A team of Israeli researchers claim the key to a sustainable future is in urban living.

“We maintain that the city is the solution, the city isn’t the problem,” Valerie Brachya, director of the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies’ Environmental Policy Center, said of the Urban Sustainability project.

Focusing on technological innovations, the JISS team believes that with the population boom expected by 2030, technological innovations should be focused on creating greener urban spaces to accommodate a growing trend toward urbanization.

“Sustainable lifestyles are urban lifestyles,” Brachya stressed. “There is no way in which you can imagine the 7 billion inhabitants of the planet today or the 9 billion in 2030 are going to be able to live any sustainable lifestyle in any way which isn’t predominantly urban.”

The problem, she added, is not that urban living cannot be made to be sustainable, but rather that current sustainability efforts by environmentalists are often misguided and not truly sustainable.

These failed greening initiatives have left urban dwellers “living completely unsustainable lifestyles,” Brachya stressed, pointing out that the environmental friendly efforts that they often take are canceled out by other bad habits, such as driving a hybrid car hundreds of miles a day to and from work.

To remedy this, Brachya and her team are considering ways in which to modify the urban landscape so that the green choice is the best choice, just not the green one.

“The question is, can we design the choice architecture so that people will choose not necessarily because they think it’s environmentally friendly but because that’s the way to go?” she asked.

Ultimately, Brachya stressed, the key to a sustainable urban future may not be asking people to make the green choice, but making the green choice better than other options.

“I would prefer that they live sustainable lifestyles,” she said. “Whether they do it because they are environmentally aware or not, it doesn’t matter.”

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