7 Things I Wish Every City Would Do to Make Urban Living Even Greener

4. Community Solar Power

photo: Powerhouse Museum via flickr

There are plenty of ways to get green power into your home, but one way which I wish would be expanded actually comes not from civic leaders but from community organization. It's the One Block of the Grid model, and for homeowners looking to purchase their own solar panels it can lower the costs of ownership significantly.

This obviously won't work in areas built up with taller apartment buildings: The roof space of the building I live for example is far from sufficient to supply all 12 floors of apartments with enough power from the sun. But in places where rooftop solar power is appropriate—whether for homes or businesses the 1BOG is certainly worth expanding.

A number of US cities already are in on the act, with more expected soon; here's the list of participating cities.

5. Curbside Pickup for Compost

photo: Ladywood Road Allotment via flickr

If you've got a backyard, even a small one then building your own compost bin is a perfectly feasible and very much green thing to do. But many urban dwellers simply have no space to do so, or despite their green intentions don't want to deal with composting themselves. Which is why I wish curbside or building-based composting programs were more prevalent.

In my building for example you already are bringing down all your recyclables to be brought out and dealt with by the building management, so why not just add compost waste to that as well? To be fair, a program such is this is starting in my building but this is the exception rather than the norm. It needs to be pushed and expanded to become as ordinary as separating recyclables from trash.

6. Good Covered Farmers Markets

photo: Wikipedia

The virtues of good farmers markets are well established, and in those areas which already have a good local food network, what I'd like to see expanded is better infrastructure for farmers markets—spaces dedicated to this, at least to make them more established than just a collection of trucks with tarps and tents.

Not that I particularly mind buying my produce in this manner, and there are certainly virtues to this approach, but when I think of some of the wonderful indoor markets in London, or half a world away, some of the beautiful food centers in Singapore, which are roofs over collections of small-scale market stalls, these have an air of permanence that even something like the Union Square farmers market in New York just doesn't have.

7. Great Community Gardens & Green Spaces

photo: Matthew McDermott

While great large public green spaces within a city are wonderful, in dense areas that don't already have these spaces laid out small and frequent community gardens can really do wonders. All it takes is a vacant lot, some community organization, plus some action and encouragement on the part of the city...Sometimes just in the form of getting out of the way.

To use an example close to my home, the East Village and Lower East Side in New York have a growing number of great, small (sometimes even just twenty feet wide) community gardens and parks. Some streets have one on every block. They are all in vary states of upkeep, styling, and growth but that's the joy in them. Even the most basic of them (and some truly are pretty basic) offers a break from the ordinary street and chance to reconnect with soil and greenery.

The city doesn't even have to get involved expect at the most simple level: Providing a framework for them to protect them from being usurped by developers. Everything else can and should be a natural outgrowth of the micro-locality surrounding the park or garden.

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Tags: Car-Free | Community Gardens | Farmers Markets | Public Transportation | Renewable Energy | Solar Power | Urban Planning | Walking