What does reimagining cities that are healthy for people and the planet look like?

One significant thing we need to do is offer an alternative narrative around what's possible with the time we have. Building a better future requires imagination, determination and grit. We need to think beyond the current limiting sustainability visions.

Words by Louis Oliver


ith the UN warning us that we have twelve years before the harm we have caused to our earth is irreversible, global warming can no longer be ignored. Humankind is in danger if sustainable practices that limit our carbon emissions do not become the model of our society, more specifically our cities, that produce eighty per cent of our planet's greenhouse gases.

Sustainable living is experiencing a growing interest because of increasing prices for energy; our natural resources are depleting at a distressing rate; our atmosphere is experiencing intoxicating pollution that's not slowing down. Even amidst the current global pandemic, which shows little has being done to affect the climate crisis. The concerns about climate change and diminishing resources are resounding through our societies, and people are demanding change.

Because most governments lack intentions, purpose, or definite plans for engaging in efforts towards a sustainable transformation of our cities once we are relieved from lockdown. The kind of change we need to seek engagement from local communities, corporations, universities, and NGO's from around the world that'll empower the governments to make lasting changes.

Less transportation and greener ways of mobilising

A report from Greenpeace Germany titled "Living. Moving. Breathing", ranks European cities on their sustainable transportation. Cities were rated based on their current public transportation modal. London ranked second because of the congestion zone, shared mobility, and expensive parking.

"The examination shows that charging motorists the true cost of travel deters the use of motorised trips. Often, car users are unaware of the true cost of their travel. The subsidies come in the form of free or cheap parking, no charge for the air pollution that the vehicle causes, the massive urban space occupied by roads, and the social costs imposed on other non-motorists."

A similar pattern emerges for the top-ranking cities; they're keeping in mind the necessities of pedestrians, cyclists and other road users and giving their needs prioritisation while planning.

Integration of public transport also plays a benefiting and encouraging role for commuters choosing to use public transportation the more preferred means of transport. An example of this has one card or tickets that permits a person to use different modes of transport on their journey. (Think Oyster Card.)

Develop better energy-efficient buildings

Sustainable design is inclusive of energy-efficient buildings. Solar panels are a sure-fire way to turn your home into a cost-efficient sustainable environment that does good for the planet and your finance that will save you indefinitely year after year. A manifesto from Greenpeace proposes the UK government to make it a requirement when building new homes.

Honest, reliable and clean power source

Renewable energy has two advantages: unlike oil, coal and gas, it will never run out, and it doesn't pollute our planet. In an article from Greenpeace, it states that the UK has some of the best renewable energy sources in the world. As it turns out, our islands, hit by wind and waves, are perfect for tapping into these power sources.

By increasing renewable energy will play a key role for governments to meet its commitments, and for us to have a chance of preventing the most dangerous effects of climate change from happening.

Reusing and repurposing what we have — a circular economy

At Good Not Great, we're advocates of a zero-waste economy. We believe as individuals, we can do our part to make conscious decisions of where we shop and what we buy, but the real change comes from companies and corporations to get their act together. Governments need to immediately implement city-wide Deposit Return Scheme for bottles boxes and containers of all materials and sizes. Also, governments need to introduce stricter regulations on the producers for single-use packaging. Producers must pay the full costs of managing materials after use, they must reduce waste, protect wildlife and support innovative designs that encourage sustainable alternatives.

Further reading for a greener recovery.

Greenpeace: A Green Recovery Guardian: UK public 'supports green recovery from coronavirus crisis'