Planning for sustainable cities and towns is becoming more and more important. Air pollution, and solid waste are just some of the environmental issues that are evident in our society. Fears of rising temperatures, acid rain, ocean pollution along with others, are calling for changes in our laws and regulations regarding dumping waste and reducing our uses of oil, gases, energy, and solid waste. Communities are looking for ways to incorporate green living into their resident’s everyday lives and are working to reduce waste and energy consumption. Environmental issues and newer regulations to help combat these problems, effect planners and how they will go about planning for these places.

A few issues for planners regarding planning for green cities include transportation, residential housing, commercial buildings and planning for the disposal of solid waste. “Typically, solid waste just from households averages several pounds per person per day”. (Levy, 336) This is an immense amount of waste that builds up over time and this is in addition to the waste that comes from manufacturing and commercial uses. This waste needs to be dealt with and disposed of and the options of waste disposal are either in landfills, or burned. Ocean dumping used to be a popular option to rid waste but that is slowly being taken out due to greater regulation. The problem with landfills is that people do not want to live near them due to aesthetics and the odor that accompanies them. There is also fear attached to landfills that they can lead to groundwater contamination and contain toxic waste. Planning for landfills and deciding where they should go is no easy task due to objections from residents and politically it can often also be an issue.

Urban planners are using land-use planning as a means to help reduce energy consumption. They are implementing these planning elements in a few ways. One of these ways is recommending mixed-use development. This would mean more mixtures of residential with commercial buildings, for example an apartment on top of a store front. This would ideally lessen the commute from a residence to a store, since those who live in these mixed-use areas would walk to the store instead of a drive in their car in order to get there. Planners are also encouraging sustainability and energy reduction by creating alternative transportation methods like buses and trains to be convenient and easy to use. Ideas such as a carpool lane on the highway have been implemented in many places to encourage driving with more people in one car instead of everyone driving separately. On a lower scale, providing bicycle lanes as seen in Davis, California, where “approximately 25 percent of all passenger miles, as opposed to about 2 percent statewide, are made by bicycle” (Levy, 342). All of these efforts do add up to help lessen energy use and contribute to greener living. These improvements to our roads and communities are part of the solution to start living greener lives, and influencing industries to take on sustainable actions. It is crucial that urban planners work together with local and federal governments, and developers in order to incorporate green building and sustainable initiatives to help improve the environment and our quality of life.

For more information on sustainable planning, check out this website on Zoning and Sustainability:

Sources:  contemporary Urban Planning, 11th edition, by: John M. Levy