Zero Carbon Cities You May Want to Consider When Moving
Going green has been all the rage in recent years, as families and businesses look to reduce their environmental impact and live a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. There are a myriad of articles on ways that individuals can reduce their water usage, energy consumption, and food waste to reduce their impact on the world around them. While individual change is great and a vital part of a global solution, dramatic impacts can be seen when entire communities and cities embrace a zero-carbon strategy that involves mass transportation systems, public utilities, and strategic land, water, and waste management.
What Exactly Is a Zero-Carbon City?
Simply put, it’s a city or town that over one calendar year sees zero (or negative) net carbon dioxide emissions from all energy uses. At certain times of the year carbon production may be higher than zero, as long as it’s offset by carbon capture later in the year. This requires a two-part strategy: a) reducing carbon emissions through the use of renewable energies, mass transportation and improved utilities management, and b) capturing and storage of the remaining carbon dioxide emissions through absorbing or scrubbing technologies. But planning and building a zero-carbon city is not without significant risks. In 2006, Abu Dhabi’s city planners had a visionary concept of building a zero-carbon ‘ecotopia’ in the desert, as the world’s first planned car-free, energy sustainable city. And while the project has had some success including office buildings that use less than half the energy needed for similar structures, the project ultimately failed due to falling oil prices, underdeveloped renewable energy sources and lack of public transport system.
As with all new technologies and systems, some applications of zero-carbon building and carbon capture systems have had more success than others and many are wonderful places to live. At the moment, no U.S. city has a completely carbon-free footprint but several have made significant strides in ecofriendly living. If you are interested in embracing and supporting a zero-carbon lifestyle, these cities might be just right for your family:
Winner of the “2017 C40 Cities4Energy” award for its excellence in building energy efficiency and clean energy systems, Chicago has managed to lower their CO2 emissions by nearly 3 million tons per year and are on track to reduce annual emissions another 10 million tons by 2020. From building more garden roofs, overhauling their extensive public transit system, and enacting eco-friendly policies, the city has made tremendous strides in developing low-cost, efficient alternatives to meet the city’s energy needs.
Fort Collin’s approach to carbon neutrality relies on engaging their residents and businesses in taking an active role in making more environmental friendly choices and joining with the city in pursuing its ecological goals. City officials work at the local level to directly influence the choices people make, offering access to new wind and solar farms, promoting recycling programs in all communities, providing incentives for the purchase of electric cars and energy efficient appliances. The City expects to exceed its goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 and possibly achieving true carbon zero status by 2050.
City and industry leaders in Los Angeles are making this city into a haven for electric cars, seeking to revolutionize transportation while dramatically reducing CO2 emissions on their roadways. In 2016 the city launched a bold plan to deploy fleets of electric cars for ride sharing into low-income communities, with 200 free charging stations. Today, Los Angeles hosts over 1,000 charging stations for motorists with the goal of having 25% of all vehicles being emissions free by 2035.
While New York might not be the first city that comes to mind when envisioning a pollution free environment, the city has made dramatic improvements in its air quality, water management, and power grid systems since 2000. The city wins C40 awards almost annually across a variety of categories including its approach to improving sustainable mass transit systems, and ensuring a more resilient energy grid, public parks, telecommunications networks, healthcare system, and water and food supplies.
Recognized for its innovative Climate Action Plans and inventories of sustainable energy systems, the city of Portland is a trailblazer in designing and embracing zero carbon technologies and city planning. Pursuing an ambitious goal of reducing emissions by more than 50% by 2030, Portland utilizes hybrid and electric vehicles in its city’s fleets and solar panel arrays can be found on the rooftops of most government buildings. Since 2001, Portland has also required that all new city-occupied buildings be built to rigorous green building standards developed by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, this picturesque community has a long history of attracting families who value its natural beauty and climate. San Francisco also happens to be the highest-ranking U.S. city for quality of living in Mercer’s 2018 world livability rankings, in recognition of its quality of environment, recreation, and public transport. As such, it is no surprise then that the city is often on the forefront of exploring green technologies and carbon free systems.
The residents of this sunny, oceanside community have been some of the earliest adopters of carbon neutral planning, launching their Sustainability City Plan in 1994. The city embarked on an ambitious plan to promote sustainable energy technologies, to not only reduce the city’s environmental impact but to also create jobs and new industries in local communities. The city’s green building ordinances set a high bar for energy performance in both residential and commercial structures.