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Green city | 26 April 2022

Listicle: 10 innovative solutions for a greener city

Our cities must become greener. Cutting down on carbon emissions, creating more green spaces, and facilitating sustainable living should be at the top of your to-do list for the coming years. Investing in green initiatives proves to be financially beneficial for a city and shows positive ROI overall.  

But how do you get started?  

We have collected 10 smart city examples from all over the world to inspire you. From the German city of Giessen which replaced all street lighting with LEDs, to the Danish capital, Copenhagen’s ambition to become carbon neutral. 

Creative and effective ways to make your city future-proof

1. The value of New York’s trees 

New York City used Cyclomedia’s smart visual data to create the world’s most accurate and detailed map of city’s trees. The virtual map gives all residents access to information about every tree in town. They can explore the urban forest, mark trees as favourites, share them with friends and record caretaking.  

Knowing more about these trees improves the environment and health of a city in measurable ways, NYC calculated the benefits that the trees provide. Every year they absorb 612.508 tons of carbon dioxide and 635 tons of air pollutants, and they conserve 667.975.487 kWh of energy. Using formulas from the U.S. Forest Service, NYC translated this also into financial values. Coming down to the amount of 158 dollars of ecological benefits per tree. 

2. Transforming Giessen, Germany into a smart city using LEDs  

Giessen has replaced traditional street lighting with LEDs to cut down on CO2 emissions. The first step was to determine the number of streetlights. The usage of panoramic images provided information about the exact locations, the type of streetlight and its direct surroundings, which was added to the database of assets.  

Four thousand lights in Giessen have already been converted to use LED technology. And the remaining streetlights are already scheduled to be replaced. The results so far? 370.000 euros saved, 1.000 tons of CO2 emissions averted, and 1.6 million kilowatt-hours conserved. 

3. Visual data and waste management in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany 

The city of Mülheim an der Ruhr wanted to improve their waste management.  

First step? Getting smart data insights.  

Mülheim uses visual data to optimise garbage collection routes. For example, in some streets, the legislation doesn’t allow a driver to turn a vehicle around if they’re on their own. A second person must be present to help.  

Mülheim used data to find out which routes can be handled by just one driver, and on which routes a second driver is necessary. The data also helped measure the width of roads or sidewalks to find out if there is enough space for waste containers. This resulted in an optimised waste management approach, saving time and money for the city.  

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4. Stormwater infrastructure in Maricopa County, Arizona

Stormwater runoff is one of the main causes of water pollution in the United States. Rain or meltwater that does not seep into the ground flows directly into the surrounding waterways. Especially in urban areas this runoff water collects a lot of pollutants along the way.  

To solve the issue, Maricopa County in Arizona used smart visual data to map its stormwater infrastructure to optimise it. With the use of ground-based imagery, they determined the condition and capacity of their stormwater infrastructure. All to eventually improve stormwater pipes and flood control structures. 

5. The living walls of Paris

Paris has transformed itself into a truly smart city. However, it still struggles with high levels of air pollution, prompting mayor Anne Hidalgo to enact a law that enables all Parisians to create urban gardens.  

Walls, rooftops, and fences are all free to be covered with flowers, plants, and even vegetable gardens. To stimulate the project, the city shared suggestions and examples and handed seeds out to its residents. Of course, the maintenance of these urban gardens is in the hands of the participants, so they signed a contract with the city to guarantee the survival and prosperity of the gardens.  

6. Parking management and data in Frankfurt 

To tackle climate impact, the city of Frankfurt focused on connecting city areas. One step was taking a closer look at parking management. To ensure a healthy and smart city, they proactively channel traffic out of the city.  

With the help of smart visual data, Frankfurt assessed its streets to find where free parking is located and what kind of street parking is available (residents only, special timing only). They also identified ticket machine locations and checked where parking prices were too low.  

Image data was also used to identify spaces outside the city that could be converted into parking spots. They made these new parking areas outside the city cheaper, so visitors can choose to park outside the city centre and use public transport to get to their destination. This not only reduced emissions in the city but also reduced city traffic. 

7. Philadelphia’s urban forest project 

Philadelphia plans to create an ‘urban forest’. Their goal? 30% of the city’s surface should be filled with trees.  

To kick off the project, Philadelphia created an inventory of the 112.000 trees in the city. This living database contains detailed images and information on the location, species, health status and potential hazards of all the bushes and trees in the city.  

Using a detailed map, the city can protect its green areas as well as plan and support new tree-planting projects. TreePhilly is one such project and provides free trees for Philadelphians. These trees can either be planted in their yard or on the street in front of their home. 

8. New York’s environmental protection 

In New York, stormwater runoff from streets, sidewalks, parking lots and rooftops is directed and controlled. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection utilises smart visual data and analytics to find areas in the city where they can build infrastructure promoting the natural movement of water.  

This natural movement is supported by collecting and managing stormwater. Directing this water to engineered systems typically comprised of soil, stones and vegetation prevents stormwater from entering and damaging the city’s sewer system. 

9. Amsterdam’s Rooftop Revolution

To bring back more green spaces to urban areas, the Dutch organisation Rooftop Revolution is supporting nature right in the middle of cities.  

Where? On the roofs!  

In the Netherlands, there are about 400 square kilometres of flat roofs (that’s about as big as 600.000 soccer fields) that could be home to healthy and beautiful vegetation.  

At the moment – the organisation has completed 100 green roof projects and covered more than 24.000 sq. meters in greenery.  

10. Copenhagen’s waste-to-energy plant  

By 2025 Copenhagen wants to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city. One of their big ideas to achieve this is Amager Bakke, a Waste-to-Energy Plant that opened on March 30th, 2017.  

The plant receives and processes waste from about 550.000 residents (the whole population of The Hague!) and 45.000 companies. In return, it delivers electricity and heating to 150.000 households.  

On the rooftop of this huge power station, you will find a ski slope and recreational hiking area. That’s right: nature. According to Rasmus Astrup, partner at SLA – the company who created the plant, Amager Bakke would like it to “function as a generous ‘green bomb’ that will radically green-up the entire area”. The scale of this enormous project shows that the Danish capital is thinking creatively to become carbon neutral. 


Making your city smarter and greener

These smart city examples show a range of possibilities to make cities more sustainable and environmentally friendly.  

Are you ready to start planning for a greener city? Read our Green Cities exclusive free guide to get started!