Cities that are economically productive offer residents access to transport, food, healthcare, education, clean air, electricity, and water. Sustainable cities also optimize land use and seek to minimize waste creation and resource depletion.
There are different tools to measure sustainability such as the European Green City Tool and the China Urban Sustainability Index. The latter includes indicators such as public transport, urban density, domestic water and electricity consumption, waste treatment rate, and environmental funding. The European Green City Tool lists indicators such as climate change mitigation, land use, nature and biodiversity, energy, and air.
How Cities Fare
The 2018 Sustainable Cities Index is based on three pillars – economic /profit/, environmental /planet/, and social /people/. A report prepared by consultancy and design firm Arcadis looks at how cities fare based on the three indicators and concludes that green cities have efficient low-carbon infrastructure, healthy and educated labor force, and infrastructure that facilitates doing business. The report includes scores for 100 cities around the globe, with five Canadian cities making it to top 40 – Calgary (37), Montreal (31), Vancouver (26), Ottawa (25), and Toronto (30). The report also highlights that Canadian cities fare well when it comes to natural disaster monitoring, incentives for electric vehicles, and air pollution.
With population of 1.4 million, Calgary is Canada’s 4th largest city and one of the cleanest in the country. It has a well-developed transportation system, with 22 percent of residents commuting by foot, biking, and using public transit. The vast majority or 91 percent of Calgarians say they have access to parks. Thanks to its good wastewater treatment infrastructure, the city decreased leakage to just 4 percent compared to 14 percent for Canada.
While Vancouver has a high population density, the 2016 Arcadis Sustainability Index ranked it the most sustainable city in North America. In 2016, the city’s transportation network was used for 50 percent of trips /public transit, bicycle, and by foot/. Green sources are used to generate 93 percent of electricity, including hydroelectric power, and the target is 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The 2020 Action Plan 2016 – 2017 Update shows that the city made progress in areas such as zero waste, green transportation and buildings, climate leadership, green economy, and clean air. The 2017 Mercer Quality of Living Survey ranked Vancouver 1st in North America and 5th globally.
Thanks to its eco-friendly policies, 85 percent of households in Montreal use electric heating. Some 27 percent of residents commute to work by foot, bike, or public transit. The city adopted its 2016 – 2020 sustainable development plan, which is a joint effort of organizations such as Compost Montreal, the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre, USC Canada. The plan contains indicators such as access to employment, access to physical activity and healthful foods, and mobilization and awareness-building. One of the main goals is to encourage residents to embrace healthy lifestyles. This is done by making physical activity and nutritious food more easily accessible and can be achieved by adopting measures in the areas of sustainable development, transportation, parks, and urban planning. The plan also targets at risk persons and homeless people in an effort to ensure social inclusion and to safeguard their citizen rights. Other priorities include improved biodiversity, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and circular green economy. To increase biodiversity, for example, the goal is to plant 300,000 trees both on private and public properties. Measures are also implemented in areas such as improved water management, wastewater treatment, and organic waste collection.