” Plant, baby, plant ” Episode 2, Urban forestry

Valenciennes, Northern France

Today is the second part of my “Plant, baby, plant ” series started last week with agroforestry. We shall delve here on urban forestry and its many advantages. Next week we shall conclude by the Billion Tree Campaign.

As we have seen, planting trees among farming fields and gardens provide many advantages. But what about planting trees in our cities ? With more than half of the world population dwelling in cities nowadays, the question is important.

This will even be more the case in the future as – to the United Nations –  7 out of 10 people are expected to live in cities in 2050.

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Wood is reaching new heights in buildings

What if we used wood as a construction material for high buildings ? Given how many trees we are planting to fight climate change, we are not going to lack from it any time soon if we manage it sustainably.

Back to June the New York Times published an interesting article on how this is done in London where a company built a nine-story building using mostly cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

And this is only the beginning as soon construction made from wood could sprout all around the world. CLT is indeed much more fire-resistant than common wooden material.

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Painting roofs white

Sometimes the simplest solutions can have huge impacts. Indeed, painting dark roofs white can decrease by up to a fifth  buildings air conditioning use. Generalized globally, this could make a big difference.

Scientists at the Concordia University estimated that painting one percent of the world’s urban surfaces white could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 130 gigatons over the next 50-100 years.

Additionally, the White Roof Project estimates that painting all of the world’s rooftops white by 2030 could save enough emissions to equal the world’s carbon output in 2010.

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Tackling the methane from landfills

Sometimes, the simplest things work best. To Grist : ” Bill Clinton urged mayors at the Large Cities Climate Summit to go after a pollutant 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide: methane.” ” By capturing it from landfills, from which it leaches in prodigious amounts, cities could use it to generate power. Wrestling CO2 … Read more

Grist : How bicycling will save the economy

While I am a huge supporter of electric cars and mass transportation, I also believe bikes should play a more important role in our lives and cities.  And so does Grist with its great Bikenomics series of three articles. Indeed, cycling allows people to stop buying foreign oil and thus spend their money in local … Read more

Why cities might be a good solution

According to the Canadian magazine Corporate Knights : ” If the concept of a sustainable city sounds like a paradox, that’s because it is, according to physicist Geoffrey West.” ” Ironically, because of their urban “metabolism,” cities require only 85 per cent of the resources necessary to double in size, and they’re more energy efficient … Read more

A great idea for tiny apartments

In the age of scarcity, space can be a very expensive commodity. Hong Kong architect Gary Chang had an awesome idea to solve this : he transformed his 32 square meters appartment into a much bigger one with sliding walls.

This very simple yet ingenious idea allows him to have in a relatively secluded place many different rooms such as a library, a full kitchen, a bathroom with a tub and a spare bedroom. He even has a laundry room !

As you can imagine such a creative idea has travelled all around the world and Mr. Chang’s appartment was featured in the New York Times, the AFP and TreeHugger.

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The end of urban sprawl ?

urban-sprawlUrban sprawl poses many problems in terms of infrastructures to maintain, increased energy consumption and last but not least important health and environmental issues.

With the economic downturn and high energy prices, people are sometimes returning to the urban cores. This leaves empty houses and even districts. In some cases these suburbs are litterally bulldozed and returned to Nature.

I personally wonder if this trend is likely to continue and even increase – oil prices will sooner or later go back up $100 – or if this is but a fade.

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Could we unpave our streets ?

Green AkihabaraIn a recent article Franke James was wondering ” Why do we cover up the earth with impermeable materials that stop the rain from going into the ground and require expensive sewers?

According to the Chicago Green Alleys Handbook quoted by Franke, unpaving our streets would bring many advantages such as reducing localized flooding, recharging groundwater and saving taxpayer money.

This brilliant idea reminded me of my post on green roofs as well as the series of pictures showing what would Tokyo look like if it unpaved its streets (above: Akihabara ).

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