Sustainable Cities of the Future

By Claire Gault

Although most countries agree that environmental protection is important for public health, China has made it their primary responsibility. The utter degradation of Chinese water, soil, and air has resulted in widespread health issues, and the government recognizes that change is necessary. As a result, sustainable innovation, by both the public and private sector, has blossomed in the past ten years. “Green space” is making its way into urban areas, especially in the city of Shenzhen. The amount of green space per capita is higher in Shenzhen than in the average US city. Although many Chinese cities have a long way to go, Shenzhen has set the standard for the cities of the future.

Shenzhen, China
Shenzhen is just one of the environmentally focused cities in China. The Green Building Evaluation Standard (GBES) and LEED Standards are used to evaluate other Chinese urban areas. Beijing and Shanghai actually lead the world in their number of “green buildings”. These buildings feature better insulation, sealed windows, renewable energy, and other qualifications that result in a lower emission output and energy cost. It looks like cost-effectiveness and sustainable vision are appealing to Chinese companies, so much so, that China is investing in “eco-cities”.

China is one of the few places in the world that actually decides where a city is going to happen. They actually build the city.

– US Green Building Council’s Jennivine Kwan

That’s right. China is literally bulldozing heavily polluted cities and creating new, ecologically harmonious cities from scratch. A prime example would be the “Tianjin eco city”, which is currently in construction and set to be completed in 2020. Free electric transportation is provided, public trash cans are topped with solar panels, and sand bricks absorb storm runoff water. This is an amazing transformation, considering that the Tianjin eco-city used to be a square mile of poisonous wastewater. The project cost roughly 1 billion yuan (163 million USD), and was entirely funded by the government. If this isn’t encouraging to environmentalists, I don’t know what is.

If you don’t have the ability to design and build an entire city (let me know if you do), think about some ways to incorporate sustainability into your life. RISE has countless opportunities to do so, through composting, growing organic food, bee-keeping, etc. Mia White, a freshman RISE student, aspires to build a locally sourced and zero waste tiny house during her time at MSU! To me, that exemplifies the “create your own opportunities” mantra. Domestically and internationally, sources of sustainable inspiration can be found everywhere. Incorporate some into your lifestyle, and live in accordance with our providing earth.


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