Eco-districts, a Latin American green revolution
The eco-districts in Bogotá and Buenos Aires have become an example for cities worldwide aspiring to sustainability. Discover another way to travel with this route through Latin America.
What is an eco-district and what is sustainable urban development?
Eco-districts are the real-life, living and changing embodiment of the term ‘sustainability’, which is a kind of “chewing-gum word” – easy to chew, but lacking substance. An eco-district is made of ecological, bioclimatic and sustainable buildings. Sustainable urban development is a growing movement that goes far beyond opening an ecological shop or even an ecological supermarket on your street corner.
The residents are key: they practise environmental sustainability naturally in their day-to-day lives, defending the environment against climate change. Above all, they’re the minimum unit on which sustainable cities – the best version of a ‘smart city’ – can be built.
Latin America’s inspirational eco-districts
Latin America has eco-districts in Argentina, Peru, Colombia and Chile. There, visitors can strolls through some of the best-integrated examples of sustainable urban planning. It all begins by building ecological constructions, something already part of the DNA of indigenous communities. Many indigenous villages use curved houses that allow air to circulate in them, with insulation and roofs made of thatch and open spaces around them. What’s more, their relationship with nature is based on a respectful use of resources and recycling, making them the perfect inspiration for eco-districts in Latin America.
Bogotá joins sustainability
The distant communities of Triángulo Bajo, Manantial and Triángulo Alto, in the upper part of San Cristóbal, are the three best examples of Bogotá’s eco-districts. The country’s capital is suffocated by pollution and fast, excessive growth, so the area’s nearly 400 residents have decided to promote urban agriculture, reject cement and build with wood and other sustainable and bioclimatic materials. They also make the most of the sunlight and rainwater.
Buenos Aires, with 15 eco-districts, is a reference for a sustainable world
The world’s sustainable cities have a paradoxical mirror to look at themselves in when it comes to Argentina’s permanently congested capital. There are already 15 eco-districts in the province of Buenos Aires and eco-district projects are multiplying. Organic food cultivation, bioclimatic building materials and the use of natural energy are also at the foundation of these places. Workshops on ecological gardening or yoga, houses made of reeds and the lack of air conditioning (and noise) have brought fugitives from pollution of all social classes.
Villa 4 Álamos, Chile’s first eco-district
Latin American initiatives to create sustainable districts have almost always come from the residents themselves, not from the authorities or property developers. A case in point is Villa 4 Álamos, Chile’s first eco-district. In 2004, the residents of this neighbourhood in Maipú organised and protested against the cutting of more than 100 trees to build a school. From there, the residents expressed their ecological awareness through actions such the one that transformed a landfill into a free ecological garden for anyone who needs it.
For 4 Álamos residents, what is sustainable development? This is how they explain it: we understand “eco-district” as a community that organises to improve the quality of life and take care of the environment. Its remedies are human relationships, ecological education and the creation of networks of organisations and people committed to changing the current model”.