages of such a building in a sustainable city. These benefits include reduced maintenance costs and energy bills, as well as better water management.

Vertical farms

Agriculture and livestock breeding are big contributors to greenhouse gas. Currently, the agriculture sector generates 19-29% of the global greenhouse gas emission.

It is estimated that by 2050 the world will need to produce 50% more food and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change is already devastating the food supply in the world.

The importance of vertical farms is increasingly recognized for their environmental benefits. Growing crops in a greenhouse with the aid of natural light can reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Vertical farming systems are an environmentally friendly and viable option to reduce pollution. Vertical farms can be installed anywhere in a metropolis. Crops are grown on vertically stacked shelve one upon the other.

This system means that cities can feed a lot of people in a more eco-friendly manner. The greenest city produces its fruits and vegetables.

Since the city produces locally, there is no overproduction which can reduce waste. They only produce what the citizen needs. This also implies consuming simple and unprocessed products. And citizen can even produce their own vegetable through permaculture.

Green spaces

Green spaces are crucial for sustainable cities. In addition to promoting healthy living for residents especially children and pregnant women, these areas also encourage citizens to engage in green-space activities.

With green spaces, more people will be exposed to nature and adopt more sustainable behaviors. In addition, green spaces can reduce obesity and other diseases associated with unhealthy lifestyles. It can also possibly help us reach carbon neutral.

Green spaces can also accommodate both community and ecological needs thus promoting recreation, natural habitat, and also providing space for growing food.

Vertical forest

Planting trees in urban areas is very complex due to the lack of land and space. The concept of vertical forests is a practice where trees are planted vertically on urban buildings. The plants are spread across the building’s façade.


Recycling can also help to boost the local economy, generate new businesses, and foster a healthier community. Furthermore, recycling helps you teach your children the importance of responsibility and initiative. Recycling also reduces waste which benefits the environment.

In addition to improving the environment, recycling in a sustainable city can help the community by creating jobs for people who can process used materials while also extending the lifecycle of products.

Better resource management

A proper waste and water management system are critical for a livable metropolis. Instead of throwing waste that ends up polluting the environment. Recycling and composting are adopted for the disposal of waste in green cities.

But some of the waste can also be used to produce energy in a process called energy recovery. In an eco-friendly city, water management is of vital importance. More cities are capturing stormwater and using it for agriculture, industry, or even potable water. Some are even harnessing seawater through desalination.

For instance, urban areas can collect rainwater from roofs and reuse it for toilet flushing and lawn watering. The benefits of collecting rainwater are numerous. Not only is it free from harmful chemicals and pollutants, but rainwater is soft and safe to drink.

Energy efficiency infrastructure and appliances

A sustainable urban area needs energy-efficient infrastructure to meet its citizens’ needs and help the town meet its goals. In addition to lowering GHG emissions, energy-efficient infrastructure supports economic growth. An example of energy-efficient infrastructure is smart buildings.

Access to public resources

The well-being of citizens is the utmost priority in a self-sustainable city. To guarantee the well-being of its residents, necessities like easy access to transportation, garbage collection, quality education, proper healthcare facility, public safety, and many more are needed.

Conscious consumerism

A conscious consumer makes more sustainable choices. They research the brand, the materials used in production, and the workers who made the item. They also study how waste is generated and degraded.

These actions, coupled with a shift in consumer habits, can create a sustainable community. These actions can also tackle fast fashion which is highly detrimental to the planet.

Good sustainable city planning practices can have a positive impact on citizen’s life as well as on the environment. Thus all this brings a lot of benefits along the way.

Examples of sustainable cities

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is the most eco-friendly city in the world. Green initiatives are the leading priority for the city of Copenhagen. The town continually invests in green alternatives to offer high quality of life for its resident.

Denmark’s capital is also set to become carbon neutral by 2025. It is also a place where people prefer two-wheeler instead of cars. Only 29% of the household in Copenhagen own a car and the metropolis keep introducing new cycling lane to facilitate bikeable. It also encourages organic eating where 24% of food sold is organic produce.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, a city of 3.47 million residents is one of the most famous places in the world. since World War I, Berliners started to value green spaces and grow their own food to be self-sufficient. Since then the trend has remained constant where everybody is environmentally conscious.

And now with all the trends going on in the electric vehicle industry, Berlin has installed more than 400 electric vehicles (EV) charging points to encourage citizens to adopt EVs.

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki is a place that holds the environment and the planet as a whole in its heart. Tourism is the biggest contributor to Helsinki’s economy and around 75% of hotel rooms are certified as environmentally friendly.

Most residents have some allegiance to some sort of environmental plan from food to waste management and energy consumption. The metropolis is also developing sustainable living communities.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is also a city investing heavily to help its citizens live a more sustainable lifestyle. Sweden’s capital aims at removing the use of fossil fuels by 2040. It is also implementing new policies that encourage a greener society.

The city is also encouraging bio-fuel generated from sewage waste, to power vehicles around the town. It is also reusing wasted heat from a stadium to warm over 1000 flats.

Reykjavik, Iceland 

Iceland is the most peaceful place to live or holiday at. Aside from its exceptional landscape the country’s capital city, Reykjavik is considered one of the top ten eco-friendly cities. With its relatively low population, Reykjavik plans to become carbon neutral by 2040.

