sustainable urban development practices

Why to read about sustainable development goals in Mega Cities I. and II. and III.? The third part is about the individual, business, corporate and the city level regarding sustainable development practices. What can an individual, or business do? How city planning and urban development can support other levels to achieve sustainable aims?

I quoted the famous German author and poet: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in the first article. To be able to align sustainable development goals and practices we need to understand problems first.

True sustainability

This concept at the corporate and urban level takes an integrated approach to design and construct buildings that minimize environmental impact, and promote social equity. Promote products, and markets, which aligh sustainable development goals.

It minimizes the negative impact on the environment and ensure the long-term viability of natural resources.

True sustainability at the individual level involves

  • being self-awareness and
  • making conscious choices that reduce our impact on the environment, promote social and economic sustainability.

Sustainable development practices

These are actions and initiatives that help the long-term well-being of the environment, society, and the economy. They are aimed at ensuring that current needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Individual level

The following (small) steps help individuals to work toward true sustainable development practices:

Reducing energy and water consumption

  • using energy-efficient appliances/lighting, e.g.: turning off lights and electronics when not in use,
  • adjusting the thermostat to conserve energy and conserve water,
  • reduce water consumption by fixing leaks, taking shorter showers, and installing low-flow fixtures.

Water recycling

Use as much wastewater as you can, recycling water is important nowadays such as

  • toilet flushing, street washing, and fire protection can be solvable with wastewater too.

Reduce waste

  • composting organic material,
  • recycling as much as possible.

Renewable energy

Reduce the consumption of electricity and fossil fuel

  • use solar panels as much as you can mostly if you have an electric car,
  • wind turbines, or
  • geothermal as it can generate enough electricity for house or cars to charge and recharge them. In additionally in that way you can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Sustainable transportation

  • walk,
  • ride a bicycle, or
  • use public transportation whenever you can

Helps to reduce environmentally unhealthy emission of gases, and a step to take forward sustainable development, and environmental friendliness. Use a car less, than you would use otherwise, not just because the fuel prices peaked, but because it is very unhealthy to use cars all the time to our environment. To support these goals next to this:

  • use car sharing platforms and
  • electric car sharing platforms can help to make the environment less polluted than it was before.

Choose and buy sustainable products

  • buy sustainably produced goods made from renewable materials with minimal environmental impact can help support the development of a circular economy,
  • support local food systems,
  • eat plant-based or low-carbon diet (if you like),
  • avoid wasteful packaging to reduce the environmental impact of our food choices.

Local markets

Buy local fruits, and vegetables instead the ones, which transported globally. For example,

  • do not buy fruits and vegetables which come from the other side of the world.
  • (Use carbon footprint calculator to find out yours).


Self-awareness and self-development help you to

  • get know yourself first on different levels,
  • find out what is the best for you, what makes you happy.

Staying local vs. Living global

Travelling to an unknown place, city or country and being on a vacation there does not mean automatically that you would enjoy a life there.

When you are going to a holiday you might automatically feel better, as there is no pressure on you.

You might have better feelings and visualize life is easier there than in your area

That might would not have if you would be living there every day. Especially if you are not able to live in a similar area in the new place where you have been living before in your old city/country.

So first get to know yourself to understand what is good for you and what is not.

Stay local

If you can then stay in your area, do not move to a huge urban area only for the sake of it. Moving, and living somewhere else is not always easy and the best solution for you. Buying a flat or house just to take out loans is not always helpful especially in the economic environment where inflation high and recession can start anytime.

Staying local can help you several times to avoid unnecessary expenses. Not saying never move and follow your dreams, but at least have some idea ahead what are you doing.

Moving to other cities or countries means you need to think on your emotional contentment too, not just focusing on your salary.

Advocate for systemic change

by supporting policies, initiatives that promote sustainability, such as

  • renewable energy programs,
  • sustainable transportation initiatives.
  • learn about environmental issues and sharing knowledge with others to raise awareness and encourage more sustainable practices.

Business and corporate level

Sustainable practices at the corporate and business level involve implementing policies and strategies that improve environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic viability.

Corporate social responsibility

This involves businesses taking responsibility for the social, economic, and environmental impacts of their operations and taking steps to minimize their negative impact and promote positive impact.

