Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Sustainable urban living incorporates this ideology into a city dweller’s life. This can increase the local economy as well as improve environmental health. Both are equally as important but I will be writing about the environmental aspect in relation to the goal of sustainable urban living and what this lifestyle truly looks like.

In efforts to prevent environmental degradation, the goal of living sustainably is to reduce human ecological footprint – our high demand on nature and its resources. In doing so, we can preserve air and water quality, decrease the amount of waste produced, reduce carbon emissions, sustain natural resources, and preserve biodiversity. In order to achieve a sustainable urbanized world we must develop urban areas in harmony with the natural environment. There are two ways of doing this. One, by reorganizing existing cities and creating new cities while promoting land-use patterns that diminish transport demands, save energy, and protect open and green spaces. The second is to encourage individuals to include sustainable practices into their lifestyle by making it an easy thing to do.

National and local policies along with innovation urban planning and design must be integrated to achieve sustainability within cities. Existing policies must be re-examined to ensure optimal land use. The United Nations suggests that there needs to be an establishment of “legal frameworks to facilitate the development and implementation, at the national, sub-national and local levels, of public plans and policies for sustainable urban development and rehabilitation, land utilization, housing and the improved management of urban growth.” This will take much time, effort, and money but it is absolutely necessary for cities to maintain increasing populations. In the meantime, there are several ways an urban dweller can begin the process towards sustainability on their own.

There is a multitude of ways that one can incorporate sustainability into their life. Within urban areas it can even be easier to live sustainably because of the easy access and close proximity to helpful resources. Being a sustainable member of society within a city can be simple because the system to encourage sustainable behavior may already exist. For example, a city may already have a public transportation system available and running. So if someone wanted to reduce his or her carbon emissions and take public transportation this would already be accessible. Here are some ways somebody can integrate sustainable into his or her daily life and the benefits that emerge through these actions. Reducing, reusing, and recycling any product reduces the need to harvest new raw materials, saves energy, cuts down greenhouse gas emissions created during the production process of goods, and decreases the amount of waste generated. Taking public transportation instead of a car will cutback carbon emissions and increase the air quality. Using renewable energy sources like solar water heating and solar panels will reduce the air and water pollution associated with fossil fuel energy production. Lastly, vertical gardens – self-sufficient gardens that take advantage of available vertical space indoors and outdoors – are a great way to be sustainable. The benefits are rewarding because these can insulate homes and buildings, reduce the urban heat island affect, and improve air quality.

Sustainable urban living is a necessity if we hope to see economies survive and the environment to remain healthy and resourceful. As cities become more populated action must be taken politically and personally to ensure a future of sustainability.