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Sustainable wellbeing and green living

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This is What Smart Growth Looks Like

It’s no secret that North American cities have some serious urban planning issues which jeopardize the environmental sustainability and overall livability of urban areas. For example, urban sprawl, the rapid expansion of development on the peripheries of cities, is extremely common. This is an issue, as this new development is usually characterized by low density residential housing and single-use zoning, therefore increasing reliance on private automobiles for transportation. With suburban sprawl, we often see inner cities deteriorate as social inequality increases.

So, how do we remedy these issues? With land use and development practices that work to reduce urban sprawl and promote healthy, liveable, and enjoyable cities. Smart Growth is a term which is used to describe this type of sustainable development. As urban populations continue to increase, we need to plan our communities in a way that is environmentally, socially, and economically conscious. In other words, in a...


Possibilities in abandoned rail lines

Innovation and creativity are two very important elements when it comes to the creation of healthy, sustainable, and overall enjoyable cities. When presented with challenges, we need to be able to see opportunities and create positive change in order to make the most of the spaces we occupy.

As technology improves and cities evolve, many cities are left with unoccupied buildings, vacant plots of land, as well as aging and abandoned infrastructure. For example, many railway lines become abandoned over time, leaving unused tracks running through cities and taking up space. In the United States, and elsewhere around the globe, tens of thousands of kilometers of railroad were abandoned between the years 1965 and 2005.

Railway lines are abandoned for a number of reasons. One of the most common reasons is due to lack of use and poor profits due to competing methods of transportation. Whereas trains used to be the dominant method of transportation in Canada and the United States,...


Why bicycle parking garages make a difference

Cities are beginning to adjust their infrastructure in an effort to become more inclusive when it comes to active transportation methods. Active transportation is any kind of human-powered form of travel. This includes walking, cycling, running, skateboarding, rollerblading and more.

One method of active transportation in particular is quite popular and has the potential to really transform the way we use our roads and build our cities. As you might have guessed…this method of transportation is cycling!

Ever since the COVID-19 lockdowns, there has been a dramatic increase in bicycle sales around the world. It’s no secret that people have been exploring new hobbies over the course of the pandemic, and this so-called bike boom might result in significant and long-lasting changes when it comes to the way we get around in our cities.

For example, many cities around the world have taken measures to create more space for bikes on the road. In Paris, hundreds of kilometers of...


Can road design reduce carbon emissions?

Reducing the prevalence of cars in cities is an important part of creating more sustainable cities. We know that automobiles emit harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide and reduce walkability, so we need to ask ourselves, “what can we do to minimize their usage?”

While there are many methods of reducing automobile usage, such as the promotion of active transportation through the creation of urban walking trails, bike lanes, and the utilization of Transit Oriented Design, the reality is that vehicles will continue to be used for quite some time.

For one, they are practical when travelling long distances and can accommodate large groups of people (ie. busses). In addition, electric vehicles are gaining popularity which means that the overall environmental impact of automobiles will be reduced!

Prioritizing road safety

Photo sourced from: Streets for the People

This is why it is necessary to make our roadways as safe as possible. As long as vehicles are around, they...


Room for the River

It is not uncommon for people to think of the natural environment as separate from the built environment. To be fair, it is hard to think of oneself as being part of the natural world when located in urban areas which are surrounded by buildings and concrete as far as the eye can see.

That being said, the truth is that there is no way to escape nature, as we are a part of it! Whether it seems like it or not, our human environments are constantly influenced and affected by nature and natural processes. One of the best ways to illustrate this concept is by discussing natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods.

The climate change sized elephant in the room

These events are impossible to prevent. There is not much we can do in order to stop natural disasters from happening. The truth is that they do occur and will continue to occur due to climate change which exacerbates natural disasters both in terms of frequency and severity.

As you may know, either from firsthand...


What is TOD and why do we love it?

When it comes to incorporating sustainability into the built environment, it is important to acknowledge one key fact: we are living in a highly interconnected and globalized world. This is reflected in the way our cities are designed, as well as the movement of people within and between cities around the world.

This widespread travel within and between cities is able to occur due to the advent of modern transportation methods such as trains, busses, subways, automobiles, and planes. Unfortunately, one particular method of transportation has significantly influenced the design of our cities…and not in a good way!

Yep, you guessed it: the automobile. Automobiles are notorious for their contribution to urban sprawl, the uncontrolled expansion of urban areas.

Thanks to urban sprawl, it has become so much harder to get places on foot or take public transportation as your main method of getting around. For example, many North American cities have been designed specifically for...


4 Ways to Make Industrial Decarbonization a Reality

Yes – individual actions are very important when it comes to reducing our environmental impact and ensuring the sustainability of our planet and its ecosystems. However, we also need to think big picture in order to make the necessary transition to a greener way of living. Not only is it beneficial for individuals and businesses to go green, but for entire industries as well!

Did you know that emissions from the industrial sector comprise one-third of all global emissions? It is no secret that our economies rely heavily on the industrial sector. A wide variety of industries are responsible for producing the items we rely on in our everyday life. For example, items such as cellphones, homes, city structures, consumer goods, as well as many more, are made up of materials that are produced by the industrial goods sector.

This reliance on and prevalence of the industrial sector is why we need to find greener solutions! If we’re unable to do away with activities that...


Generate electricity one step at a time with Piezoelectricity

As the world’s demand for energy continues to increase, we know how important it is to develop and utilize alternative and sustainable methods of energy production. You may already be quite familiar with green energy sources or alternative energies such as hydroelectric power, wind power, biomass energy, or solar power, but did you know that there are many more opportunities for electricity generation?

In fact, something as simple as walking can generate electricity! According to the first law of thermodynamics, the Law of Conservation of Energy, energy can be neither created or destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. Therefore, the mechanical energy that is produced with each of our footsteps can actually be harvested and converted to electricity! Pretty incredible right?

How is this possible?

The energy produced by our footsteps can be converted to electricity through the piezoelectric effect. The piezoelectric effect is the...


Why we need to celebrate our trees

Spring is one of those seasons where we become a bit more aware of the plants and trees around us. And, of course springtime marks the beginning of the growing season for deciduous trees. If you live in a middle-latitude region like I do, you’ll know how good of a feeling it is when trees begin to “wake up” and leaves begin to bud.

It is useful to take a moment to remember the benefits provided by trees. As with all plants that photosynthesize, they provide the one and only route that this planet has to capture the sun’s energy and turn it into chemical energy and biomass. Yeah, kinda important right!

But we may more often consider the benefit of trees as being able to remove Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and store it, or to stabilize soils from erosion. Or perhaps to provide habitat for countless other species, everything from mosses, to mushrooms, to birds, insects and orangutans!

In the urban environment we also reap plenty of benefits from trees as...


Turning waste into resources with community composting

You may be familiar with backyard composting, but what about options for institutions, schools, businesses and people who would like another alternative to backyard and vermicomposting? Community composting can be a great solution to these dilemmas and a way to extend the lifespan of your local landfill and reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.

But first, let’s talk about why composting is a perennial favourite for taking personal action against climate change!

Why does everyone talk about the need to compost?

When food is thrown out in the garbage, and sent to the landfill, that organic waste is compacted in a sanitary landfill. This is done to save space in the landfill and to prevent animals from scavenging food there. However, this means that the food will break down without much oxygen - in other words, it will be anaerobically broken down.

When this happens, the decomposition of the food does not take the usual route of turning into carbon dioxide and other...

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