By now, sustainability efforts are something that almost every business and government must display as part of their annual business objectives. Schemes such as the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policy force the hand of businesses to be more socially conscious in order to garner investment.
What you may not realise is how important cities are in addressing complex sustainable development challenges, putting more demand on businesses that operate in these urban environments.
The UNECE reports that its region is among the most highly urbanised in the world. They acknowledge a rising share of its population living within cities, nearly 75% in Europe and around 80% in North America.
So how can innovative Smart Cities drive sustainable change through both their fundamental design and the culture they curate?
Reducing Environmental Footprints In Smart Cities
Generally speaking, when we think of smart cities, the first thing that comes to mind is flashy technology, bright LCD screens and automated services.
But how does the innovation of smart tech effect the sustainable efforts of the smart cities that implement them?
The number of cities investing in smarter transport hubs and public transport facilities is on the rise and growing rapidly. Cities like Paris continues to commit to evolving public transportations and pedestrian transport. As they continue to develop infrastructure to accommodate non-motorised transport and develop more pedestrian-friendly zones, they acknowledge the need for vehicles.
To offset this inevitable need for motor transport, cities like Paris are investing in electric vehicles to replace their huge fleets of buses, in a bid to reduce their citizen’s environmental footprints.
But vehicles aren’t always the solution.
Most recently, Paris unveiled a 250 million euro plan to tackle their city’s infrastructure and make it more accessible for cyclists and greener forms of pedestrian transportation.
This shift towards developing more pedestrian-friendly urban environments not only alleviates the negative impacts of global warming within cities but encourages citizen behaviours by allowing easier mobility through the city space without vehicles.
Recently Pavegen have implemented walk tracks along New York streets, to further encourage walking habits among the general public. By creating a green interactive experience, it goes further than the initial environmental impact and inspires more sustainable behaviours.
Data-Driven Design Shapes Smart Cities Sustainability Efforts
Smart Cities by definition are built upon a complex network of intelligent frameworks. These city networks connect citizens, communities, and governments, gathering and analysing data which can be used to improve city living and citizen prosperity.
Data is a very ambiguous term for many of us. However, the impact that information can have on the design of city infrastructure is something tactile that benefits everyone.
The more information a city and its citizens have available to them has a direct effect on the ability to make more informed decisions.
Reports show that city spaces occupy 2% of the world’s surface, yet house 50% of the world’s population and consume 70% of the global energy supply. Not only that, but they generate 75% of GHG emissions worldwide.
It’s no wonder then that government officials, city planners and businesses are noticing the need to develop their infrastructure based on real-time data, which gives insight into problem areas and allows for preventative measures to be put in place.
In Barcelona, for example, their advanced technology and Wi-Fi networks allow real-time tracking of air quality, pollution levels and the condition of their city’s green spaces. All achieved by small IoT (internet of things) sensors and data-driven design.
Creating Behavioural Change In Smart Cities
Whilst city infrastructure and system play a huge part in a smart city’s sustainability credentials, change must always be made from the ground up: through citizen behaviour.
A key focus for businesses like Pavegen, inspiring positive change and social responsibility is one of the most effective ways a smart city can drive its green efforts.
The Smart London Plan, for example, aims to make London one of the first people-centric smart cities in the world. By putting citizens at the centre of their initiatives, the aim is to give citizens more opportunities to influence the growth of their communities.
The increased need to engage citizens in greener thinking and sustainable developments in their cities is paramount and often overlooked in smart city design.
By creating a connection between citizen and the government or business, city officials and stakeholders we can start a conversation about sustainable growth, encouraging social responsibility for the space around us.
It’s clear that the importance of sustainability within smart cities is only growing as these urban spaces become more and more populous. The responsibility for more environmentally conscious efforts, however, is shared between the city officials, businesses and citizens that live within in them.
Whilst smart infrastructure and data can play a big part, equally so can the communities and people within the city – if they are encouraged and educated enough on their environmental impact.
Pavegen’s award-winning kinetic technology uses the renewable energy generated by a footstep to help inspire citizens and spark a conversation around sustainability and greener behaviours. The experiences we build in smart cities are designed to educate and engage stakeholders and citizens alike, bridging the gap between both parties and displaying the positive impact of social responsibility.
Using 'people power', Pavegen helps move society towards a more sustainable future through highly engaging experiences that inspire people to think and act more conscientiously around our planet.