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Incentivizing Sustainability from Cities to Suburbs

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Ryan Ayers's picture
Researcher , Consultant

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with...

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  • Aug 14, 2020
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It’s well-known that in the fight against climate change, there are no easy answers. To make our world sustainable, we have to understand the impact that corporations, cities, suburbs, and individuals have on our carbon footprint. We have to get creative and work together if we want to prevent further environmental devastation.

As more and more people gravitate away from rural areas and into densely-populated cities and suburbs, it’s essential that we take a smarter approach toward sustainability in these areas. Compliance isn’t going to happen on its own, and we need to think about incentives that will be strong enough for communities to take collective action. Here’s what that might look like.

First: Why is Sustainability Important? 

Humans use a truly staggering number of resources. Before agriculture, the population was limited, based on the amount of food available in the wild. Once our hunter-gatherer ancestors began to farm, however, the population started to grow and we moved toward our current model of exploiting the resources of the world.

Sustainability is important because if we continue to use more and more resources without allowing them to replenish, the planet’s ability to sustain life is reduced. To maintain our quality of life for current and future generations, and to ensure that the diverse ecosystems that surround us remain intact, we need to make our society as sustainable and self-sufficient as possible.

To stop further climate change and heal the planet, it’s important for our communities to work toward a carbon-neutral world. That’s a tall order, but it starts with sustainable infrastructure and community accountability.

Prioritize Loans for City Sustainability Projects

Although many sustainability initiatives will ultimately save money while protecting the planet, they can be expensive to implement. Cities will need funding to implement sustainable infrastructure, smart green spaces, and other projects that could reduce their carbon footprint. By prioritizing these loans and making them affordable for cities, we could start the essential process of making our urban spaces green as soon as possible.

Should Environmental Engineers Be Paid More?

Engineers work in a variety of different contexts to design and build everything from medical devices to bridges. One of the newest engineering specialties is environmental engineering, which is concerned with designing and building sustainable solutions.

In general, engineering is a well-paid profession. But do environmental engineers make enough money to incentivize more people to choose this specialty?

Obviously, many people who get in the field do so because they want to make a difference. But if we want to encourage people to choose environmental engineering over other specialties, we have to realize that the pay gap could be a factor. For instance, the average salary for an environmental engineer was $87,620 as of 2018, while chemical engineers made an average of $104,910.

Monetary Incentives for Districts With No Food Deserts

Creating sustainable cities doesn’t just mean going green. It also means ensuring that residents have access to basic needs, like healthcare and nutritious food.

“Food deserts,” which describe areas where residents do not have access to healthy food near where they live, exacerbate issues like poor health, lack of transportation, and poverty. Additionally, communities relying on fast food and frozen or convenience items is a blow to sustainability and eco-friendly living due to issues like excessive packaging and energy use.

Although this is a complex issue, one way to help tackle it might be for cities to provide monetary incentives to districts with no food deserts. Or, a city could offer monetary incentives to individuals who are interested in opening grocery stores in these areas.

Could We Also Incentivize Suburban Citizens to be more Sustainable? 

Sustainable infrastructure is more applicable in dense, urban areas, but suburban communities have to consider their own activities and try to make them more sustainable as well. There are lots of ways to encourage sustainable habits and eco-friendly upgrades that local governments could provide to incentivize suburban citizens to use fewer resources.

Tax cuts on equipment like solar panels, eco-friendly appliances could help to make homes greener and convince homeowners to make smart upgrades. Offering recycling and composting programs, e-waste recycling, and providing education on creating native plant or vegetable gardens could also help.

In the end, we need to see behavior change at every level to achieve sustainability. Some changes are more difficult than others, but it’s important that we hold governments and ourselves responsible for protecting the planet and creating a more sustainable world.

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