What is an ecocity?
Simply put, an ecocity is an ecologically healthy city. And because each city is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all ecocity model or just one way to get there from where we are now. However, ecocities share basic characteristics analogous to healthy ecosystems and living organisms.
An ecocity is…
•An ecologically healthy human settlement modeled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems and living organisms.
•An entity that includes its inhabitants and their ecological impacts.
•A subsystem of the ecosystems of which it is part — of its watershed, bioregion, and ultimately, of the planet.
•A subsystem of the regional, national and world economic system.
Ecocities as ecosystems An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving, physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight. Urban entities (cities, towns and villages) are urban ecosystems. They are also part of larger systems that provide essential services that are often undervalued, as many of them are without market value. Broad examples include: regulating (climate, floods, nutrient balance, water filtration), provisioning (food, medicine), cultural (science, spiritual, ceremonial, recreation, aesthetic) and supporting (nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, soil formation).
Ecocities as analogous to living organisms Like living organisms, cities (including their inhabitants) exhibit and require systems for movement (transport), respiration (processes to obtain energy), sensitivity (responding to its environment), growth (evolving/changing over time), reproduction (including education and training, construction, planning and development, etc.), excretion (outputs and wastes), and nutrition (need for air, water, soil, food for inhabitants, materials, etc.).
An Ecocity is a human settlement modeled on the self sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems. The ecocity provides healthy abundance to its inhabitants without consuming more (renewable) resources than it produces, without producing more waste than it can assimilate, and without being toxic to itself or neighboring ecosystems. Its inhabitants’ ecological impact reflect planetary supportive lifestyles; its social order reflects fundamental principles of fairness, justice and reasonable equity.
— Working definition adopted by Ecocity Builders and the International Ecocity Standards advisory team, 2/20/10, Vancouver, Canada.