Healthy and Equitable Economy


Condition for an Ecocity

The city’s economy consistently favors economic activities that reduce harm and positively benefit the environment and human health and support a high level of local and equitable employment options.

Suggested Headline Indicator

Income disparity as measured by the GINI coefficient

Ecocities support economic activities that reduce harm and positively contribute to both environmental and human health ( This includes efforts to reduce emissions to air and atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels, avoiding the use of toxic chemicals applied to soils or discharged to receiving waters where they can bio-accumulate in animals and plants, and supporting locally and organically produced foods and renewable energy sources.
Ecocities also support local and equitable employment options integrated within the design of the city. For example, the layout of land uses as well as the city’s policy framework play an important role in: a) making jobs and housing accessible and b) ensuring that companies comply with environmental protection legislation. This approach sets the foundation for “green jobs” and “ecological-economic development” that contribute positively to the city and its residents without causing harm to the ecosystems upon which they depend.

Cities such as Curitiba, and Copenhagen have advanced a healthy and equitable economy by placing emphasis on dense, lively centres and a more equitable transportation system, one that promotes accessibility by everyone not just those who can afford a car (Goodman et al. 2005; Nelson 2007). For example, these cities implemented integrated land use and transportation demand management strategies including increases in density of both jobs and housing close to transit services with expansion of pedestrian, bicycle and transportation infrastructure and restrictions on motor vehicle use.

Whereas many cities focus on economic growth to achieve prosperity, research shows that equity is more strongly correlated with health and social improvement (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). This is particularly true for developed economies where most of the population’s basic needs for food and shelter are already met.
Governments that achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth and invest in social services, including education, achieve higher levels of development while simultaneously keeping their demand on nature’s services low. For example, countries such as Cuba and Ecuador obtain similar longevity and literacy levels as the USA but at a fraction of the per capita energy and materials consumption (Moore and Rees 2013). Germany and Japan surpass the USA in terms of quality of life (e.g., human health and social wellbeing) while simultaneously consuming less (Moore and Rees 2013; Wilkinson and Pickett 2009).

Goodman, Joseph, Melissa Laube, Judith Schwenk. 2005. Curitiba’s Bus System is Model for Rapid Transit, Race, Poverty and the Environment, Winter 2005-2006, pp. 75 -76 (
Moore, Jennie and W.E. Rees. 2013. Getting to One-Planet Living, Chapter 4 in Linda Starke ed., State of the World 2013: Is Sustainability Still Possible? A Worldwatch Institute report. Washington DC: Island Press.
Nelson, Alyse. 2007. Livable Copenhagen: The Design of a Bicycle City. Seattle WA: University of Washington ( Livable_Copenhagen_reduced.pdf).
Wackernagel, Mathis and William E. Rees. 1996. Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth. Gabrioloa BC: New Society Publishers.
Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett. 2009. The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Suggested Ecocity Level 1 Benchmark

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