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Songdo, South Korea Aims to be World’s Greenest City

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A lot of the trouble with greening cities stems from the fact that it’s difficult and costly to sustainably retro-fit old infrastructure. The new planned city of Songdo in South Korea, however, does not face that obstacle.

Five years ago, Songdo was just an area of undeveloped mudflats. Now, it is a pioneer in the development of “smart cities.” “We envision Songdo to grow into a global Asian city like Hong Kong or Singapore,” said a representative of the Incheon Free Economic Zone, where Songdo is located.

The “Songdo International Business District” is still under construction, but most of the infrastructure is in place, and over 60,000 people currently live there. Songdo incorporates so many principles of green design that it’s hard to keep track of them. For starters, it is the only city in the world where all buildings will meet LEED requirements. The buildings are planned around a 100-acre central park, and green space accounts for over 40% of the area of the city. The city is so walkable, that cars are entirely unnecessary. Most commutes simply involve walking across the park from an apartment building to a nearby office space.

Of the many futuristic elements of Songdo, one sticks out in particular—its waste management system. Doing away with the conventional process that involves trash bags and dump trucks, every kitchen in the city has a pneumatic trash shoot that funnels garbage to a central waste processing center. Once there, food waste is put to use for agricultural purposes while much of the rest of the trash is recycled. Water is also cleverly managed by a central utility that recycles 40% of the wastewater.

On top of all of that, Songdo is also beautiful place to live. “There are charming garden residences, sleek low-rise loft spaces in Songdo’s Canal Walk and state-of-the-art high-rise apartments and penthouses with views of the Yellow Sea and the Incheon Bridge,” said Mary DiNardo, a spokesperson for the city.