According to the UN for 2014, 54% of all people on the planet live in cities, and the world is moving towards further urbanization. Cities, in addition to economic opportunities, provide access to the basic things that each of us needs: housing, clean water, electricity, sanitation. Providing such benefits in a limited area is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
Megalopolises are now facing a real challenge: will they be able to cope with road collapses, reduce emissions of harmful substances into the atmosphere, provide housing and access to infrastructure for everyone? Urboecologists, together with futurologists, come up with the concept of eco-cities, where carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere will be minimal, energy will be taken only from renewable sources, and the stone jungle will be in harmony with the ecosystem. While projects are being developed, some modern settlements are already trying to get closer to their dreams. Here are a few initiatives that are helping to make cities greener.
Urban vegetable gardens
The time has come when the city is tired of itself. Fruits and vegetables from supermarkets are no longer happy, parents want to share with the younger generation their knowledge of where cabbage comes from, residents of megacities get tired of stressful work and want to be closer to nature. So, agriculture is loved more and more, and urban gardens are gaining popularity.
In 2009, Marko Clausen and Robert Shaw, after a trip to Cuba, planted a mobile garden called Princess's Garden in an urban development in Berlin. They were inspired by the combination of urban and country life in Havana, where office buildings are located next to carrot beds without bothering anyone. Why not? Back in Berlin, they found a vacant lot in the city center, rented it, and set up a portable garden in tubs and plastic drink bottles. At the first call, a hundred active citizens gathered to clear the territory.
Now Clausen and Shaw are working with schools and kindergartens, showing children where vegetables come from. Anyone can work in their garden. There is a cafe on the territory of the mobile vegetable garden, where dishes are prepared from local products. Marco Clausen and Robert Shaw actively promote the idea of urban gardening, and also participate in international exhibitions around the world. The organizers of the project show by their own example that changing the space of the city is within the power of the residents themselves, and it does not take a lot of money to create such a village corner. They do not wait for investors or government officials to plant gardens in the wasteland, but instead grow them on their own. In 2012, the local administration was going to sell a plot under a vegetable garden to developers, but Berliners loved a piece of the eco-city of the future so much that they signed a petition to keep it in its original place.
Similar projects exist in other countries. For example, Minsk dwellers, inspired by the "Princess Garden", have created their own city garden. The farming movement is strong in the US metropolitan areas. In Brazil, there are similar initiatives: city residents collect organic waste, and then project participants compost the waste and enrich the land with organic fertilizers in other parks and urban gardens. The idea of creating something like this has been hovering in the polluted air of Moscow and St. Petersburg for a long time. In the summer of 2016, the Dacha in the City project was opened in Perovsky Park. In St. Petersburg, attempts were also made to set up garden beds in the urban space.
Probably, only the lazy one over the last year has not criticized the system of separate waste collection in Russia: processing is not established, there are no containers, people are not used to sorting waste.But attempts to change the situation continue: for example, the "Separate Collection" movement organizes educational campaigns and negotiates with officials. A map of waste collection points can be found at Greenpeace. She, however, is often criticized due to outdated information, so those who want to start sorting garbage are better off checking the collection points near their home on their own.
While Russia is far from ideal in terms of waste processing, there are places on the planet where landfills and incinerators have practically ceased to exist. The concept of zero production is becoming more and more popular: it implies that city residents first try to produce as little waste as possible, and then sort and recycle the waste that does appear.
The small Italian town of Capannori has achieved almost complete recycling of the garbage produced. Several years ago, residents disagreed with the construction of an incinerator in the city, and in 2007 they pioneered the experimental Zero Waste program. Over the five-year period, the authorities have established a system for collecting and sorting waste. At first, educational work was carried out: special containers with instructions were delivered to people at home free of charge. Later, the tax rate was lowered for families that threw out less garbage.
People organize their lives so as not to produce garbage: they do not use plastic bags, they buy at farmers' markets, buy things in second-hand shops
Local farmers also benefited from the program: now their produce was sold in local stores, bypassing retailers, and without packaging. Residents come to the store with their own milk can, container for loose products and shampoo jar. Thus, it is possible to reduce the amount of waste by 90 thousand plastic bottles per year. The authorities have also established a system of drinking fountains in public places. Even the manufacturers of coffee machines went forward and began to make capsules from a new material. As a result, the level of recycling of the generated waste approached 82%. And all thanks to the concerted actions of residents and the authorities, regular education of the population.
The experience of almost complete garbage processing is still widespread mainly in small towns, where infrastructure is easier to organize and set up than in megacities. But the idea of minimizing waste production is good for its simplicity. For example, in France they decided to gradually reduce waste production, rather than increase its processing. French supermarkets have already ditched plastic bags, and by 2020, 50% of plastic dishes will be made from bio-based materials.
The Zero Waste program can also be supported independently, regardless of whether the city participates in it. People organize their lives so as not to produce garbage: they do not use plastic bags, they buy at farmers' markets where food is not packed or the packaging is made from recyclable materials, they carry a thermo mug and a container for food, buy things in second-hand stores and organize from yourself at home compost for organic waste. Perhaps, to some, this may seem radical and impracticable. But young men, girls and whole families show by their example that in a year of life you can not throw a single package in the trash can and that a conscious attitude to consumption changes life for the better. In apartments, where there is no excess of things, bags for bags and clogged wardrobes, it is easier to breathe. Moderate consumption also saves a significant amount of money that can be spent on something important.
Cities of sun and wind
Soon, we will all have to learn how to use renewable energy sources - that is, sunlight, wind, rain, geothermal sources, ebb and flow, and any other renewable resources that can generate "green" energy.Investing in alternative ways of generating energy was once considered utopian - now it is not only environmentally friendly, but also profitable. For example, Google is investing in the development of solar panels and wind turbines.
Germany is the leader among industrialized countries in the use of energy from renewable sources: in 2014, 27% of the country's electricity was produced from them. The US is also trying to switch to green energy, which has high hopes - for example, in Texas, it has become the cheapest. The growing competition in the market for alternative sources, as well as the development of technology, have made the once expensive method more affordable. As part of the experiment, several cities in the United States completely switched to energy supply only from renewable sources - Aspen in Colorado and Burlington in Vermont.
China is trying to reduce air pollution and switch to green energy, but the results are still unsatisfactory. China is a coal power, and the level of use of alternative energy sources is only 10%. The paradox is that people who produce solar cells in factories and factories often live in cities that are powered by a coal-fired power plant. The ecology in such places leaves much to be desired.
Each generation thinks about what it will leave to its descendants. Polluted air, rubbish cemeteries and waste are not the most desirable gifts
In Russia, green energy is far from being used everywhere. Renewable energy support programs exist, but the state does not take such initiatives seriously enough - oil and gas remain the main sources. The Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, Alexander Novak, in an interview with Ekho Moskvy, said that in Russia 60% of electricity is generated at thermal power plants, where gas and coal are raw materials. Of the remaining 40%, about 17% is hydroelectricity, 18% is nuclear generation and only 5% is renewable energy sources, including biofuels. Until 2040, this ratio will not change much: the share of renewable energy sources will grow from 1–2% to 4–5%.
To bring a bright future closer in our hands. For example, a wind turbine is relatively easy to build and use. You can learn how to design it yourself in a master class, then install a couple of wind turbines in your suburban area and forget about electricity bills. There are other options - for example, Tesla sells generators that provide a home with solar-powered energy.
Each generation thinks about what it will leave to its descendants. Polluted air, rubbish cemeteries and waste are not the most desirable gifts that children want from their parents. An eco-friendly lifestyle is not a whim or eccentricity, but a necessary condition for human existence on the planet.
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