Friday, April 1, 2011

Smarter Cities

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has launched Smarter Cities, a comprehensive “multimedia Web initiative,” designed to answer the questions: What makes a smarter city? Which cities are smarter? In this instance, NRDC is defining smarter as “more efficient, sustainable, equitable and livable.” Included in this new trove are online resources focused on ”leader cities,” selected for their “best practice programs in various components of sustainability”; more than a hundred city profiles; toolkits; and a blog by NRDC smart growth experts.
NRDC writes: “Today, urban leaders—mayors, businesses and community organizations—are in the environmental vanguard, making upgrades to transportation infrastructure, zoning, building codes, and waste management programs as well as improving access to open space, green jobs, affordable efficient housing and more. If they succeed in making their cities more efficient, responsible and sustainable, what will result will be smarter places for business and healthier places to live.” The organization hopes urban policymakers will take advantage of these resources, and visit “Smarter Cities knowing that it is where they will find solutions to the challenges they face, and make good use of the valuable tools we are working everyday to gather – the model policies and programs, best practices, incentives and innovations that leader cities are piloting – by rolling them out where they live.”
Smarter Cities identifies “leader cities, those cities that for a specific sustainability factor are putting in place best practices, testing innovative new programs, passing model legislation, etc.” To bring these cutting-edge cities to life, there will be a set of research on various topics of interest to urban policymakers. New research articles on the best practices of 22 smarter citiesthat “made the grade” in sustainable municipal energy programs were just released, to be followed by additional sections on transportation, water, green buildings, and other areas. Research for each area is being informed by a research plan led by an advisory group. Next steps for the future areas include “data collection” that will be as “comprehensive as possible and involve surveys and interviews with municipal officials as well as a full review of existing data sources.”
There’s a compact yet growing toolkit, including things like a “model ordinance, a detailed description of an innovative new program, a web site for citizens who want more information, want to learn about incentives, opportunities, resources, ways to get involved, and other valuable tools cities and their residents should find useful.”
In the same vein, What’s Smart Near You? involves residents of these cities in a broader conversation about cities through a set of searchable databases and useful tools that allow everyone to “locate local goods and services that make all of us and our communities smarter.” One easy-to-use tool enables urban residents to find fresh local foods, while another helps residents locate recycling centers near them. Also, one really nice feature is a map tool that enables you to search for resources by state. There’s also a set of “cities to watch” in this area.
Check out your city’s profile and start exploring resources.
Image credit: Chicago City Hall Green Roof / Chicago Convention and Tourist Bureaus