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Eco Cities: What They Are And Where In the World to Find Them

Updated on October 30, 2012

 Ecocities, also known as sustainable cities, are cities around the world that are designed to require minimal input from the rest of the world and to exert minimal output on the world around them. In other words, sustainable cities produce their own energy, food and water in a way that doesn’t cause detriment to the world in forms such as waste, water pollution or damage to the air.

Some of the ways that eco-cities manage to create this balance include:

• Cities are reduced in terms of their geographic area. They are built up instead of sprawled out. This means that people don’t travel extensively throughout the city because everything they need is right there. This reduces harm to the environment in many different ways.

• Focused attention on sustainable landscaping throughout the city. Learning lessons from the fields of xeriscaping and natural landscaping, the designers of these eco-cities work hard to create a citywide landscape that makes the most out of the natural area to reduce the waste of water and electricity.

• Use of renewable energy sources. It is increasingly common for governments to consider the use of solar power, wind power and other renewable power. Eco-cities are on the cutting edge of this important green trend.

• Strong incentives not to use a car. Since the cities are small, it is fairly easy to set up methods of getting around within them that don’t require cars and therefore air pollution is reduced. Quality public transportation, community bike share programs and lots of walking paths are means of doing this within ecocities.

Ecocities are truly “green cities”, cities where the politicians, the agriculturists, the builders and the residents are all equally concerned about living eco-friendly lives. And these cities are starting to crop up all around the globe as more and more people become aware of the fact that we may not have much of a world left if we don’t start living with more attention to long-term sustainability.

Examples of some of the ecocities and increasingly green cities that you’ll find around the world include:

• Treasure Island.

 This is a manmade island located in between San Francisco and Oakland in California. It has traditionally not been a green city but there is a redesign of the city in the works to make it one of the only ecocities in the United States. It is going to take some time for this to be complete – it’s not scheduled to be done until 2022 – but it’s going to include a lot of neat features including green skyscrapers, a wind farm and an organic farm and incentives for the area to remain car-free.

• Arcosanti.

This city located in Arizona in the United States is a city that grew up out of the hippie days back in 1970. Because it dates back to that time, it doesn’t have a lot of the major features of new eco-cities but it does place a strong emphasis on being a locally-focused city with concerns about the environment. City greenhouses and natural landscaping are key green features that are used here to make the place sustainable.

• Masdar City.

This city is located in Abu Dhabi in the growing Middle East. It is a zero-carbon, zero-waste city that is fully sustainable and only 11 miles in size. Design of this city places a heavy emphasis on the use of renewable resources including solar power in order to maintain the sustainability of the area. It has taken about eight years to plan out this city; the first phase is to be complete this year and residents interested in living a green life in the Middle East will be able to move in.

• Waitakere City.

This fifth largest city in New Zealand is also the first eco-city to be built there. Walking paths, a “green network” linking the city’s streams and parks, focus on the local economy and attention to green landscaping are major features of this ecocity.

• Clonburris.

This is an Irish city that is planned to be a suburb of Dublin but an ecocity in its own right. Work on this city is still in development but the focus is on a high level of sustainability for the small community that will live here. This includes everything from the buildings being made of recyclable / sustainable materials to mandatory use of renewable resources.

• St. David’s.

In nearby Wales, the old city of St. David’s is in a good position to start working on becoming an eco-city considering its small size – it’s already the smallest city in the UK. The first steps are being made here with the city setting the goal of being the first completely carbon neutral city in the entire world.

• Several cities in China.

There are several cities in China that are working on developing themselves as ecocities although none of these appear to be true green cities just yet. The highest hopes so far have been for Dongtan, a planned city that was intended to be an ecocity. However, development has currently ceased and it is unclear what the plans for this city are now. Other cities in China that are working on becoming ecocities include Huangbaiyu (currently in construction), Rizhao (which currently mandates use of solar power for heating water) and parts of districts in Shanghai that are working on green development.

Each of these eco-cities is using some of the same green tools to try to make the entire city self-sustaining. Whether or not they achieve the ultimate goal of being entirely self-sustaining, they will certainly be making strong efforts that will reduce the harm that they do to the environment. That’s a big step!


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  • Adam9000 profile image

    Adam9000 7 years ago

    This is awesome. I want to live in one of those cities.

  • daveearley profile image

    daveearley 9 years ago from Chicago, IL

    Great find! I didn't know there were cities like these established yet.

  • naunette morrow profile image

    naunette morrow 9 years ago

    Love the idea of having more cities and communities like this.