Everybody deserves to live in a neighborhood where the city and its surrounding areas are planned to be welcoming, secure, resilient, and sustainable. However, the concept of sustainable cities and communities is not new. Cities were planned by ancient civilizations like the Greeks to benefit all residents. By establishing shops, constructing aqueducts to supply water to everyone, and even building public parks, so that people may unwind in the great outdoors. They made it easy and effective to move around by strategically planning the roadways.
We want people to feel safe moving about in their neighborhoods, to have access to affordable housing, and to interact with their neighbors in common areas at public events because communities prosper when people feel a sense of ownership and belonging. It’s common to feel isolated from the community. It occurs in large cities when structures are not built with access for people with disabilities; it occurs in small towns where a lack of accessible public transportation prevents the elderly from participating in society. However, a lot of positive things are being done to support residents’ sense of community.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals
We can all help the United Nations achieve this goal by 2030. The organization established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, and 193 nations have ratified them.
- No poverty
- Zero Hunger
- Good Health and Well-being
- Quality Education
- Gender Equality
- Clean Water and Sanitation
- Affordable and Clean Energy
- Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Reduce Inequality
- Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Responsible Consumption and Production
- Climate action
- Life Below Water
- Life on Land
- Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
- Partnership to Achieve the Goal
Here are some examples of sustainable development actions being implemented in other countries:
- The refugee camp in Kilis in Turkey is a transient neighborhood that was planned to endure. Residents feel more secure now living in concrete shelters run by the Turkish government than improvised tents.
- Rekz Afzal established a community refrigerator in Scotland where local businesses donated food for use by the public.
- In New York, the abandoned railway bed was converted into the High Line, a striking public area where residents may socialize or unwind.
- Another city at the forefront of the ecological revolution is Singapore. Singapore, which is also known as “the garden city,” is making every effort to live up to that moniker. Mandating green construction for all new buildings is one of the most radical measures Singapore has taken to become more sustainable.
In the Philippines, the following programs/projects have already been started:
1. Manila Flood Management Project
one of the efforts now underway in the Philippines that have already been put in place and are intended to be in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This project plans to create sustainable infrastructure to lessen flooding-related losses while making the cities more resilient.
2. The Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (also known as 4Ps)
a government initiative that offers the Philippines’ underprivileged citizens conditional cash handouts.
3. The Safe Philippines Project
aims to modernize the capacities of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), by developing a public safety system of multi-sectoral collaboration supporting prevention, test, feedback, and recovery management at the national, regional, and local levels.
4. In Cebu City, more vehicles are being bought as salaries gradually increase.
In this already tourism-heavy area, the rise in automobiles is posing safety risks like air pollution, traffic congestion, and excessive traffic accidents. By 2025, the new Cebu Bus Rapid Transit Project (BRT) would expect the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 192,000 tons while simultaneously improving the mobility and safety of travel for the residents. Such concepts can contribute to the development of a more secure and inclusive future for everybody.
Let’s explore a little bit more about sustainable cities and communities as one of the 17 goals of the United Nations.
What is sustainability?
The term “sustainability” is often used these days. Sustainability emphasizes development that meets the needs of the present without endangering the future. In reality, the value of sustainability is emerging throughout time, not only for the planet’s preservation but also for the well-being of the coming generation.
The correlation of economics, social reality, and environmental health is commonly used to define sustainability. In order to attain sustainability, we must abide by social and environmental norms, balancing human needs with natural limitations.
What is a sustainable city?
A sustainable city is a community created to promote social well-being, preserve the environment, and encourage inclusive economic growth that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Air quality poses the biggest environmental risk to human health in cities today, which is a challenge. Despite just taking up 2% of the planet’s area, cities contribute more than 70% of all emissions caused by human activity. Around the world, poor air quality causes 6 to 7 million preventable deaths each year. Therefore, lowering pollution is vital.
Another significant issue cities face is the degradation and loss of biodiversity, which has a direct impact on residents’ quality of life. From ecosystem services to natural resources, biodiversity benefits us in many ways. Constructing resilient buildings and structures, which serve to lessen the consequences of climate change, is yet another hurdle. In 2030, there will be a 40% increase in the risk of flooding for urban land along the shore.
Benefits of having a sustainable community
So why should we support building sustainable communities and cities? Aside from the obvious environmental benefit it also helps the society’s economic and social well-being. As such here are some of the advantages of establishing it:
With the rapid development of urbanization, there are an increasing number of serious problems emerging all over the world, especially in some developing countries. Therefore, if we want to live a sustainable life without destroying natural resources and wildlife, some effective and feasible sustainable development policies must be taken step by step from now on. Firstly, too many people move from rural areas to urban areas, along with the high growth rate and low death rate in the cities, which has led to space and housing shortages.
Here are some effects of living in a sustainable community:
1. Reduced pollution
A sustainable community focuses on the use of renewable energies such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass, and hydroelectricity depending on the suitability. Planning on proper waste management encourages the inhabitants to incorporate reduce, reuse and recycle in their daily living.
