Urban Metabolism: How cities can reduce their environmental impact

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“Urban metabolism” is fast becoming a sustainability buzzword. It represents a relatively new way of thinking about how cities can reduce their environmental impact by managing their resources more effectively.

For the past few months, the Sustainability Institute Projects team has been working with 3rdfloor – a Cape Town-based creative studio – to develop a short animated video for UN Environment to explain the concept of “urban metabolism” to non-academic audiences.

Studying the ways in which cities absorb resources, process them and produce wastes can help decision makers to identify priority areas for action that reduce the resource demands placed on the natural environment. Many of these interventions have the additional benefits of saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

An increasing number of cities around the world are now measuring their resource flows to better understand their metabolisms, and the Sustainability Institute network includes a number of international experts on the topic.

The video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu-a1hFEV7Q) is designed to be shared via social media and used in presentations and lectures, and is an example of the type of simple and engaging communications that are critical to sharing academic knowledge with society to inspire debate and action.

The video is the result of a collaboration between the Sustainability Institute (www.sustainabilityinstitute.net) and UN Environment (www.unep.org), under the framework of the Global Initiative for Resource Efficient Cities (www.resourceefficientcities.org). A more detailed report on urban metabolism has also been created, and is available here.