Livability describes the diverse aspects of society, surroundings, and shared experiences that shape a community. It focuses on the human experience and is specific to place and time. It includes economic, spatial, and social components that together are challenging to understand and measure in our defined world of planning and development of today's communities for tomorrow. As such, it is best defined by the state, region, or community, and is best measured at a scale where consensus can be found.
As the world around us evolves due to changing economies, governments, natural resources, and the environment, municipalities may face strains on assets and resources. Cities and towns are proactively building strategies to limit the impact of acute shock and chronic stress that threaten them or weaken their foundation on a day-to-day or cyclical basis. Sudden, sharp events like disease outbreaks, national and international political and economic disruptions, terrorist accounts, and extreme weather and natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods are hard to deal with without proper pre-planning and disaster recovery plans in place. Stresses like inefficient public transportation systems; high unemployment; endemic violence; and power, food, and water shortages or interruptions also pose challenges for municipalities.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is well known to most people involved in technology innovation. Need a refresher? Check out one of our recent blog posts which defines IoT. Simply put, it’s a growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity where the communications occur between objects and other Internet-enable devices and systems. IoT projects are found across most industries – higher education, healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, consumer electronics, automotive, etc.
When it comes to government, the promise of IoT is designed to solve everyday problems associated with urban living. Urban IoT initiatives are flush with sensors for fire and smoke detection, remote monitoring and performance of infrastructure related to core city services, reporting the structural integrity of roadways and bridges, alerting consumers to parking availability, broadcasting public service announcements or city events and news, tracking lost items (people and pets, too!), smart lighting, and more.
Did you know it’s Plastic Free July? Have you taken the challenge to reduce the amount of plastic you use, specifically single-use plastic? If not, a few weeks remain in the challenge. However, there’s little reason to not continue to adopt changes for the long term. It’s an effort many cities would applaud!
Cities and towns worldwide are banning plastic – from plastic bags to single-use plastic and Styrofoam containers. The reasons vary from sustainability inaititives to cutting waste management costs. A recent example that you may have heard in the media was New York City's ban of expanded polystyrene foam which cannot be recycled and cause environemntal harm.
There’s a groundswell of effort focused on educating and raising awareness of the amount of single-use disposable plastic in daily life. Organizations like Plastic Free July are also challenging people to do something about it by simply reducing their use of single-use plastic. For many people, the first step – a rather easy one – is to avoid plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups, and straws.
Each year city leaders take on the task of balancing budgets while keeping a close eye on core city services. If there’s a deficit, one line item that might face reduced support is recycling-related efforts and programs. While they do require budget dollars to maintain, these recycling efforts also promise to save a city money (and environmental impact) in the end.
Recycling costs vary from one city to the next depending upon proximity to landfills, labor cost, real estate prices, and method of recycling. Despite varying financial benefits, there are many positive reasons both economically and environmentally to recycle.
When it comes to recyclable materials - aluminum, glass, plastic, and paper - some recycle more easily than others and their life spans are extraordinarily long. In all cases, recycling of these materials results in energy and natural resource savings.
Recycling organic products and materials reduces the accumulation of organics in the city. Think that ripe not so sweet smell wafting through city alleyways or trash bins...
By separating organics from landfill garbage, cities can recycle those nutrients to create a ‘fertilizer’ waste stream that can be used by urban victory gardeners and commercial farmers who grow larger scale volumes of produce. Urban public space composting embodies our favorite 3 R's - reduce, reuse, recycle. Some communities are creating public composting sites and offering organic waste bins on sidewalks and in parks to encourage organic waste recycling. In turn, this organic matter can be converted to commercial products while decreasing landfill waste and boosting the economic gain.
A few days ago, a customer turned a phrase that embodies what Bigbelly does with surgical precision and profound understanding.
There’s a lot to be said about improving municipal recycling efforts. It helps to keep public spaces clean, eradicate pest problems, and provide measurable environmental benefits by waste diversion from landfills. Towns can also reduce tipping costs and other expenses related to waste disposal, and increase credits recycling incentive programs.
"Even in small cities, the returns from an efficient recycling program can have quite an impact," according to the EPA. Participation in urban recycling can be challenging but it’s often due in part to the programs in place. We know that city recycling programs need to appeal to a large and diverse population. Programs focused on increasing participating help to improve recycling rates. Below are a few interesting recycling stats from the EPA's latest national survey in 2009, as reported by our friends at Keep America Beautiful:
- Americans recovered 34% of waste generated in 2009.
- About 9,000 curbside residential recycling programs existed in the US that year.
- The 34% diverted waste equaled 82 million tons of recycled material.
- This national wide recycling behavior reduced CO2 emissions in a mass equal to removing 33 million passenger vehicles from the roads.
- The US recycling industry workforce is comprised of 1.1 million employees, generating over $236 billion in annual revenue.
- The recyclable materials left in the US landfill waste stream would have amounted to over $7 billion if properly recycled.
- There was 3 pounds of trash per person per day thrown away into the landfill waste stream; that is enough trash to circle the earth 24 times.
Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were laughing it up during a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Their banter was not at all focused on urban blight but as they walked the streets you cannot help but notice how clean the streets were. Beautification and keeping public spaces clean is a top priority for most cities and towns. However, it is not always an easy task. The conditions and issues of urban waste management vary from one municipality to the next and often from one neighborhood to another just down the block.