2. Sense of security
As the community is built on strategically planned to be sustainable, it would be able to maintain its resilience for the calamities that might happen naturally like earthquakes, heavy rain, and floods. Being able to use renewable energy means a more sustainable source of electricity that may be used to light up the streets even at night for the people to be safe.
3. Easier access to establishments
Buildings, establishments, and amenities are made within walking distance, not just for ease of access but also to encourage people to walk rather than use their vehicles. While in some cases they provide public transportation that is managed using a renewable energy source to run it.
4. Healthier environment
Aside from creating a sustainable home, cleaner environment, and beautifying the surroundings while feeling secure. It naturally fosters a positive feeling that makes people to be in good mood. Satisfied residents will result in improved performance on what they are tasked or planned to do throughout the day. It also encourages people to interact and socialize by making a place like multi-function hall, play grounds, and parks for them to be active.
BRIA Homes, based in the Philippines, is one of the rapidly expanding mass housing developers that prioritizes sustainability in the communities it creates. They serve Filipinos who desire high-quality but affordable housing. Because of their continued efforts and improvements in the field, they were recognized with two awards by the Real Estate Asia Awards on July 1st, 2021: “Affordable housing developer” and “Open space development of the year”. To be recognized for the prestigious awards, property developers must stand out in their markets, even in difficult environments.
Bria Homes currently has 50 developments spread across 40 of the country’s most progressive towns and cities. Bria Homes will undoubtedly welcome more Filipinos into their new homes as the company expands. Bria’s vision goes beyond just building a house; it also includes the development and nurturing of a community. Bria believes that sustainability had to be a way of life before it could be a way of business.
5. Building a sustainable community
Sustainable cities and communities can alter the current pace of climate change, biodiversity loss, and social stress through innovation, education, employment, the economy, entertainment, and cultural involvement.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat) jointly produced a study that outlines three ways that may change cities in solving the problem.
6. An emission-free circular city
The majority of greenhouse gases that we release into the atmosphere are caused by the creation of the commodities we use or by transportation. As a result, one of the key goals outlined by UNEP and UN-Habitat is to alter the production systems by utilizing the circular economy to drastically reduce the exploitation of natural resources as well as other types of pollution and waste. To accomplish this, the following will be crucial:
- Utilizing waste to create new materials through reuse and recycling.
- Maximum utilization of renewable energy sources and effective water and energy use.
- Buildings in sustainable cities and communities must be constructed with high standards for energy efficiency and heat insulation, as well as having green roofs and walls.
- Rooftop installation of solar panels.
- Construction of wind farms surrounding the city
7. Resilient sustainable city
We must prepare for the reality of climate change. For this, it is crucial that the new model city depends on infrastructure and areas that protect vulnerable urban areas, communities, and rural areas from environmental degradation, climate change effects, and extreme weather occurrences.
- Safeguards of farmland, forests, and wildlife habitats on the outskirts of the city.
- Encourage the usage of electric automobiles and public transportation.
- Ensure a reliable transportation system connecting places of employment with neighborhoods, public areas, health care facilities, schools, and shopping centers. This will help achieve the Paris-based 15-minute cities’ goal, which aims to cut commute time for doing errands.
- By increasing the number of pedestrian-only roadways and bike lanes, you may encourage non-motorized travel (such as walking and cycling). It also suggests safe, appealing roads and routes that encourage physical activity and good living.
- Establishing local strategies for responding to natural disasters and coping with climate change will assist build networks of support for one another in the event of extreme events.
- Through the development of inclusive mechanisms, provide specific assistance programs to support social groups and marginalized communities, such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, children, and youth, elderly people, and migrants and refugees.
8. Cities and communities that are inclusive and just
If we don’t include everyone, without leaving anyone behind, or safeguard the most vulnerable, the points described above won’t mean much. Citizens, urban natural areas, and biodiversity must be considered in institutional and governmental decision-making for new forms of sustainable cities and communities.
- Planning cities and the use of land while taking into account the diversity of their populations and making them accessible for those with disabilities is known as inclusive urban development.
- Actively discuss and disseminate information across the people through many forms like forums, blogs, events, seminars, internet and classes for the improvement for the community.
- Positive nature methods include preserving regions with high biodiversity from urban growth and emphasizing the effective use of urban land to reduce the loss of wild lands.
Despite the fact that the terms “sustainable communities” and “sustainable cities” have been used widely in a variety of contexts with varying approaches and combinations of innovative ideas that change over time, they generally refer to efforts aimed at improving the quality and safety of the homes for the people, social well-being, and economic security while reducing carbon footprints and pollutants that can harm our environment, ensuring a better place both now and in the future.
A country like the Philippines is particularly susceptible to big calamities as a result of the current climate crisis and its geographic location. Taking part in developing our communities into a sustainable ones even individually would definitely contribute to making our place a better place to live. Each of us can do our part to protect the environment, even if we just start by making our homes sustainable.