Wide, Green Spaces
July 2, 2011
We salute cities that take the lead with their eco-efforts. From busways to green hotels, locally-sourced produce and innovative recycling, these five are particularly inspiring. By ANDREW BENDER
For decades now, the city of Portland in Oregon has been showing the rest of the nation – and the world – how green is done. In 1971, Oregon became the first state to legislate deposits for the return of bottles and cans, and in 1974, the city demolished a freeway to make way for park land. Since then, Portland has installed over 520km of bicycle lanes and even offers free bus and rail services in parts of the city centre. The city is also the epicentre of America’s locavore cuisine movement: many restaurants proudly advertise the use of locally-sourced produce and meats, while households by the thousands keep chicken coops in their backyards.
This city of 1.75 million in the Iguacu River region has become Brazil’s eco-capital. Green space per person has risen from less than 1 sq m in 1970 to 52 sq m today, due in part to efforts to produce seedlings in its city garden, of which 80,000 have been transplanted annually since 2007. About 85% of residents use its highly-efficient busway system, which has inspired similar transit systems in Bogota, Colombia, and Los Angeles, California. The government is continually investing in eco-projects: it offers tax breaks for green spaces in new developments and power buses with soya-based biodiesel, which is some 20 per cent more expensive than regular diesel but burns about 70 per cent cleaner.
Vancouver is routinely rated among the world’s most liveable cities, and it’s aiming to go one better: to become the world’s greenest city by 2020. The city has doubled the length of its dedicated bike lanes to more than 400km and built a light rapid transit system between the downtown area and airport, all within the last decade. Residents are encouraged to plant on public roads through its Green Streets programme, and rooftop gardens are now a status symbol. Travel accommodation in Vancouver is also becoming increasingly eco-friendly. Four hotels in the city are among only 30 worldwide to have received top marks (five green keys) from the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, which assesses hotels based on factors including conservation, land use, waste management and indoor air quality; another 19 local hotels have four green keys.
This island nation of 5.08 million people is a paragon of water resource management – and for good reason, considering its equatorial climate and limited groundwater. For starters, it boasts 14 man-made reservoirs as well as a sophisticated network of rivulets, canals and storm drains that serve as vast catchment areas for rainfall; while its futuristic factories of NEWater quadruple-purify waste water into drinking water. What’s more, 47% of Singapore’s 710 sq km is covered with greenery – up from 36 per cent in 1986. Singapore also boasts a floating wetland that naturally filters a reservoir in the country’s north-east; wetlands are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems, supporting a wide range of plant and animal life.
These numbers speak for themselves: 75% of Copenhagen’s household trash is recycled for home heating, and public institutions source 51 per cent of their ingredients from organic providers. Noma, the world’s top-rated restaurant, uses foraged Nordic berries, herbs and seafood instead of bringing in olive oil and foie gras from the Mediterranean coast. Need more? The host city of the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference 2009 has some 58 per cent of certified-green hotel rooms, and over a third of residents commute by bicycle. In fact, Copenhagen is so bike- and pedestrian-friendly that “to Copenhagenise” (a reference to reducing carbon emissions) has entered the urban planning lexicon.
ILLUSTRATIONS CHRISTIAN INTON