Insights into Sustainable Cleveland

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A sustainable city is a thriving city.  The city of Cleveland, Ohio is participating in a series of ten-year plans to create a thriving city for its citizens and visitors. Promoters of these projects hope to unite Cleveland citizens to build a collective vision for a viable future. During the autumn of 2009, the city began formulating a plan of action to create eco-friendly environments in the city, a plan known as Sustainable Cleveland.  Since the start of Sustainable Cleveland, the citizens of the city have worked to develop and achieve goals.  

The vision has been to make Cleveland a green, bright city with a blue lake, shaping the communities into something better, and to enhance the city’s natural environment.  The achievements may create health benefits, financial stability, uniqueness, and more opportunities for all people.

Green City Blue Lake: What Does This Mean?

Green city blue lake is one of the driving ideas behind Sustainable Cleveland.  GreenCityBlueLake is actually an institute of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.  The museum works with the Sustainable Cleveland action plan to promote ecology and create healthy living environments where people can flourish.

One goal of the initiative is to make Cleveland, Ohio a metropolitan area that exists harmoniously with the natural environment.  The goal is to make Cleveland a green, ecologically friendly city that respects the blue lake that borders it, Lake Erie.

By researching solutions, bring citizens together, communicating ideas, demonstrating ideas, and working for change, the GreenCityBlueLake Institute plans to create a sustainable Cleveland.  Since 1992, this institution has led multiple eco-projects in the Ohio city.  Some of its achievements include:

  • Bike lanes
  • Lorain-Carnegie Bridge
  • City of Cleveland Office of Sustainability
  • Cleveland Carbon Fund
  • Cleveland EcoVillage
  • Cleveland Environmental Center
  • Cleveland Water Alliance
  • Climate Change Planning (Northeast Ohio and Cleveland)
  • Ohio Smart Growth Agenda
  • Balanced Growth Program (Lake Erie)
  • PNC SmartHome

Ten-Year Celebration

In 2019, Sustainable Cleveland celebrated its tenth birthday.  Not only was it ten years since the birth of Sustainable Cleveland, but the year also marked exactly fifty years since the devastating fire on the city’s Cuyahoga River, a fire caused by pollution.

Although Sustainable Cleveland’s 2009 plan originally mentioned ten years, it did not technically have an end date.  Cleveland’s sustainability thus continued in 2019 as Sustainable Cleveland 2019 and was poised to continue beyond that.  Since the beginning of its sustainability efforts, the city has focused on key areas that could benefit people and the environment.

Since 2009, Cleveland’s sustainability efforts have accomplished many different achievements, including energy efficiency, healthy local food, clean water, less waste, and much more.  They have engaged thousands of people through different professional and social environments to make Cleveland an eco-friendly city.  Some achievements of Sustainable Cleveland and Sustainable Cleveland 2019 include:

  • Improving air quality and water quality
  • Enhancing the lives of animals in the area
  • Developing bicycle infrastructure (more than seventy miles)
  • Initiating the Cleveland Tree Plan and the Cleveland Tree Coalition
  • Reaching a tree canopy goal (50,000 new trees by 2020)
  • Distributing 4,000 free rain barrels to Cleveland residents
  • Promoting solar energy
  • Decreasing Cleveland’s carbon footprint
  • Encouraging people to live in Cleveland

While this is a list of recent accomplishments, there is also a long list of other goals and accomplishments of the city’s sustainable efforts. 

What Is the Future of Sustainable Cleveland?

While Cleveland has achieved so much from 2009 to 2019, people can do even more to make it a more livable place.  The sustainability team developed an updated Climate Action Plan (CAP) that included nearly four hundred stakeholders, raising the stakes even more.  While developers built this plan on previous work, the plan included priorities such as:

  • Social and racial equality
  • More green jobs
  • Climate action
  • Business leadership

This new plan for sustainable Cleveland seems much greater, but it is still realistic and achievable.  It will require help from workers, businesses, Cleveland citizens, and organizations to make this great city even greater.  It is more than just creating a better-looking city.  It is about creating a healthy, nature-filled environment where everyone can thrive.

Ideas for a Sustainable Future

We often hear about how fast our world is aging and how air pollution, waste, and other factors are ruining the good things we have.  To keep the environment as healthy and life-filled as possible, it is up to us to make sure it is healthy and clean.  People in the past would often view fossil fuels and as limitless resources and treat nature as a giant dumping ground.

Trash, debris, air pollution, and other things dirty the once-clean and healthy earth.  These conditions made Sustainable Cleveland not only a want, but a need.  The driving forces behind Sustainable Cleveland are more than just climate action and cleaning up a city.  It is also about transforming an economy.

Multiple projects related to Sustainable Cleveland have created more opportunities for businesses of all kinds.  They have also aimed to make Cleveland a more attractive home.  Although many people may benefit from the city’s sustainability efforts, the number of Cleveland residents continues to decrease.  The Sustainable Cleveland team has developed different ideas to bring people to the city:

  • Open space and recreation district

A new zoning plan that will create more public parks, gardens, open spaces, and areas for recreational activities.

  • Midtown mix-used district

Another new zoning plan but instead of parks or gardens, this plan encourages compact land development that is pedestrian-oriented.

  • Live-work overlay district

This plan permits the use of older, unutilized buildings for a combination of uses, such as living and working.  Recycling these older but usable buildings saves time, money, and energy.

  • Urban lot sizes

Instead of using large amount of land for houses, smaller, urban-style lots recreate the look of older cities and reduce sprawl.

  • Transit-oriented development

Public transportation systems may reduce asthma rates, pollution, and household transportation expenses.  Rail stations and transit stops may make transportation more accessible.

  • Housing trust fund

The city is exploring financial incentives for green or high-performance building.  The Cleveland Community Development Department dedicates funds to support affordable housing.

  • Pedestrian-oriented development

Pedestrian-oriented development (POD) strives to increase pedestrian convenience.  It focuses on building and parking lot placement to make it easier and less dangerous for people.

Conclusion

After a successful decade, Sustainable Cleveland has no intention of disappearing in future decades.  Its plans have improved the life of Cleveland residents and may continue to so in the future.

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Salman Zafar