Can you really make your city greener? By 2025, almost 85% of the world’s population is expected to live in an urbanised area. While this could drastically increase our carbon emissions it also gives us the power to make a difference in the eco-friendliness of the cities we choose to inhabit. To get you started, here are four ways you can make a positive environmental impact on the cities you live in.
What Activities can you do to Make Your City Greener?
1. Plant Trees
By planting trees in urban areas, we can lower global carbon emissions, decrease greenhouse gases, and reduce energy use. In cities, there is heat and CO2 emissions from buildings and vehicles. New trees absorb and eliminate heat and CO2 from the atmosphere by acting as carbon dioxide sinks.
For example, plant trees in vacant city lots and sports fields to reduce heat and carbon emissions. Planting trees in urban areas increases the amount of urban green spaces. Phoenix, Arizona has 970 square feet of green space per person, making them one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S. in 2021. A combination of city parks and tree planting sites have the potential to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and absorb heat from the sun during summertime.
How do you plant a tree?
- Find a tree that thrives in your environment. Look up what planting zone you are in. Trees such as Oak, Beech, and Maple are best for the environment as they grow large and can cover a greater area. This allows them to absorb heat.
- Once you decide on the tree. Research it to know what type of sun and soil it prefers. You want to make sure your tree gets all the nutrients it needs and will thrive in your soil.
- Dig a hole three times wider than the root system with 25% of the root ball above ground level.
- Add enriched soil that cover the whole root ball and then add mulch on top.
- Water the tree immediately after planting.
By 2025, almost 85% of the world’s population is expected to live in an urbanised areaStatista
2. Work with Local Representatives
Trying to make significant changes to make your city greener might seem like a tall task. But your city representatives and leadership can help.
- Call your city council to see who oversees green initiatives.
- Try finding a local non-profit focused on sustainability and climate change. They usually have a staff dedicated to working with local leadership to push eco-friendly initiatives through.
There are often many volunteer opportunities within your city and with these nonprofits that allow you to contribute to the mission. Here are a few things you can inquire or campaign about that will help make your city greener:
- How does your city address Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) buildings?
- Do you have incentivised composting laws?
- What type of recycling legislation is in place?
- Are there any green solar panel grants available?
3. Reduce Emissions from Commuting
When living in a metro area or city, eco-friendly commuting that reduces your carbon emission is easier than more rural areas, but can still be challenging depending on your area. Biking and walking are always great options in a city during the summer. But if you need to go a substantial distance or the weather is prohibitive, public transportation is great alternative to driving.
For many, the metro or city buses are not only an eco-friendly alternative to driving a gas car, but more affordable. However, if your city doesn’t have a good metro or public bus system in place, there are still multiple ways you can reduce your carbon footprint when commuting.
- Try buying a hybrid vehicle or an electric vehicle instead of gas. The Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Bolt EV are two good and affordable options.
- Explore the idea of reducing the number of vehicles in your household and carpooling. Apps like RideScout, Trees for Cars, and even Uber and Lyft, can help you find people to carpool with.
4. Clean-up Your Local Parks and Waterways
As you walk around your city, you will notice that waste and trash have a way of piling up and creating a huge mess in the parks, alleyways and on the riverbanks. While making lifestyle improvement to be more environmentally friendly is great for the future, there are certain things you can do to make a direct impact.
- Contact your local park and offer to pick up trash.
- Urban areas are responsible for a massive amount of habitat loss due to the overuse of pesticide and artificial fertilisers. To help ensure that your parks and waterways are as pristine as they can be, learn about common pollinators like bees and their favourite plants, and how you can help to foster a habitat for them.
We Have the Power to Make Positive Changes
So, the answer to is yes! You do have the power to make your city greener. There are a lot of ways individuals can work to make their city greener. It could be working with city committees, councils, and even the Mayor’s office to enact new programs, legislation, and incentives. If there is a lack of nonprofits advocacy in the area, consider starting your own advocacy group. Or your work could be as simple as getting your friends and family together to plant trees in vacant lots, by houses, and in parks. Even if your greening activities might not feel like much, if everyone just does a little to enact environmentally friendly change within a city, the overall impact we create will be substantial.
Photo by Annie Spratt