Diversely Sustainable Cities II: Philadelphia and Medellin

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    The Medellin escalator connects some of the city's poorest residents with opportunities in the city center. Photo: Courtesy MrGrau_2010 Creative Commons

The Medellin escalator connects some of the city’s poorest residents with opportunities in the city center. Photo: Courtesy MrGrau_2010 Creative Commons

In the second story of the Sustainable Cities sequence, we’ll look at two other diversely sustainable cities that may surprise you: Medellin, Colombia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin has been long known as a city of turmoil — both immersed in filth and historically recognized as the most violent city in the world. Medellin’s former mayor, Alonso Salazar, however, opted to shift Medellin in an entirely new direction.

Following the implementation of several new public transportation initiatives, the city has seen immense changes. Thanks, in part, to Salazar’s initiatives, Medellin now boasts of a public bicycle system, ride-sharing programs, and a savvy 1,300-ft. escalator that links Medellin’s formerly poorest neighborhood, Comuna 13, to the city center.

Medellin earned the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award — alongside San Francisco — issued by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy. San Francisco comes by no surprise, but Medellin’s award demonstrates that any city can undertake such initiatives and make very impressive strides in the right direction.

Since Medellin implemented these sustainability changes, the city has also seen a drastic reduction in its crime rates — demonstrating clearly that sustainability and environment can, perhaps, have positive social impacts, too.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The city of Philadelphia is about halfway to acheiving its goal of becoming the greenest city in the U.S. Graphic: Office of the Mayor, City of Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia is about halfway to achieving its goal of becoming the greenest city in the U.S. Graphic: Courtesy of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia

Philadelphia is another city not often acknowledged for its environmental savvy. Yet, like Medellin, the city has demonstrated impressive improvements since 2008, when Mayor Mike Nutter vowed in his inaugural speech to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the nation.

Halfway through a six-year plan, the city is well on its way to meeting the 14 beginning initiatives that make up the plan. Included are ambitious goals like these:

  • lowering the city government’s energy consumption by 30 percent
  • reducing city-wide building energy consumption by 10 percent
  • diverting 70 percent of solid waste from the landfill, and
  • increasing tree coverage toward 30 percent in all neighborhoods by 2025

Given that Americans generated 250 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2010 alone, Philadelphia’s waste diversion initiative is particularly impressive. Most of the initiatives are nearly halfway to their six-year end goal, demonstrating a strong commitment to the mayor’s efforts.

Furthermore, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is helping the city reach its goals with its Wayside Energy Storage Project. Designed to replace electricity consumed by the city’s subway system with energy captured and stored through regenerative braking. This project is estimated to lessen electricity by 1,600 megawatts annually.

Again, diversely different, but equally inspirational, both Medellin and Philadelphia remind us that all cities have the opportunity to become global leaders in sustainability efforts.

Ashley Halligan

Contributing Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

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Diversely Sustainable Cities: Naples and SongDo

 

Diversely Sustainable Cities: Naples and SongDo

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Citizens of Naples used social action to make their city green and beautiful. Photo: Courtesy Atillio Lombardo, Stock.Xchng

Citizens of Naples used social action to make their city green and beautiful. Photo: Courtesy Atillio Lombardo, Stock.Xchng

Sustainability may not be a new global trend, but it’s certainly growing. Long-standing environmental heroes, like Curitiba, Brazil; San Francisco, California; and Oslo, Norway, have inspired citizens across the globe to begin sustainability projects in their own cities.

Though “green” cities all far surpass environmental performance goals, they each have unique approaches and innovations, demonstrating that a collective commitment to the environment, paired with creativity, really can change the world.

Today, we’ll look at two diverse cities that are making huge environmental strides.

Naples

Trash is piled high along a street in Naples, Italy. Photo: Ashley Halligan

A decades-long problem: Trash is piled high along a street in Naples, Italy. Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Halligan

Naples, Italy is plagued with a decades-long trash crisis, mostly attributed to the Camorra—a local Mafia-like organization. Residential streets, alleyways, city parks, and even Vesuvius National Park are covered in waste, much of which is hazardous. In addition, many of the city’s historic monuments are tagged with unsightly graffiti.

Naples represents a different kind of movement—a movement of the people. In an inspirational social movement, residents have taken a stand and are slowly restoring their city to its former grandeur.

A recent article published on Triple Pundit stated, “Local activism, which takes the form of flash [street-cleaning] mobs, guerilla gardening, and innovative job creation, is certainly inspiring. But what is occurring in Naples could teach citizens around the world about how apathy from both government and business cannot be deterrents to revitalizing communities.”

Global organizations like Let’s do it! World have also become involved. Naples will be one of just 94 international cities to be a part of World Cleanup 2012—with the city’s focus primarily on the devastated Mount Vesuvius National Park.

Though it still has a way to go, Naples serves as a point of inspiration for frustrated residents the world over. With both passion and dedication, major changes can be made—with or without governmental or organizational intervention.

Songdo

SongDo was built as a green city from the ground up. Photo: Courtesy of Welix

SongDo was built as a green city from the ground up. Photo: Courtesy of Welix

Songdo, South Korea serves as an inspiration in an entirely different way. As part of President Lee Myung-bak’s 38-billion dollar stimulus package to encourage green and low-carbon growth, the first installment of Songdo was opened in 2008.

International architectural firm Kohn Pederson Fox literally built Songdo from scratch atop South Korean swampland. Just 40 miles outside of Seoul, Songdo is a solid demonstration that state-of-the-art development can be entirely sustainable—even in the case of an entire city.

Boasting 40-percent of open space, including a 100-acre Central Park, the city is also the first in South Korea to be a certified LEED Neighborhood. All of its buildings either meet or exceed LEED standards.

The design group also established underground parking, or parking beneath canopies to “minimize the urban heat island effect and maximize pedestrian-oriented open space above ground.”

Travelers will also find 25 kilometers of designated bicycle lanes, and 5 percent of parking capacity is reserved for low-emission vehicles.

With two vastly different approaches, both cities serve to demonstrate that any city can, in fact, be in compliance with high environmental standards and become a global leader in sustainability—a green hero.

Ashley Halligan

Guest Writer

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

 

Photo of Naples, Italy courtyard courtesy of Atillio Lombardo, Stock.Xchng

Photo of a Naples, Italy residential street (circa January 2011) courtesy of Ashley M. Halligan.

Photo of Songdo, South Korea courtesy of welix.