December 3, 2009

San Francisco, Amsterdam Duke It Out For Title Of “˜Greenest’ City

San Francisco and Amsterdam are competing online to see which city wins the title of being the greenest, reported AFP.

On Tuesday, the mayors of both cities started the contest for the most environmentally friendly city along with technology giant Cisco to urge urban centers across the globe to join in the fight against global warming and other environmental issues.

"It is cities and regions that need to take leadership," San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said from Bangalore during a teleconference, hosted by Cisco, with reporters on multiple continents.

"We are laboratories of innovation; that is what cities are all about."

Amsterdam introduced an online Urban EcoMap that allows people to see the kind of environmental impact they and their neighbors are having in terms of recycling, conserving energy, and other actions.

San Francisco launched its EcoMap on Earth Day in May this year.

"We wanted to create a competitive spirit," Newsom said. "It has been extraordinarily well received. I am very enthusiastic now that Amsterdam is taking that baton and we can create a global competition of sorts and motivate innovations."

Now that Amsterdam has debuted an EcoMap of its own, people can not only compare between neighborhoods, but can even measure whether Amsterdam or San Francisco is "greener."

"I really hope that other cities will use it also so we can compare ourselves with them," said Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen while participating in the teleconference.

The EcoMaps also include information for how to engage in a greener urban lifestyle. Newson said that data from the maps also shows city officials where they should better target services or policies.

"Changing behavior is obviously one of the big challenges in climate change," said Cisco chief globalization officer Wim Elfrink.

"Websites can set goals. We all know as business people that if you make things measurable, right away you get improvement."

According to Newsom, voluntary measures like those generated by the EcoMaps may be an important part of making cities more nature-friendly, but there is still a vital need for regulations on recycling, composting and other green practices.

"In order to get to the next level we need to start looking at the mandatory framework," Newsom said. "When I mandated composting, it was wildly more controversial than gay marriage."

San Francisco is currently the only U.S. city in which composting is mandatory.

The world's population is heading toward urban living, and technology will play a very important role in providing people with connected, green lifestyles, according to Elfrink and the mayors.

"Technology is not an afterthought any more," Newsom said. "It must be front and center."

Cisco is now working to develop "smart cities" that utilize Internet and computer technologies to use energy more efficiently and cut down on the environmental impact of those inhabiting them.

While in Bangalore to commemorate it for becoming San Francisco's new sister city, Newsom met with Cisco to come up with a vision for a "Sustainable 21st Century San Francisco."


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