The goals of sustainable development will influence the life of city dwellers in many ways in the years to come. According to the experts we interviewed, daily life in cities will become more sustainable and more community-driven.
We know that mitigating climate change calls for quick action by governments, businesses and private citizens. Project Director Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen from the Carbon Neutral Helsinki project is bothered by the fact that discussions on the need to mitigate climate change are often dominated by talk of restrictions and what people aren’t allowed to do.
“If we take that angle, we risk painting an unnecessarily gloomy picture.”
It’s possible to take a more positive perspective on the issue. Koskinen points out that Helsinki has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by nearly a third over the past three decades while growing rapidly at the same time.
“We have shown that it’s possible to significantly cut down on emissions. And if you compare people’s quality of life now and in 1990s, you can’t say that things have become any worse during these decades.”
Everyone’s contribution counts
Helsinki has set a target of being carbon neutral by 2035. That would mean the city’s greenhouse gas emissions would be equal to its carbon sinks. Many other cities in Finland have set similar targets.
“Most of the emissions in cities are generated by traffic, building heating and electricity consumption. Achieving the target requires smart decisions and action on all levels,” Koskinen says.
In district heating production, for example, a municipally-owned energy company can increase the share of renewable energy, but zero-emission production is not possible using the current combustion-based technologies.
“This makes it important for all property owners and residents to avoid unnecessary energy consumption.
In residential buildings, the housing company is responsible for ensuring the energy efficiency of technical building systems, but Koskinen believes that each building’s residents can also contribute to energy savings.
“The small actions we take in daily life can help reduce energy consumption. If your apartment is too warm, you should call the maintenance company instead of opening the windows and letting the warm air out in the winter.”
Your choice of where to live can also influence emissions. When you look for an apartment, you can consider whether you can walk, ride a bicycle or take public transport to reach your workplace and daily services.
Vegetable gardens and hen houses in cities
According to Future Living Specialist Kimmo Rönkä, the goals of sustainable development will influence the life of city dwellers in many ways in the years to come.
In addition to mobility, the effects will be primarily seen in energy and food production.
“People are changing their behaviour and gradually making the shift to not owning a car. Electrically assisted bicycles make it possible to cover long distances in cities. This improves health through physical exercise, reduces emissions and saves costs. Everybody wins.”
Rönkä says locally produced energy will become commonplace at all properties through the increased use of zero-emission solutions such as geothermal heating and solar power.
“Food will also be produced locally to an increasing extent.
Rönkä believes that the emerging phenomenon of urban farming will gradually become a significant activity. It can begin with something quite small, like growing herbs on your balcony, but once you start, you want to do more of it.
Rönkä expects that apartment buildings will start to have vegetable gardens collectively managed by their residents in the years to come. Small hen houses are also a likely feature of the residential city blocks of the future.
“Hydroponic systems and LED lights make it possible for all of us to grow salads and herbs all year round without having to use soil.
Self-centredness will give way
Cities are becoming increasingly dense but, at the same time, they will become more village-like according to Rönkä. He believes that the self-centred culture of the past years will give way to a new collectivity and community-oriented perspective.
“The city of the future is the size of a city block and it has a friendly face,” Rönkä says.
In practice, this means that residential neighbourhoods will feature spaces where it is natural for people to come together. Neighbourhoods will have local entrepreneurs that provide services to residents. Digital solutions offer ways to build connections between residents and other players.
Rönkä points out that the village-like lifestyle also means that, in the spirit of the circular economy and sharing economy, people no longer need to own as many things themselves.
“In the old days, nothing went to waste. Everything was used for as long as it could. We are moving back in that direction.
“We need to move on from the culture of buying things, using them and throwing them away.
Fortunately, the circular economy is in our DNA here in Finland. The short history of industrialisation has not changed that.
Kimmo Rönkä shares Kaisa-Reeta Koskinen’s view that a lot of old habits need to be given up and replaced with new and sustainable habits. However, this does not mean that we need to compromise on our quality of life.
“Things will change gradually through sustainable action. I hope our grandchildren will be proud of us and able to look back and say that the generation that lived in the 2020s started to change things around.”
Sustainable urban living in Lumo homes
At Lumo homes, we have a long track record of working to promote better and more sustainable urban living. Eco-friendliness in rental housing comes from construction, maintenance and housing services.
Lumo homes are 99% heated with district heating purchased from local district heating companies. District heating is almost entirely generated using combined heat and power systems. Peak power plants are needed only during the coldest periods.
More than 90 per cent of Lumo homes are connected to a remote monitoring system for energy and water consumption. This enables the automatic adjustment of heating based on actual indoor temperatures and weather forecasts, for example.
Recycling and the reduction of waste are important focus areas at Lumo buildings. Comprehensive sorting opportunities are provided in the buildings’ waste disposal rooms. Plastic, paperboard, cardboard, biowaste, glass, metal and dry waste is collected separately at almost all Lumo buildings.
All Lumo homes have good transport links that make it easy to use public transport. Shared-use vehicles, including cars, bicycles and e-bikes are also available at many Lumo buildings.
More information on responsibility at Lumo homes.
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