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Smart Communities Will Build Green Infrastructure
Annie Donovan, Senior Policy Advisor, White House Council on Environmental Quality / Skoll World Forum / 2013 Forum
The communities of the future will be smarter about their use of resources. That seems inevitable. More investment is flowing to technologies such as upgraded power grids with smart meters that allow users to better manage their consumption of electricity, and energy-efficient buildings that reduce the cost of operations and improve human health through better air quality. An emerging area that is gaining momentum and deserves the attention of impact investors is green infrastructure for stormwater management. It is a strategy that holds promise as a smarter way to reduce infrastructure development costs, protect human and environmental health, and create jobs.
When most of us think of infrastructure, we think of the built environment: roads, bridges, airports, power plants, cell phone towers, storm drains. For too long, most planners and investors have thought about the natural environment as an impediment to developing infrastructure. Environmental impact studies are often required, along with permits and licenses. Remediation may have to be performed before development can proceed. However, out there on the cutting edge, innovative urban planners, policy-makers, social entrepreneurs and impact investors are advancing the development of natural or green infrastructure (GI).
- Green infrastructure utilizes the natural environment to manage stormwater onsite, rather than sending polluted runoff into local waterways. It has significant co-benefits such as beautifying the physical environment and creating jobs.
- The Obama Administration is collaborating with state and local government and private foundations to advance the practice of green infrastructure.
- Green infrastructure is an emerging market for impact investors, and investing in it will help build economically sustainable and resilient communities.