December 19, 2016

It’s Time to Change the Way We Sprawl


 It’s Time to Change the Way We Sprawl

Have you ever wondered how urban sprawl impacts our environment?  Between the roads, development of forested land for homes, and heavier demand on resources such as water and electricity in concentrated areas – city living creates extra stress on the Earth.

Development happens every day.  In some areas, new subdivisions are built at the expense of unique ecosystems.  Though I agree with the idea of growth and expansion, I firmly believe that it cannot be done at the expense of Nature.  We need Nature to be healthy and strong so that we can be healthy and strong.

Sustainable Development

To help sustain the health of our planet and its growing population, 17 Sustainable Development Goals were released by the United Nations in 2015.  Often referred to as the Global Goals, they are a large set of targets to be met by the world as a whole with deadlines starting as early as 2020.

Where to Start

The Global Goals are interconnected by design.  An effort made to achieve one goal will have a ripple effect and impact other goals at the same time.  

Because we all play a part in creating a sustainable future, decisions you make can be part of the solution.  In fact, sustainable development can start right where you live.

Let’s Negotiate

In order to take action on climate, reduce poverty, eliminate hunger, we need to get more serious about how we are developing the places we call home.

When city planners meet with developers and investors, it’s important that they go to the table with something written in stone that aligns with achieving the Global Goals.  Whether it is backed by local by-law, provincial mandate, or federal law, it is imperative for sustainability to be at the forefront of negotiations.  

My Wish List for Built to Last Development

  • Designated percentage of landmass as natural green space – a portion of local wetlands and forests for example. These areas cannot be developed on for personal use; instead they will be managed by local organizations for public accessibility such as parks, recreational spaces, and live classrooms for growing minds.  A portion of these spaces can be designated as agroforestry or permaculture projects – feeding the community while nourishing the Earth.
  • Accounting for the ecosystems – this means a financial assessment of the local and global impact of preserving ecosystems vs paving over them. The value added by natural ecosystems is priceless; clean air, clean water, and general health benefits are just a few features these spaces provide to the community.  Despite being priceless, there is a way to quantify these qualities.  If records are created to show the economic benefit of trees for example, it will be easy to do a comparative cost benefit analysis against what developers are offering up for permission to build on pristine land.
  • Brownfield restoration projects– prior to paving paradise and putting up luxury homes, a full land survey needs to be done and carefully considered. If there are areas in the city or town which homes exist, but are abandoned or run down, is it possible to restore these homes or even remove them to build new?  How about brownfields?  It takes years, even decades to restore them, if we don’t start today with an effort as small as planting clover or hemp, these plots of land won’t remediate themselves in any hurry.
  • Green Building – Did you know that you can use hemp as a building material and insulation?  Better yet, it’s carbon negative!  Using eco-friendly alternatives for new builds and retrofits needs to be encouraged, accessible, and offer tax incentives.   
  • Accessible transportation, bike lanes, and dedicated pedestrian zones – Integral to the development of any sustainable city or town is a carefully planned transit system that helps people get to where they need to go without having over dependency on a vehicle.  Also, by incorporating bike lanes and dedicated pedestrian zones, not only will emissions be reduced by keeping cars off the road, the general health of citizens will improve due to more opportunities for exercise and time spent outdoors.

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation.”

 Gustavo Petro (Mayor of Bogota)

Imagine if those buses were run on hemp biodiesel.  Now, more than ever we need to think outside the box to create sustainable foundations to build on.  Let’s stretch good ideas to great heights.

Hemp is one of the most sustainable plants in the world, and a key player in achieving the Global Goals.  How do you use hemp?  Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter using #StaySustained.

About the Author – Leah Feor

Leah is a strategic advisor and content creator for Simply Sustainable™. Balancing a triple bottom line for organizations and individuals is her utmost goal. She’s a big picture thinker with an eye for detail. Her passion for the environment and social impact bring her business background to life. Outdoor adventures, healthy living, and continuous learning are just a few of her favourite things.



Twitter: @simplysust