The metropolis aims to promote only walking and cycling, but also the use of public transport. It also aims at tripling the number of hydrogen buses by 2030. And the city encourages the usage of electric vehicles.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam was one of the first cities to outline sustainability measures. This metropolis is mostly associated with cycling since it is the main form of transportation. In terms of vehicles, the city authorities are trying to reduce emissions by introducing more electric vehicles.

Around 300 charging points are being installed around the city of Amsterdam. Homeowners are installing solar panels on roofs and growing their own foods. The metropolis also encourages citizens to purchase produce from local farmers’ markets. This move is not only sustainable but also puts money back into the local economy.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is one of the most innovative and eco-friendly cities in the world. Its resident enjoys a very sustainable lifestyle. Local authorities focus on waste management, where currently 80% of its waste is diverted away from landfills.

The city authorities are pushing for bans on certain products that are causing damage to the environment like plastic bags and water bottles.

Vancouver, Canada 

Vancouver is one of the perfect cities to visit and live in due to its surroundings of ocean, forest, and mountains. The metropolis has launched the Greenest City initiative which has realistic goals that can be achieved in the near future.

Vancouver produces the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in North America, which highlights the efforts of local authorities to combat the environmental impact of its metropolis. Its citizens have sawed a 23% increase in green jobs, a 26% increase in local food jobs since 2013, and 23% of Canada’s CleanTech companies are located in the city.

Future of sustainable city

The future of the world is largely at stake in the management of cities and their inhabitants. Cities around the world are economic and innovation hubs and home to more than half of the world’s population. But they also exert negative pressure on earth.

The main objective is to fight climate change and produce a better living space for the ever-increasing population. Faced with an emergency, the production of clean and economical energy is at the heart of the cities of the future.

The tech sector is one of the pillars of a sustainable future. Cities are increasingly realizing that Internet of Things (IoT) technology can improve public services, healthcare, infrastructure, and security, increase efficiency, and many more.

In fact, cities are already implementing many IoT tools in their daily operations to collect large amounts of data on activity. With smart city initiatives, everything will be data-driven and automated powered by artificial intelligence.

In a rapidly growing urban area, leveraging big data is highly beneficial. Data can help cities make better and inform decisions faster. By combining scientific and technological development with urban planning, big data applications can improve city administration.

Ultimately, data can reduce administrative costs for city management. Artificial intelligence solutions can be used to process data to create more efficient transport networks, and optimize water and energy usage.

With detailed and precise data, cities optimize processes and can save money and energy by reducing waste and increasing efficiency in public services. And, AI can help optimize resource use, as it can identify when and where there is an unusual usage or wastage.

City infrastructures and buildings will have more energy-efficient systems and will depend mostly on renewable resources. Everything will be smart from smart buildings and smart offices to smart spaces and smart homes to allow efficient management of resources.

The urban structure will be designed and implemented with the latest technology to consume less energy making them eco-friendly. Shaping cities to be eco-friendly will be biomorphic which means city forms by life.

Future green cities will be also extremely innovative not only in terms of energy and technology but also in transportation. Even if sustainable cities encourage the use of bicycles and walking, there will always be the need for vehicles.

The world has seen a boom in the advancement and implementation of electric cars in recent years. The rise of electric cars has been accompanied by steep price reductions. The price of a battery-powered vehicle has fallen by more than 50% in the past decade.

Sales of electric cars are growing exponentially. Globally, there were an estimated 16 million electric cars in 2021 and it is projected to surpass 20 million before the end of 2022.

By 2025, up to forty percent of new cars sold worldwide will be electric. By 2040, nearly every new car will be electric. And while there are still many barriers to overcome before self-driving cars can be used, the impact on traffic flow will be significant.

Cars that will circulate in future green cities will be autonomous and electric. There is also a rise in ride-sharing in recent years which encourages people to share rides. And this method is highly sustainable and efficient.

There is also a rise in modular homes and wooden buildings which is cheaper and eco-friendly. While a wooden skyscraper is on the verge of a revolution, it presents the advantage of being quick and easy to construct, as well as highly sustainable.

However, these approaches are still in their infancy. Even if all these innovative approaches are at an early stage, they are undoubtedly going to be essential for the city of tomorrow.

Green cities are going to self-produce renewable energy to heat homes, power electrical equipment, ensure the mobility of its inhabitants, and support local industry.

Everything is designed to increase the capacity of urban areas to capture CO2. Advanced technologies, advanced services, and big data will be at the service of the common good. And advances in carbon capture technology will make more good for cities by reducing their temperature.

Final words

In the coming decades, cities around the world will have to make drastic changes to keep thriving. Sustainability is no longer an exciting futuristic approach but it must now be a driving force.

All the challenges that cities are facing, also offer some kind of solution at the same time. Cities of the future will be bigger, greener, more sustainable, and most importantly technology-driven.

In a sustainable city, walls will become green and industrial wastelands will become gardens. Vertical farms will spring up to supply food to city citizens and reduce the energy cost of transporting agricultural commodities.

All these features and solutions have been developed through a lot of trial and error over years. The best we can do is to implement a maximum of these sustainable features in future development.