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How Would You Describe Your Sustainable City in 2030?
Tex Dworkin |


Mike Michaels

The streets of San Francisco are packed with more bicycle traffic than car traffic. Municipal rainwater harvesting quenches 50 percent of the city’s water thirst, goats keep municipal land weed-free, rooftops are covered in solar shingles and the city by the bay powers itself, primarily from solar, but wind, too.  The turbines aren’t big, conspicuous contraptions that spin around like a pinwheel, though. These turbines are hardly noticeable, blending into the scenery like a chameleon.


That’s how I picture my city 15 years from now. How would you describe yours?


Masdar’s 2015 Engage Blogging Contest recently called on bloggers around the world to forecast a sustainable future by describing their city in 2030. Part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2015, bloggers were asked to write about what their city will look like in 2030 based on what they see occurring in urban planning, along with developments in water, waste, energy, food production and transportation.


Why focus on cities as opposed to rural areas? Here’s how the contest page explains it:


The world’s urban centers are now firmly on the frontline of sustainability and innovation. Cities are confronted with maintaining a trajectory of economic growth, while reducing resource demand and addressing climate risk. With the rise of urbanization, the world’s cities must also offer complete communities – a place to live, work and play – while being bastions of sustainability.


Contest voting ended last week, but this year’s winner has yet to be announced so it’s the perfect time to explore some of the innovative ideas that surfaced. You can read the submissions for yourself online. In the meantime, here’s a taste of some of the sustainable future forecasts:


Vladislav Radkov: Togliatti, Russia

Water is and will always be everything for us. We will spare the use of underground waters, providing better education for people and spreading innovations at home – sustainable laundry and dishwashing, new waterless toilets. Water is for drinking. We will also install new capacities of biological treatment facilities, possibly using urban forest more extensively as a filter for our wastewater. This may involve creating new ecosystem using nanotechnology and bio 3D printing.


Julie Hancher: Philadelphia/USA

Philadelphia’s bike share system has become the most popular in the nation, with citizens turning half the city’s roads into bike lanes. Since Philadelphia’s inclusive bike share system included all income levels, residents are able to commute to school, work and errands simply by two-wheels. Bike parking has increased across the city so you can spend less time circling blocks and leave your bike underneath a bicycle garage.


Samantha Ruiz: Honolulu

Local ordinances were passed to allow homeowners to create front-yard farms instead of lawns, creating localized food districts. For waste, a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ program was implemented to incentivize generating less household waste. A citywide composting program now gives all food waste to a statewide Farm-to-School program.


Marija Nezirovic: Rijeka, Croatia

I meet friends who’d spent the last hour on gym bikes, generating electricity for utilities and charging stations. A cluster of solar pavement by the sea is powering the fully-shielded street lights. The decreased light pollution gave us back the stars.


Anders Lorenzen: London

London’s solar power is 90% controlled by the 10,000 energy co-operatives. During the summer months when solar power generation in London is at its maximum, it can provide up to 80% of total electricity consumption. The large battery pack at Battersea Power Station, nicknamed by the Evening Standard newspaper as ‘The Battery of London’ is charged up by excess solar energy. Come winter time, when London only get 20% electricity from the sun, the battery kicks in making sure the lights are kept on. The rest of London’s electricity is produced by wind power, small scale hydro and wave power.


Paola Velasco: Quito, Ecuador

Most rooftops have the inverted umbrella devices, they collect thousands of gallons of rainwater that are stored city wide and then used for maintaining public spaces and crops.


After describing Calgary in 2030, Blogger B.D. Samborsky summed up how sustainable change in the urban environment was possible: “The truly big challenges – ones that no single group could solve on their own – came down to cooperation. Of course, private investors chased financial returns; government invested in societal benefits. And we the people just followed our imagination.”


My vision of San Francisco 15 years from now may come across more idealistic than predictive, but if you ask me, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility, for the most part. It was named North America’s greenest city, after all.


As we speak, renewable energy is on the city’s radar. As SF Environment proudly proclaims, “The City of San Francisco has developed a number of innovative policies and programs to move the city toward its goal of 100% renewable energy to become a cleaner, healthier and more secure city.” There are 100 miles of cross-town bikeways in the works, and as for turbines that blend into the scenery? They already exist. We just have to get them here. Oh, and the goats are already here. They live down the street from me.


How would you describe your sustainable city 30 years from now? Share your vision in the comments.