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Five innovative ideas to help build sustainable cities

Responsible Business | Oct 31, 2018


“When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.”– Hugh Newell Jacobsen

World Cities Day is held annually on 31st October. This year’s theme – “Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities”– aims to push forward co-operation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanisation. Hundreds of cities and communities are struggling with the chain reaction of climate change – including conflicts, natural disasters, failures in governance and economic stress. Cities across the globe need backing to become more resilient and develop their capacity to establish more opportunities, enable connection and interaction, and further sustainable use of shared resources.

Below you will find a list of 5 innovative ideas that will help us build more resilient cities:

1. Turning footsteps into electricity

Photo credit: Unsplash

Every day, across cities, millions of people are performing the straightforward task of moving from point A to point B.

Now these steps can do much more than just move pedestrians – they can also become valuable electricity. The technology used to achieve this is a multifunctional custom flooring system. As people step on the tiles, their weight causes electromagnetic induction generators to vertically displace, which results in a rotatory motion that generates off-grid electricity. Using this method, a single footstep can generate enough power to light an LED lightbulb for roughly 20 seconds. Bluetooth technology inside of the walkway can also connect to mobile apps so people can keep track of how much energy they’ve generated.

2. Recycling in low-income communities

Photo credit: Pixabay

The average person generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.

Wecyclers is an excellent example of a social enterprise in Nigeria that promotes environmental sustainability, socioeconomic development, and community health by mobilsing the power of urban communities. The company uses a fleet of cheap, and locally assembled, cargo bikes called “wecycles” that collectors use to pick up recyclable waste from households and deliver the materials to the collection, sorting, and packaging hubs located around Lagos. The service subscribers are rewarded with points per kilogram of recycled waste, which they can exchange for essential goods such as food and household items.

3. Combating urban pollution with green tech

Photo credit: Unsplash

Every day 90 per cent of cities’ inhabitants breathe polluted air which causes every 7th death worldwide.

The CityTree is a new technology, set up by Green City Solutions, that cleans the air, while occupying just 1% of the space that would be needed using the 275 real trees it replaces. Its moss-culture technology scrubs pollution from city street air where air flow is poor and pollution is heavy. Powered by solar panels, the living structure also collects rainwater and automatically redistributes it using an inbuilt irrigation system. Using Internet of Things technology, it is able to measure and maintain its own performance and the plants’ requirements.

4. Alternative solution to global sanitation crisis

Photo credit: Unsplash

Today 2.5 billion people in the world live with just a hole in the ground as a toilet, while an estimated 80 percent of human waste worldwide goes untreated.

X-runner is a company based in Lima, Peru that is looking to bring reliable, safe, and sustainable sanitation to low-income urban households that do not have a toilet. The toilets, supplied by Swedish manufacturer Separett, are, effectively, rented; for a $10 monthly subscription. X-runner then comes by and collect the waste every week. They recycle it into high quality compost that is used to enrich soil. The functionality of the toilet, which separates urine and faeces to reduce smell and toxicity, makes it perfect for high-density urban areas.

5. Powering the future through cogeneration

Photo credit: Unsplash 

Over 65 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa are living without electricity.

As a process for producing both heat and power, cogeneration is one of the cleaner and most affordable options available, achieving high efficiency by using one fuel to generate two types of energy. By lowering waste, cogeneration plants generally convert 75-80% of the fuel source into useable energy, in comparison with current systems which only convert about 45%. Innovative software with smart controls and algorithms can take advantage of A.I integration, allowing us to integrate with renewable energy resources and bring cogeneration into the next wave of sustainable infrastructure.

On 15 – 16 January 2019, the Responsible Business Forum on Climate Innovation will take place in Hainan, China and will bring together more than 450 leaders from companies, start-ups, investors and international agencies, to share and discuss zero-carbon and circular economy solutions for a sustainable and climate-resilient future. More info here


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