A big truck, a leaky faucet, and a plastic straw... what do these all have in common? They are just a few things in our communities that are wildly harmful to the environment. However, there are several sustainable communities across the United States that are attempting to minimize the environmental impact of these and other common problems.
We as a nation have the power to have a massive impact on our environment. Living sustainably is a vital component in combating the negative effects that humankind is having on the world around us.
If you're looking to move to a more sustainable community or you want to help your community move more toward an eco-conscious collective, check out what's going on it the most sustainable communities in America.
Sustainable Communities Leading the Way
There are numerous cities around the world that are paving the way to a greener future. Many of these pioneers in sustainability are right here in the United States.
Whatever it is you want to do, "You can, in Portland." This is true for food, recreation, and even sustainability. Portland is one of the greenest cities around. The city provides its citizens with access to clean energy and more sustainable food options.
Portland also teaches its citizens how to be more sustainable at work and live a greener life at home.
For example, one impressive program that Portland has developed is the Sustainable City Government (SCG) program, which is focused on making the city operations greener and more sustainable. In fact, the program has saved millions of dollars in utility bills and has significantly reduced carbon emissions while the city continues to grow as a result.
Anything is possible in Portland – especially the hope of a greener future.
Honolulu, Hawai'i is a place that people all over the world dream to see one day. Yet most people don't think of it as a sustainable city. In fact, Honolulu is one of the greenest cities in the United States with programs like efficient waste management and renewable energy.
In particular, vehicle exhaust is a major air pollutant in Honolulu and, because of this, the city is implementing a plan to substantially reduce air pollution. By 2035, the city plans to have evolved its naval fleet to run completely on renewable energy and by 2045 they will have transitioned the community to clean ground transportation, as well.
When we think of Hawai'i, we don't often think of clean energy and carbon neutrality. As pioneers in the Aloha State continue to lead the way in green transportation, Honolulu may soon become synonymous with sustainability.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is an incredible city with a rich history – a history that is unfinished. In fact, San Francisco is still writing its history through its many green initiatives and will soon be widely known as one of the greenest communities in the United States with policies regulating eco-friendly land usage, building practices, energy generation and use, and neighborhood development.
Being a coastal city in Northern California, San Francisco is particularly vulnerable to both rising sea levels and catastrophic earthquakes. The Resilient by Design initiative focuses on revamping outdated construction, infrastructure, and public policy to make the San Francisco Bay Area more resilient to climate change.
San Francisco is a vibrant city that directs a great deal of its resources to sustainability and building climate resilience. Together, these policies will ensure that people will continue to enjoy the city of San Francisco and contribute to its rich history for years to come.
The capital of the United States, Washington, D.C., is not only the home to our political leaders, but also it is the home of great ecological leaders. Washington D.C. has begun implementing a variety of sustainable programs like public land preservation, freshwater collection and conservation, as well as the use of sustainable materials to prevent waste.
Washington was the first U.S. city to pass a law that mandates green building practices. Since the law's passing in 2006, the city has built new and refurbished buildings that promote both a healthy environment and lower utility bills.
Washington, D.C. is a pillar of democracy, but it is also a pillar of sustainable and green living.
The Global Ecovillage Network
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is a worldwide coalition of ecovillages. An ecovillage is a community that is culturally, socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable. There are more than 1,000 ecovillages worldwide with over 100 in the U.S., and each ecovillage is a citadel of sustainability and green living.
Every ecovillage around the globe takes an active role in preserving and restoring the natural and social environments in which they live. Because of this, ecovillages play an important part in the battle against climate change and they are a valuable asset in ensuring the longevity of our society.
Lessons From These Titans of Sustainability
So what does all of this mean for you? Well, there are several lessons that we can learn from these titans of sustainability.
Traditional energy sources are wreaking havoc on the environment around us. For example, coal power plants inundate the atmosphere with air pollutants. This is why it is important to utilize sources of energy that minimize their impact on the natural world.
Clean energy has become a staple in most sustainable communities around the globe. Implementing sources of wind and solar power – to name just a few – is a difficult process but is worth the reward.
Over time, environments will be eroded away by either natural or human-made means. The deterioration of the natural environment creates dangerous conditions that can do serious damage to human and wildlife populations.
Landslides, forest fires, and flooding are all threats of land deterioration. While these are serious threats, they can be avoided through land restoration. Land restoration is easy for anyone to do because it can be done on a small or large scale, and it does not require vast amounts of time and money.
A green building requires less raw materials and resources (like wood, oil, etc.) to be constructed. Additionally, these buildings utilize clean energy, conserve water, and minimize air and ground pollutants once they are in service.
Green buildings are valuable to society because their construction has a minimal impact on the environment and they continue to promote a healthy environment once they've been completed.
Climate change is inevitable and its effects can be devastating. For this reason, we must protect ourselves. Creating climate resilience is neither quick nor cheap. The process can take years and substantial amounts of money to complete, but the reward of safety from the ever-increasing threat of natural disasters is priceless.
If our communities aren't resilient, they could be swallowed by the sea or destroyed by a hurricane in an instant.
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