Circular economy

Promoting a circular economy, where products are reused, recycled, or repurposed, can help reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of production and consumption for example FMCG etc.

Other sustainable practices

  • Green energy: solar, wind, and geothermal power, which are clean and sustainable.
  • Sustainable supply chain: sourcing materials and products from suppliers who use sustainable practices, such as reducing waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Waste reduction: companies implementing recycling and composting programs, reducing packaging materials, and using energy-efficient equipment.
  • Sustainable transportation: corporations encourage employees to use public transportation or bikes for commuting and can reduce transportation-related emissions by using electric or hybrid vehicles.
  • Social responsibility: engage in social responsibility practices such as fair labor practices, providing equal opportunities, and contributing to social and environmental causes.
  • Remote work options: reduce transportation cost and air pollution. social responsibility for those who cannot or do not want to move to another city, because of costs, health problems etc.
  • Sustainable buildings: design and construct buildings that are energy-efficient and use sustainable materials, while also promoting employee well-being and health.
  • Water conservation practices: reducing water consumption, harvesting rainwater, and recycling wastewater.
  • Sustainable investments: investing in sustainable projects and initiatives, such as renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies.

City level

Sustainable development practices on the urban and city level are practices which help individuals, businesses and corporations to be able to support the other levels.

Biodiversity conservation

This involves protecting and restoring biodiversity and ecosystems, including urban green spaces, agriculture, restoring degraded habitats.

Urban green spaces

Cities can create and maintain green spaces such as

  • parks,
  • gardens, and
  • green roofs, which provide habitat for wildlife and promote biodiversity.

Urban agriculture

A habitat for

  • pollinators,
  • preserve local food systems, and
  • reduce food miles, while also
  • providing opportunities for community engagement.

Restoring degraded habitats

Efforts can be made to restore degraded habitats, such as wetlands and forests, which can provide habitat for native wildlife and promote biodiversity.

Sustainable transportation

Promoting biking and walking instead of using cars, can reduce the environmental impact of transportation and protect natural habitats.

Planting flowers, trees; green roofs and urban gardening

Initiatives which help people to plant flowers, trees, create and use green roofs. Promote urban gardening.

Support local and sustainable businesses

Promoting local markets to people

  • to buy products and services from local and sustainable businesses and in that way reducing the carbon footprint of transportation
  • by supporting businesses that prioritize social and environmental responsibility,

Protecting local and national markets with import taxes through legislation and local laws.

Sustainable urban planning practices

Cities can use sustainable urban planning practices to reduce urban sprawl and protect natural habitats and ecosystems.

This involves designing and building cities that are

  • energy-efficient,
  • pedestrian-friendly, and
  • promote green spaces.

Jan Gehl

This approach was introduced by Jan Gehl, who is a Danish architect and urban designer. He is a founding partner of Gehl Architects.

He advocates a sensible, straightforward approach to improving urban form:

  • systematically documenting urban spaces,
  • making gradual incremental improvements,
  • then documenting them again.

His book Public Spaces, Public Life describes how such incremental improvements have transformed Copenhagen from a car-dominated city to a pedestrian-oriented city over 40 years.

Sustainable development practices. Sustainable urban development. Human scale. Jan Gehl.

He has focused on

  • improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards the pedestrian and cyclist.

The human scale

According to Anderson-Oliver, M. (2013) “Cities for people: Jan Gehl”,

Gehl credits the “grandmother of humanistic planning” Jane Jacobs for drawing his attention to the importance of human scale“Fifty years ago, she said – go out there and see what works and what doesn’t work and learn from reality. Look out of your windows, spend time in the streets and squares and see how people actually use spaces, learn from that, and use it.”

Sustainable development practices. Sustainable urban development. Human scale. Jan Gehl.

Case study: Copenhagen

One of the good examples for this is Copenhagen, which planned by architects who planned the city for people and the behaviour of people was even taken into consideration and the human scale.

His theories have been applied to cities from Shanghai to San Francisco. And philosophy is informed by the needs of humans rather than buildings, transport, or politics. It took for Copenhagen five decades to become the human-focused city as its main street was pedestrianised in 1962. The city’s success is due to physical changes which followed the shift in mindset.

