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Get To Know About How Sustainable City Works

Celebrating the Cities Day, the United Nations launched the world’s urban population data on 31st October 2020. This finding is done in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Latin America. The research found that the urban population in Asia now has reached 51.1%, drastically increased since 1950 where only 17.5% of the population lived in cities. Overall, the research showed that 56.2% of the global population now lives in cities.

Considering that most food supplies and resources come from rural areas, the findings popped up a question: how does the urban system provide its citizens sustainably? It can be possible with the concept of a sustainable city.

What Is Sustainable City?

Sustainable city refers to how the city supports its economy and social welfare while minimizing negative impacts towards the environment. Therefore, the next generations could live with the same quality of life. Inspiration and innovation in building a sustainable city is to imitate how nature works, for nature itself would be likely to be sustainable.

Songdo, South Korea. Buildings here have automatic climate control and computerised access. (Source: Panya K/Shutterstock)
Songdo, South Korea. Buildings here have automatic climate control and computerised access. (Source: Panya K/Shutterstock)

According to the Green City Partnership Coordinator Nirwono Joga, sustainable city includes quantity, quality, and continuity of clean water supply, waste water treatment and eco-friendly waste management, accessibility and mobility supported by sustainable transportation, clean energy utilization, green building development, and adequate green space.

According to the BBC UK, these are key features of a sustainable city.

  1. Resources and services in the city are accessible to all.
  2. Public transport is seen as a viable alternative to cars.
  3. Public transport is safe and reliable.
  4. Walking and cycling is safe.
  5. Areas of open space are safe, accessible and enjoyable.
  6. Wherever possible, renewable resources are used instead of non-renewable resources.
  7. Waste is seen as a resource and is recycled wherever possible.
  8. New homes are energy efficient.
  9. There is access to affordable housing.
  10. Community links are strong and communities work together to deal with issues such as crime and security.
  11. Cultural and social amenities are accessible to all
  12. Practice of sustainable consumption and production.

Sustainable Cities Around the World

After Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo’s reelection in 2019, he announced an ambitious plan to move the country’s capital city from Jakarta to East Kalimantan. Part of Kutai Kartanegara Regency and Penajam North Paser Regency will be taken for a new province-level planned city. The huge island of Borneo was selected to be the new capital city for, according to The Diplomat, the relocation is believed to relieve some of the heavy burden on Jakarta. The new capital, it is argued, would present more favorable conditions: a smart, modern, green forest-like city and a melting pot of future technological innovations. 

Deputy II on construction, operation and maintenance Peatland Restoration Agency Alue Dohong stated that this transition would follow the ‘green and smart city’ concept, as reported by ANTARA. The concept combines an administrative city based on sustainability and technology, while also paying attention to its efficiency. Therefore, not every forest would be cut off and replaced with a new land. Instead, part of the forest would be reserved and taken care of while the city practiced sustainability.

Performing a sustainable city would be a new thing to Indonesia, but it’s still possible. We could try to learn from these cities below. 

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025 and is making good progress. Less than 2% of the city’s waste goes to landfill. The rest are being recycled or converted to energy in Copenhill (Amager Resource Center). Copenhill is a waste-to-energy plant which also functions as an artificial ski slope.

Copenhill, waste-to-energy plant which serves as the city’s landmark. (Source: Visit Denmark)

All buses are changing from diesel to electric, while more and more road surfaces are devoted to cycling. After all, this is a city where the bicycle rules, with even members of parliament pedalling to work daily. If you prefer to travel by water, you could hire a GoBoat to explore the canals. You are unlikely to fall off, but don’t worry if you do – the waterways of Copenhagen are pure enough for swimming.

Even when they have a well executed waste management, the zero waste movement is also evolving. Amass, a restaurant in Copenhagen is considered to be a frontrunner in sustainable cooking. Their food is grown in their own garden, and it brews its own beer then uses the spent grain in recipes. Their kitchen scraps are either processed to make other gourmet dishes, regrown, or composted.

Vancouver, Canada

Nature and greenery seemed to be entwined with the urban metropolis in Vancouver. With the three surrounding mountains; The Cypress, The Grouse and The Seymour rising high above the city’s skyline, Vancouver offers nature’s playground at an urban doorstep. The capital also generates less emission than most of North America’s cities.

Vancouver Convention Center – the world’s only convention center to receive the top-level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum certification for environmental sustainability. (Source: Vancouver Economic Comission)

50 percent of its citizens travel by foot, bicycle or using public transportation. They have also planted almost 125.000 trees across the city since 2010, and they still plan to add more. Vancouver aims to fully eradicate their carbon emissions by 2040.


With the highest GDP in Asia, Singapore earned its title to be the most developed country in the continent. The city-state, only a bit bigger than Jakarta practices urban sustainability and committed to reduce its energy consumption to 35 percent by 2030.

Singapore is capable of preserving their natural resources in the middle of the concrete jungle. The small land made 80 percent of their residents live in apartments or vertical housing. Ecology-based tourist attractions also implement this vertical growth concept, such as Gardens by the Bay, Jewel Changi and Marina One.

Supertrees, solar photovoltaic artificial trees which is home to varieties of plants in the Gardens by The Bay. (Source: Patrick Bingham Hall/Grant Associates UK)

Their lack of clean water resources make Singapore use the water recycling system. Sewage water is filtered to extract larger particles, bacteria and viruses. Then, through reverse osmosis, membranes refine the water again, sifting out further contaminants and getting rid of any disease-causing agents. Finally, ultraviolet disinfection is used to make sure the water is truly pure and ready to use. 

Sustainable urban development would give birth to a sustainable production and consumption (SCP). Greeneration Foundation as an NGO focusing on implementing SCP in Indonesia is inviting you to take part in the multiplatform collaboration to create the sustainable city conception. We also support the realization of SCP through a few of our initiatives: Bebas Sampah ID and Indonesia Circular Economy Forum (ICEF).


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BBC UK. (n.d.). Sustainable living. Retrieved from GCSE Bitesize: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/ guides/zqvxdmn/revision/1

Chapell, B. (2019, August 26). Jakarta Is Crowded And Sinking, So Indonesia Is Moving Its Capital To Borneo. Retrieved from NPR: https://www.npr.org/2019/08/26/ 754291131/indonesia-plans-to-move-capital-to-borneo-from-jakarta

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