Over the last 10+ years, we have worked with dozens of municipalities throughout the US on their sustainability initiatives. What are cities doing to address their impact? Everything! From studying their greenhouse gas emissions to setting reduction targets to implementing water and energy efficiency improvements to increasing renewable energy usage to increasing public transit, cities are reducing their impact. An impact that is being amplified as urbanization increases rapidly throughout the US and world.
Why are municipalities so powerful?
- Population Growth: Municipalities’ population growth is growing at unprecedented levels. According to the World Health Organization the “urban population in 2014 accounted for 54% of the total global population, up from 34% in 1960, and continues to grow.” Some estimates guess that 80% of the world population will live in cities by 2050. That is over 1 billion new people living in urbanized areas by 2050.
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Cities produce the majority of global GDP (we have seen estimates ranging from 60% to 80%!). This number is only supposed to increase as population increases.
- Resource consumption: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates that cities currently consume 75% of all natural resources and produce about 50% of global waste. This number once again is expected to rise.
- Greenhouse Gas Emissions: UNEP also estimates that cities currently produce between 60% and 80% of all GHG emissions making cities a critical participant and partner in the sustainability movement.
Per the statistics above, cities have the ability to make a huge impact but they also have a key advantage. Most (not all) municipalities have the freedom and ability to set goals and initiatives that directly resonate with their local audience by having a deep understanding of the various values, demographics, services available, cost of services, and available resources within their community. In return, they are able to set and make substantial headway on far reaching goals more efficiently and effectively.
In addition, cities act as a lab for innovative initiatives. Their successes (i.e., reduced costs, pollution control, etc.) and lessons learned help other governments (local, state, federal) improve upon their own sustainability initiatives (see ICLEI-USA for hundreds of great examples).
If you are looking for support on your sustainability initiatives contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We can help define sustainability initiatives and bring relevance and insight into setting community sustainability targets.
Disclaimer: The information presented above is based on the opinions and experience of the authors. The authors are not liable for any errors or omissions in this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.
Emily Artale, PE, CEM, LEED AP is Principal Engineer and Owner at Lotus Engineering and Sustainability, LLC. Emily has been working in the industry for nearly a decade and she has a background in energy management, sustainability planning, and water quality. Emily helps teams develop action-oriented solutions that will improve efficiency and integrate sustainability into current processes. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in environmental engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a Colorado native and spends most of her time outdoors with her family.
Hillary Dobos, MBA, LEED GA is Principal and Owner at Lotus Engineering and Sustainability, LLC. Hillary brings both expertise and creative thinking to working with clients which she draws from her experience as a consultant advising public and private clients throughout the United States, as well as the one tasked with embedding sustainability throughout a 25,000+ person organization. Hillary has served on various local and national boards focused on conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Hillary earned her B.A. in Art History and Economics from Bowdoin College in Maine and her MBA from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Hillary was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, where she currently enjoys life with her husband, sons, and moderately trained canine, Mr. Smiles.