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Sometimes it’s best to hear straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So a post yesterday on Planetizen from Vancouver’s director of city planning, Brent Toderian, intrigued me with their ambitious goals to be the greenest city in the world:

Since their election late last year, our new Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council have significantly upped the bar once again. Not satisfied with being the North American leader in many aspects of sustainable city building, Mayor and Council have noted how other cities on the continent do better in many aspects, and how global cities significantly outperform us in key areas such as district energy, urban agriculture, cycling, etc. His challenge: for Vancouver to become the greenest city in the world (yes, that’s right, not in North America, in the world), by 2020. And Council takes this goal seriously, challenging other cities (in a friendly competition since) to try their best to out-do us. Its an inspiring challenge, a rallying cry, that I for one also take very seriously. No rolling of the eyes here. It may seem like a long shot for any North American city to really become the global green leader, but like the Mayor, I say we’re up for it. And our city, and all others that look to us as a model, will be better for the effort.

Clearly, there’s a favorable culture in Vancouver that makes this kind of endeavor possible. It’s a culture most cities would be enviable of, no doubt. One hopes it’s a culture that can continue to spread. Toderian closes his post with a great, open challenge to all cities:

Care to race us to being the greenest city in the world? Our Mayor and Council welcome it – just one more chance to raise the bar on green city-building.

The entire post is worth the read to get more insights into Vancouver’s EcoDensity initiative and other related activities.

For you Vancouver residents, what’s your take? Is it working? And for other residents around the world, how likely are your cities to take up the challenge?

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Posted by: Matilde Omeara
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I definitely think it’s working. I live in downtown Vancouver and in the past 9 years that I’ve lived there, I’ve seen many roads changed over to include bike lanes, several new parks within a few blocks of my condo building, and the addition of the new Canada line — mass transit linking the airport to downtown.

The city clearly has “green” on the brain. We just recently opened our new convention center that was designed with a living roof to help with heating and cooling as well as collecting rainwater to use for irrigation. New buildings are given concessions if they agree to build a park or add greenspace, there are rebates and tax breaks for buying fuel efficient cars and bicycles, and our city buses and trains are powered either by electricity or natural gas.

Just a few weeks ago I attended my first “no car day” rally and there are several communities that plan to close roads on weekends during the summer just to be more pedestrian friendly. Last week they closed off one lane on the Burrard bridge (one of 4 main arteries out of downtown) to allow for a trial run of a bike lane.

With initiatives like these already in place and a solid commitment from the Mayor and city planners, I think Vancouver is well on it’s way. The winter Olympics are coming next February, that’s our open invitation to the world to come check out what you’re going to compete against. May the best city win. :)

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