With Earth Day (April 22) just around the corner, let’s take this week to reflect on the sustainability challenges here in Phoenix.
What are the biggest sustainability challenges we face in Phoenix?
These are my top 3:
1. SPRAWL –
- increased emissions into our atmosphere
- increased dependence on foreign oil
- an ever-increasing expansion of highways built on land that could be used more sustainably
- swaths of abandoned foreclosed homes in failed housing developments in far-flung suburbs such as Coolidge, Surprise, and Maricopa
sprawl in Phoenix – photo from The Anthropik Network
- build work hubs within existing suburbs eliminating the need to commute long distances
- high-speed rail from the suburbs into the city
- light rail extensions further into the suburbs
- incentivize developers to rehabilitate existing buildings or build on infill lots through expedited permitting, lower parking requirements, possible rebates and tax incentives
2. Our dependence on the automobile –
- increased emissions into the atmosphere
- tons of expensive foreign oil consumed
- inefficient use of our land due to urban planning around the car
super-wide neighborhood streets in Phoenix – photo from Hecate
- build areas in the city geared towards pedestrians, bikes and public transportation.
- add bike lanes to all our streets.
- require bike racks in the Phoenix Building Code for new buildings and tenant improvements. Take a look at this map created by Tony Arranaga The Light Rail Blogger and Jim McPherson of The Arizona Preservation Foundation showing bike rack locations around Central Phoenix, let’s populate this thing.
- narrow our super-wide neighborhood streets to be more friendly to bikes and pedestrians by adding bike lanes, benches, landscaping, wider walking
paths and shade. The City of Tempe has done a nice job with this with some of their neighborhoods.
- decrease parking requirements in the Phoenix Building Code for businesses in Central Phoenix – encourage people to use alternative transportation.
- increase the efficiency/punctuality/reliability and expand the routes of our buses and light rail.
3. Water –
- We live in a desert people!
- We get our water from the Colorado River through our canal system, reclaimed water and the Salt River ground water. Experts are saying that even if the Colorado River source dries up for us, we can rely on our ample ground water.
- Here’s the problem: run-off from all the asphalt in Phoenix (think surface parking) is polluting our ground water.
sea of parking, a familiar site in Phoenix – photo from treehugger.com
- increase the cost of water – right now it’s too cheap so even if you use tons of water, your water bill will be extremely low in Phoenix.
- plant native low-water consuming plants in your home – consult Doreen Pollack The Garden Goddess for help on this.
- require permeable parking surfaces in the Phoenix Building Code that help water naturally seep into the earth, replenishing our ground water reserves instead of asphalt parking lots that pollute our ground water and cause the heat island effect.
- require native, low-water consuming landscaping in the City of Phoenix Zoning Ordinance for new businesses and multi-family residential development.
- require low-flow plumbing fixtures for businesses and residences in the Phoenix Building Code.
- encourage gray-water systems for residences with rebates and tax incentives.
These are huge issues facing us, and there are lots of different ways we can start addressing them. We have to start somewhere, and becoming aware of the problem is the first step. So what are other sustainability challenges we face in Phoenix and what are some of your
suggested solutions? Leave me a comment and let’s start a discussion!
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