The Most Livable City: A Vision for a Sustainable D.C.

“We shall solve the city problem by leaving the city. Get the people into the country, get them into communities where a man knows his neighbor, where there is a commonality of interest, where life is not artificial, and you have solved the city problem. You have solved it by eliminating the city. City life was always artificial and cannot be made anything else. An artificial form of life breeds its own disorders, and these cannot be ‘solved.’ There is nothing to do but abandon the course that gives rise to them.”

-Henry Ford

April 27, 2012, Washington, DC: How differently things are shaking out, huh? So much for eliminating the cities that the founder of Ford Motor Company declared the root of our troubles. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and projections show nearly three quarters of people on Earth will be urbanites by 2050. Despite Ford’s declaration, it seems people — most people — have not abandoned our cities. Perhaps today’s cities are neither isolating nor fake nor problematic, but rather full of solutions.

Washington’s city leaders certainly think so. Earlier this week, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and his team laid out a vision for making D.C. the most livable and sustainable city in the country. Goals include cutting citywide energy consumption by 50 percent, increasing the number of jobs devoted to green goods and services by five-fold, and guaranteeing that 75 percent of all trips are walkable, bikeable or accessible by public transit. Imagine 1.5 million square feet of green roofs on city buildings. And swimming and fishing in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers. And knowing that a quarter of all food consumed in the District is grown within a 100-mile radius of the city. It’s all part of the plan.

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The Bottom Line on the High Line

“If the future is going to be greener, then it must be more urban. Dense cities offer a means of living that involves less driving and smaller homes to heat and cool. Maybe someday we’ll be able to drive and cool our homes with almost no carbon emissions, but until then, there is nothing greener than blacktop.”
-Edward Glaser, Triumph of the City

March 31, 2012, New York: I recently read both Edward Glaser’s Triumph of the City and David Owen’s Green Metropolis. They both make the case that city living is a wise environmental choice — both argue that city dwellers tendencies to live small, walk more, and reuse spaces we already occupy rival choices to head for the hills in order to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

Still, city dwellers yearn for the green spaces and breaths of fresh air so readily available out there in our natural landscapes. Lucky for them, there are more and more efforts to bring the outdoors in to the urban equation.

I think about these initiatives this afternoon as we make our first visit to Manhattan’s massive recycling project known as the High Line.

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Bringing Home The Solar Decathlon

September 26, 2011, Washington, DC: Imagine a neighborhood where one home after the next is thoughtfully designed to minimize its impact on the environment. Where every house is affordable and innovative. Where houses are built from sustainable materials, like wood harvested from the local forest, or out of old shipping containers that were going to waste.

Imagine a neighborhood where people grow veggies and herbs on their decks and in their kitchens, where solar panels and green plants grace their roofs, where homes are designed to feel cool in the heat and warm in the cold without paying massive energy bills.

Imagine living in a home that produces as much or more energy than it consumes each year. In other words, imagine a neighborhood that gives back more than it takes.

Now through October 2, this neighborhood exists in Washington, DC’s West Potomac Park, home of the Solar Decathlon 2011.

Get tips for bringing elements of the Solar Decathlon home to your neighborhood and see more photos after the jump…

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