Taking Cities Beyond the Greenwash

The idea of sustainability is growing up, and as concerns about the environment take hold in cities from the bottom up, some are calling for a more sophisticated approach to "green" city development, write Anthony Flint and William Shutkin.
March 16, 2009, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"We haven't been used to such heavy lifting from the federal government. For years, the action has been at the local level, in metropolitan regions that have been engines of innovation focused on green, compact, transit-oriented settlement. In fact, during the final stages of the Bush administration and into these first days for President Obama, the bottom-up dynamic has led to a kind of Sustainability 2.0."

"While early green efforts had a trial-and-error quality, the latest exhibit a get-down-to-business sharpening of focus. One strong new trend: a real wariness of greenwashing, and the need to analyze initiatives to test not for good intentions, but for impact."

"Local policies such as plastic bag bans, restricting lawn watering and tree-planting must be evaluated to judge their actual outcomes in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of city life, said Judy Layzer from the urban planning program at MIT. Otherwise, "it's just so much easier to do 'sustainability lite'," she said."

"Metropolitan regions also need to be guided through the maze of grants, rebates and tax credits available for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. In the midst of the current economic tumult, green leases and green loan documents will become central to development financing, requiring sure-footed modeling that shows the savings of going green over the long term."

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Published on Sunday, March 15, 2009 in Citiwire
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