In an age of consumerism, climate change, and ever-increasing living costs, the idea of living more in tune with nature has never held such wide appeal. Here are some of the most innovative green living solutions available to those who choose to live on the green side.
Tiny houses are quickly becoming a popular alternative to traditional housing due to the rising cost of living.
The tiny house movement took off during the 1980s centred on a philosophy of living with less as a way to greater freedom and fulfilment. Since then, it has become a feasible housing option for people looking to live more affordably and sustainably as it comes with fewer financial burdens and more environmentally friendly features.
The cost of electricity and water bills can be massively reduced in such a small living space. According to UK firm The Tiny Housing Co., each of their prefabricated housing units uses 70 to 80% less energy than a typical British house.
Eco-conscious additions like solar panels, composting toilets and natural insulation can also minimise the environmental impact of a tiny home.
Tiny houses range from 60 to 400 square feet, and you can buy a prefabricated model or build one for yourself, which might come with some extra challenges regarding planning permissions.
The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) defines an ecovillage as “a community that is consciously designed through locally owned participatory processes in all four dimensions of sustainability (social, culture, ecology and economy) to regenerate social and natural environments.”
The ecovillage model began with projects in 1962 building communities for sustainable living. It has since evolved to places adopting circular economy, ecological building codes and educational facilities.
There are now thousands of such communities globally, and property investors are just beginning to recognise the long-term earning potential of ecovillages and other “green” living solutions.
One of the most innovative companies in this space is a Stanford University spin-off called ReGen Villages, founded in 2016 by serial entrepreneur James Ehrlich.
It aims to build a network of resilient, self-sufficient residential communities around the world. These communities will be powered by renewables, including solar panels, biogas from plant and animal waste, and geothermal energy. They will also produce their own organic food using high-yield aquaponics* farming systems. This regenerative infrastructure will be controlled by a central “Village OS” software platform in true Silicon Valley style.
ReGen stands for regenerative, where the outputs of one system are the inputs of another.
These villages can power and feed self-reliant families worldwide, providing clean energy, water and food right off the doorstep. Besides environmental sustainability, this framework can help build communities where people become part of a shared local ecosystem: reconnecting people with nature and consumption with production.
Managing the built environment is vital in addressing pressing global challenges such as the climate crisis or achieving a net-zero economy.
As of 2018, the UN estimated that 55% of the global population lived in urban areas. If the current pace of urbanisation continues as expected, this number will nearly double by 2050.
Cities are hubs of potential, the chance to gain access to better jobs and improved living standards. However, this potential depends on urban planners being able to keep up with the infrastructure needs of the population as it grows.
In 2022, the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) launched a draft roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment across its whole life cycle. The document revealed that construction and the built environment are directly responsible for 37% of Ireland’s emissions, the same as agriculture.
The proposed roadmap provides clarity and action plans on ways to mitigate emissions generated by the sector. Steps would include the introduction of regulations, prioritising the reuse of existing buildings, increasing support for energy renovation, and encouraging the use of impact construction materials.
Looking at individual cities, Singapore is a flagship example of what is known as ‘green urbanism’ - a nature-based approach to urban design that promotes sustainable construction materials, electric-power public transport, efficient waste management and recycling, and green spaces for public access.
After its establishment in 1819, Singapore saw extreme ecological damage due to industrialisation and urbanisation. 90% of its forests disappeared, along with 67% of its birds. Plans were developed during the late 1960s to re-introduce green spaces and create a ‘garden city’.
The city’s Green Building Council has since implemented green building techniques, including passive design, repurposing old structures, and rewilding. As of 2013, Singapore became an official Biophilic City - a network of cities worldwide where nature has been made an integral part of the infrastructure.
* Aquaponics is a food production system that combines aquaculture, like raising fish, prawns, and snails, and cultivating water plants.
Originally published in the `City Next` edition of Profit with Purpose Magazine produced by Business Spirit News.