How Green Cities Make Infrastructure Safer
by Jane Marsh
Every city must maintain or repair outdated infrastructure to make it safer, so why not go green? Green cities have many sustainable and beneficial structures that contribute to the safety of transportation, waste, water, and electricity management. People must eventually update almost every building or system, so it only makes sense to focus on eco-friendliness.
What Are Green Cities?
Green cities consider the health of the climate and local ecosystems during construction, renovation, and utilization. There isn’t a single thing that can categorize a city as green. Still, most people generally accept that they should build structures sustainably or contribute positively to the environment.
Cities generally account for over 70% of carbon emissions while occupying only 3% of land on Earth, but sustainable cities positively impact the environment. They can also have policies or regulations to promote balanced living.
Are Green Cities Necessary?
Plenty of cities get along with outdated infrastructure just fine, so are green cities necessary? It may not seem essential, but it can be very beneficial. Combining vegetation and sustainable structures with urban areas improves safety and disaster resilience in unique ways.
Many transportation, sewage, or electrical systems need to be safer. Over 11% of bridges in the U.S. are classified as structurally deficient, meaning nearly 66,000 are potentially unsafe. On top of that, stable structures can be hazardous as well.
For example, the Aurora Bridge in Seattle dumps 1 million gallons of runoff containing lethal amounts of chemicals into the river yearly. Green cities are necessary because even structurally sound infrastructure can improve its safety.
How Are Green Cities Making Infrastructure Safer?
Green cities reduce how the environment negatively impacts infrastructure because sustainability revolves around making things last and enhancing positive effects.
Cities with green structures and policies make infrastructure safer by:
- Increasing structural integrity: Many green cities have safer infrastructure because sustainable structures are meant to be resilient and long-lasting. For example, geothermal energy sources are typically sturdier than alternatives because they’re unaffected by most weather events.
- Reducing temperatures: Cities are typically hotter than surrounding areas because they have little greenery. Since plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide shade, incorporating them into buildings lowers temperatures by up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Filtering pollutants: When it rains in urban areas, the water picks up pollutants — like trash, chemicals, and oil — that harm the environment. Collections of rocks and greenery can naturally filter rainwater before it does any damage.
- Absorbing stormwater: Storms in cities create runoff since buildings and pavement can’t absorb water, which can lead to flooding.
- Cleaning air: Plants remove pollutants and lower the temperature, which reduces smog and pollution. Cleaner air is safer for transportation systems because it increases visibility.
Cities are prone to flooding, increased temperatures, and polluted air because of their infrastructure, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions. Sustainable alternatives come in many forms and can easily be directly incorporated into existing systems. It’s as easy as planting greenery on a roof to absorb rainwater and shade the rest of the building. People can alter the current infrastructure or build more sustainable ones to increase safety.
Which Cities Are Being Safer by Going Green?
Many cities use green buildings, roadways, or drainage systems that directly benefit their citizens. For example, Portland, Maine, funded the Trust for Public Land to turn over 13 acres of an unused industrial lot into a green space for walking or biking. Those pathways reduce strain on the transportation system and contribute to cleaner air since more people can travel on foot instead of in vehicles.
Smaller projects also have significant positive impacts. Philadelphia uses downspout planters — containers filled with native perennials, rocks and soil — that can filter nearly 78 gallons of stormwater before it enters the sewer system. It helps keep the waterways clear and clean, which makes for healthier citizens and safer structures.
Are Green Cities Effective?
Green initiatives are usually scalable because the same techniques used in small neighborhoods can be applied to entire cities. Plenty of unique solutions exist if cities need more space or resources.
A city in Italy installed around 15,000 plants vertically in multiple apartment buildings. The project would’ve taken up too much space if built traditionally, but the unique fix let it move forward.
Green cities can effectively make infrastructure safer by providing alternatives for water and transportation management, among other things. They make urban areas more resilient to weather events and reduce the maintenance and resources required for upkeep since they’re changed or built with sustainability in mind. Even small changes can have significant and positive impacts.
Green Cities Make Infrastructure Safer
While cities could simply update and restore infrastructure as it wears down, green alternatives are better suited for improving safety. They focus on longevity and also provide useful benefits.
Article by Jane Marsh
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of