“Do the little things that make a big difference.”

This week, PlanningPool is reporting from the Gaining Ground Summit in Vancouver! Check out the amazing agenda of speakers related to cities and sustainability, and let us know if there are any upcoming events which you would particularly like us to write about.

Jared Blumenfeld, from the US Environmental Protection Agency, started off the Gaining Ground conference lectures with a lively, entertaining, and eye opening talk about  “The Power of Green Cities to Shape the Future.”

Jared Blumenfeld of the EPA, seen here at a ceremony for the San Francisco Bike Coalition's Golden Wheel Awards. Thanks to Sasha Magee on Flickr for the Creative Commons photo!

His comments about the race for greenest city were met with snickers. Although it is a worthwhile race, there is no way to determine the winner. We live in a “greeningless” age, where everything and nothing is “green.” At the same time, we have discovered that the environment is no longer out there; it is here. Cities, as the intersection of commerce, culture and innovation, are the current focal point of sustainability.

And rightly so, as cities are responsible for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, the lack of international commitment to CO2 reduction is not surprising. The legal structure that connects countries is disconnected from that relationship. Cities have more in common with each other than with nations, as they are dealing with the same issues.

San Francisco is leading the way with creative approaches to greening their city and demonstrating how cities can be leaders in change. Existing initiatives include curbside composting, a ban on plastic bags, a Solar Map that calculates your potential savings from solar electricity , an Urban EcoMap that compares CO2 emissions by zip code, and incentive programs for green jobs that are paired with social programs.

These programs are local but there is also potential for wider influence. Although not within their legal right to do so, the city of San Francisco banned phthalates from childrens products. This move resulted in a lawsuit, but the ban was reinforced by a statewide ban, which was followed by a federal ban on the toxic chemical. This example demonstrates the power that cities possess to instigate change. Given the asymmetrical resource use and influence cities have, perhaps it is time for more to take on this challenge. Vancouver is certainly well on its way.

Blumenfeld closed with the following list of sustainability guidelines.

  1. Transparency: openness with information and data creates a sense of legitimacy
  2. Education: we must explain why carbon is important. “’Global’ means everyone and ‘warming’ sounds like a good thing.”
  3. Money Matters
  4. Clear Bold Goals: that are also achievable
  5. Implementation is Everyone’s Job
  6. Push Innovation
  7. Help Those Who Need it Most First
  8. Keep it Simple

Also, this video is not to be missed:

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One Response to ““Do the little things that make a big difference.””

  1. Josh Roth said:

    Oct 07, 10 at 8:50 am

    Funny you put the “green police” video on as Jared article as he has been framed as someone that is willing to sacrifice personal liberty for agenda before…for discussion…is the EPA on track to become a green police to individuals like they have been to industry in the past? Is that productive? Should we be looking at carrots or sticks to push environmentalism?

    Working with businesses on toxic chemicals but how aggressive should recycling and composing laws be enforced on individuals? Should products be banned when the public fails to reach recycling or composting targets? Will that mean banning of carbon fuels down the road?