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Green Cities

Written by: Nicole Brekelmans

Edited by: Richard Perron

In response to the expanding world population and changing climate resulting in ecological consequences, cities are becoming greener. Green cities are cities that are heavily focused on sustainability and reducing their environmental impacts. They strive to reduce waste, lower emissions, increase housing densities to reach a basis of net zero, or strive further for a net positive (Moulton, 2009). As cities expand, the urban world is dominating nature, and the relationship between the two has become competitive and unbalanced. For cities to increase its self-reliance the urban and natural components need to find harmony biologically and socially (Moulton, 2009). 


Curitiba, Brazil is an archetypal for the green city movement. In 1971, architect Jaime Lerner was elected mayor and developed a city-wide plan towards sustainability (Alexe, 2017). This plan involved a green belt around the city to increase diversity and water management. It also included closing six blocks of a central business district to allow access to only pedestrians, and a high-tech bus system for public transportation (Alexe, 2017). With these bold city-wide design moves, Curitiba has proven that a city can be transformed into a greener and more effective space. 


Through this project many other cities have followed such sustainable actions to transform into a green city, including Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary. However, when designing green cities, context is an extremely important aspect. Curitiba, Brazil uses its dense population and warm climate to its advantage to further the sustainability strategies. Canada’s sustainability strategies require accounting for a colder climate and more spread out urban areas instead. Green cities can include recycling, increased plant or animal diversity, conservation strategies, reducing pollution, cultural developments, urban agriculture, and creating new landscapes for social and ecological purposes (Gordon, 1990). 


Green Urban strategies require corresponding education to provide better insight for the residents in the green city and the issues being faced through each project and design. Further education will also provide the youth of the city with better knowledge to understand climate and population issues and what approaches may be taken to maintain a healthy urban area; therefore, creating a cycle of sustainability. A green city’s role is not only to transform into a self-sustaining sustainable space, but also to allow its residents to grow with it through the introduction of hands-on practices. This transformation and emerging movement require careful planning and design to create a city that fits its current context and the residents’ needs (Moulton, 2009). If these components are dismissed or overlooked, the city will not gain the efficiency expected of a green city. These decisions should also focus long-term, focusing on current and future environmental and urban issues. With these thoughtful choices, cities can become balanced and an enjoyable place to live. 



Alexe, A. (2017, September 29). Curitiba, Brazil: The world's first sustainable city. Retrieved May 22, 2019, from


Gordon, D. (1990). Green cities: Ecologically sound approaches to Urban Space. Montreal: Black Rose Books.


Moulton, J. (2009, March 13). EarthTalk: What is the 'green cities' movement? Retrieved May 22, 2019, from

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