Pilot study: New York

Gehl conducted a pilot study in 2008, temporarily closing Broadway to traffic between Times Square and Herald Square in New York. New Yorkers awoke to a new way of thinking about their streets. He identified that 90 per cent of the users of Times Square (pedestrians) had 10 per cent of the space: since then, 400,000 sq metres in midtown Manhattan have been pedestrianised.

Threats and weaknesses

The real threats and weaknesses on Sustainable development practices that individuals do not care about the threats and still doing their old habits, corporate social responsibility will not be “forced” by authorities and countries do not care about to protect laws. Other possible threats are people who find out new ways to avoid laws.

Transportation costs

Transportation, especially using fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. Webshops often require products to be shipped long distances, which can increase carbon emissions and contribute to packaging waste. So, globalization not always the best idea especially imports and export goods etc.

Quality of products

Buying different things from a webshop for example food and drink can be quite dangerous. In 2022, a man died in Germany after drinking from a bottle of Moet champagne. Eight people were also poisoned in Germany and four in the Netherlands. Authorities did not know first how this could happen according to the Insider.

NLTimes and the Dutch food, and consumer product safety authority, the NVWA warned people after the incident that “Touching or drinking the contents of the bottles is life-threatening.” In that time Manufacturer Moët Hennessy informed the NVWA about the incident and it was unknown for a long time how the MDMA got into the bottles. The NVWA could’t estimate how many hazardous bottles are in circulation.

Sustainable development goals in Mega Cities III. Quality problem.

According to Food & Wine “officials were unsure of how the bottles became adulteratedThe issue did not come from Moët HennessyInstead the bottles has been emptied out, filled with liquid MDMA, and resealed with different corks.”

At that time, authorities recalled a specific lot code of bottles: LAJ7QAB6780004, then because of investigations another lot coded bottles have added to the recall: LAK5SAA6490005. 

One bottle was sold on open sale and others were online and in physical shops according to The Brussels Times.

Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG)

These are products that are consumed quickly and are sold at a low price, such as food, beverages, and household items. The production and consumption of these goods can have significant environmental and social impacts, and therefore their sustainability is a critical issue.

Approaches to follow regarding FMCG

  • Sustainable sourcing raw materials and ensuring that the production process is environmentally friendly and socially responsible can help reduce the negative impact of FMCG production.
  • Reducing the amount of packaging used for FMCG products and using environmentally friendly materials can help reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of packaging.
  • Designing FMCG products to be durable, reusable, and repairable can help reduce the environmental impact of the products and encourage more sustainable consumption patterns.

Sustainable solutions globally on economy level

Sustainable development practices should be practiced globally and harmonize different countries laws, regulations, and legislations to make them efficient and easier.

Circular economy

Promoting a circular economy, where products are reused, recycled, or repurposed, can help reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of FMCG production and consumption.

Social responsibility

Ensuring fair labor practices, protecting workers’ rights, and promoting social inclusion can help ensure that FMCG production is socially responsible and contributes to sustainable development.

Eco-friendly products

Environmentally friendly laundry detergents are highly welcomed. As they do not add to the global pollution. These help to protect the Earth from pollution, which come from chemicals. Those cannot be recycled.

To have a more ethical lifestyle replacing environmental polluting detergents with eco-friendly ones are an innovative idea. Those are not just eco-friendly, but usually less likely irritate your skin and more likely contains only natural cleaning ingredients. Good to try out them instead of just using old ones. Those can be more irritating to the sensitive skin.

Zero Waste & sustainable packages

Using zero waste or biodegradable packages are another piece of cake how to go green.

Those packages can be recycled. Next can create less waste or zero waste are become more and more fashionable. Popularity increasing nowadays as environmental awareness on a rise too.

Environmentally friendly food packages are mostly packages from glass, stainless steel, bamboo, rice husk, cellulose-filled gelatin films. Next to this corrugated cardboard and other forms of paper-based packaging are being amongst the most sustainable packages.

Shared responsibility

To sum up as we can see all of us can be responsible for the activities we are doing, actions we are taking and for our “old+ habits. We need worldwide cooperation and collaboration to be able to stop further pollution of the environment. We can do this only if we use our common sense, change old not sustainable habits, and use products and services, which are environmentally friendly and based on renewable energy, and materials.

Read the first part of the article: Sustainable development in Mega cities I. and Sustainable development in Mega cities II. if you are interested in the topic.

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