From renewable energy distribution to algae-filled, bio-digitally designed ‘urban curtains’, exciting innovations are spreading through new and existing infrastructure. The goal of making these strides is to push us closer to fully sustainable cities. With these new developments, come opportunities for investors to buy into funds and companies. The best companies to buy into are the ones that are helping to grow these new, sustainable cities. Investors like you need to learn about sustainable infrastructure and the green city in order to make the right decisions.
What Is Sustainable Infrastructure?
Urban infrastructure refers to the way that a city is engineered. More specifically, it refers to the systems that make up the city. These systems include transport, water, energy and waste. Thus, sustainable infrastructure is the process of making our cities and towns more sustainable and ecologically friendly. Many investors invest into local neighborhoods to build sustainable urbanism.
As the world population grows and demand on cities increases, our infrastructure needs to develop to become more sustainable, especially in places with high population density. As each country has different resources, climates and existing infrastructure, criteria for sustainable infrastructure varies from country to country. In most places though, the main requirements for sustainable infrastructure include a public transport network, distributed generation for energy and connected green spaces, among other things.
The Rise Of Eco-Cities
Eco-cities as an idea are not new, having been discussed at dedicated conferences for over three decades. However, as with a lot of environmental issues, they have grown in popularity in recent years. A non-profit organization defines an eco-city as “a human settlement created on the self-sustaining structure and function of natural ecosystems.” Simply put, an eco-city is sustainable and ecologically healthy, but also breeds a culture of balance with nature. In order to create such balance, an eco-city needs to create an enduring way of life across many areas such as ecology, economics, politics and culture, which is why they are almost exclusively focused on new-build developments as opposed to existing cities.
Areas occupied by cities have been growing faster than their populations, with cities growing faster than the population growth in previous years. This level of growth has profound repercussions for sustainability.
A subset of sustainable infrastructure, blue-green infrastructure mainly refers to the parts provided to build with nature, effectively the cogs in a machine to battle urban and climatic challenges simultaneously. While it is beneficial for companies to start paper recycling to create sustainable systems, many are taking it a step further. As the name would suggest, blue-green infrastructure is concentrated on integrating water and nature with urban infrastructure. There are many components involved, but the main focuses are better air quality, storm water management, food production and sustainable energy production. There is also a focus on improving quality of life by increasing and improving green public spaces for recreation as well as providing shade and shelter.
There are many eco-cities being built and developed at the moment, and many cities being upgraded with sustainable infrastructure in mind. Here are just a few examples of what is going on right now.
Having won the Nordic Nature and Environment Prize 2014 and been awarded the Greenest city in the world by Green City Times, the City of Reykjavík is one of greenest and most eco-friendly cities across the globe. Thanks to Iceland’s geological location and the abundance of volcanoes in the area, the whole country is able to harness geothermal energy. Reykjavík is the first city that uses renewable energy, specifically geothermal and hydropower, for all electric consumption and heating. Thus, its energy generation and usage completely sustainable.
There has also been a significant increase in electric car ownership in the city. Additionally, many civil services now use alternative fuel such as methane and hydrogen. They also use electric cars that are more eco-friendly. Alongside the environmental achievements, the city also strives for social excellence, coming first in the Global Gender Gap report in 2015 and scoring first in political empowerment and educational attainment.
As an investor, you are likely familiar with the investing opportunities China offers. Many experienced investors earn good returns from China stocks. There are also opportunities in the sustainable infrastructure market. The majority of cities in China are in a constant state of construction; transforming low-rise to high-rise in an effort to create more space for the bustling population. Just over 100 miles south-east of Beijing, a different type of city is being built from the ground up. The Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City is a collaborative project between the governments in China and Singapore and aims to create a sustainable, environmentally friendly city which is socially harmonious.
There is a keen focus on livability in the eco-city, with parks and green spaces interspersed throughout the city and free recreation facilities within a 500m of anywhere within the city. Each building is designed to a minimum green building standard, with water-saving fittings, insulated walls and a south-facing orientation to optimize passive heat; all keys to sustainability. The ultimate goal, if this city is a success, is to have a blueprint for future urbanization efforts in China.
Dubbed the ‘Green Capital’ in 2015, Bristol has committed to a sustainable improvements plan with huge budgets for transportation needs and renewable energy. The local council also owns its own energy company, offers 100% green electricity and reinvest the profits back into the community.
Through multiple initiatives, Bristol was able to reduce domestic energy use by 2010. They have set a target to reduce CO2 emissions further in the upcoming years. These achievements and targets rank the city second globally based on environmental performance, responding to climate change, and practicing recycling.
How You Can Invest In Change
Sustainable infrastructure falls under the umbrella of ‘Responsible Investing’. This type of investing is a movement to improve lives and the environment by investing in responsible companies, or companies that promote responsible practices. This includes investing in causes such as climate change, water, waste, equality and diversity.
Over the last few years, socially responsible investing has grown exponentially. Some of the biggest companies in the world are attempting to implement changes to make them more socially responsible. Nike, IKEA and McDonald’s are just three companies that are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint and become more socially responsible.
As the interest in Responsible Investing grows, so do the opportunities for investors looking to align their portfolios with their values. Investing in companies and Funds that promote and develop Sustainable Infrastructure may be a great way to make some money while making a difference to your own and future generations.