How Arizonas Cities are Becoming a Sustainable Green Oasis in the Desert - GREENING THE DESERT

How Tucson is Becoming the Most Sustainable Desert City in the World

As the world continues to face the consequences of climate change, cities are finding ways to adapt and become more sustainable. One such city is Tucson, Arizona, which is fast becoming the most sustainable desert city in the world. In this article, we will explore the efforts made by Tucson to combat the urban heat island effect, reduce water consumption, and become a carbon-neutral city by 2030.

Part 1: The Urban Heat Island Effect

Arizona has experienced exponential growth over the last few years, attracting people from all over the world seeking new economic opportunities. This has led to the development of large sprawling suburban areas, which has increased the urban heat island effect. This effect occurs when urbanized areas experience higher temperatures than outlying natural surrounding areas due to structures such as buildings, roads, and other infrastructure absorbing and readmitting more of the sun's heat than natural landscapes such as forests and water bodies.

The use of air conditioning exacerbates the urban heat island effect by releasing ambient heat into cities, increasing the demand to cool down even further. The heat island effect can produce secondary effects on local meteorology, including the altering of local wind patterns, the development of clouds and fog, and the rates of precipitation.

To combat the heat island effect, the city of Tucson is making incredible green infrastructure innovations. Using simple and cost-effective techniques, they aim to become the leading carbon-neutral city by 2030. This would be a major accomplishment for any city, especially one that only receives approximately 12 inches of rainfall per year.

Part 2: Water Conservation

Arizona is a drought-prone state that requires careful water management. Unfortunately, some of the most sought after and popular green neighborhoods in the state have extensive lawns, which need vast amounts of watering to stay green. This is not sustainable since the water used to keep the grass green is the same water people use to drink. The water used to irrigate lawns has been treated and filtered, which is costly and uses resources.

To reduce water consumption, the city of Tucson has implemented water harvesting techniques. Water harvesting is not a new innovation; humans have been capturing water for millennia. However, in our modern life, we have water harvesting amnesia. Tucson started requiring new developers of commercial properties to irrigate the landscape with 50% water harvesting in 2010. In 2012, the city began a rebate program to encourage water harvesting practices, and in 2017, Tucson launched a grant for funding stormwater harvesting.

One such resident from Tucson who decided to do something about water conservation is Brad Lancaster. Brad has become an innovator in green infrastructure, and his innovations are helping the desert become green again. He envisioned a sustainable landscape for harvesting rainwater, but it meant he had to do something illegal. Brad started cutting sidewalks and curbs in his neighborhood to route storm runoff into roadside ecosystems planted with native drought-hardy trees. Some of these trees even provide food as well as a much-needed cooling effect and shade. These ecosystems also help with recharging the groundwater, protecting the soil from being exposed from the sun and heat, and creating a filtering effect for the water that lands on the topsoil.

Part 3: Becoming a Carbon-Neutral City

To become a carbon-neutral city by 2030, Tucson plans to plant one million native trees, which will totally transform the city's infrastructure to suit water harvesting practices in the urban environment. These efforts will help Tucson become a green carbon-neutral city and, in turn, create a healthier environment for future generations.

Each one of us is capable of making a difference, and Brad's philosophy is that we need to switch our mindset from commodifying water into communifying water by working together to enhance our local water supply. In addition to the implementation of water harvesting techniques, Tucson is also making efforts to promote sustainable transportation options. The city has established bike lanes, expanded public transportation routes, and encouraged the use of electric vehicles. The Tucson Electric Power Company has also made significant investments in renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.

Furthermore, Tucson has made strides in promoting sustainable agriculture practices. The city has a number of community gardens and supports local farmers markets, which offer locally-grown produce and support the local economy. Additionally, Tucson has implemented policies to reduce food waste and encourage composting.

Tucson's efforts towards sustainability have not gone unnoticed. The city has been recognized as a leader in sustainability and has received numerous awards, including the National Climate Action Planning Award and the American Planning Association's Sustainable Communities Division Award.

Overall, Tucson's commitment to sustainability serves as a model for other cities to follow. By implementing sustainable practices, Tucson is not only mitigating the effects of climate change, but also creating a healthier and more livable environment for its residents. As the effects of climate change continue to be felt around the world, it is imperative that cities take action to address the issue and promote sustainability.

Header: The Importance of Individual Action

While the efforts of cities like Tucson are crucial in the fight against climate change, it is important to remember that individual actions can also make a significant impact. By making simple changes in our daily lives, such as reducing our use of single-use plastics, conserving water, and choosing sustainable transportation options, we can contribute to a more sustainable future.

One way individuals can make a difference is by reducing their carbon footprint. This can be achieved by reducing energy consumption, using energy-efficient appliances, and choosing renewable energy sources whenever possible. Additionally, individuals can make conscious choices when it comes to transportation, such as walking, biking, or using public transportation instead of driving alone.

Header: The Role of Education

Education also plays a vital role in promoting sustainability. By educating individuals about the impacts of climate change and the importance of sustainable practices, we can inspire a culture of sustainability that will benefit future generations.

Schools and universities can play a key role in this effort by incorporating sustainability into their curriculums and promoting sustainable practices on their campuses. Additionally, public awareness campaigns and community events can help educate individuals and raise awareness about sustainability issues.

Header: The Need for Global Cooperation

While individual actions and local efforts are important, addressing climate change requires global cooperation. The effects of climate change are felt around the world, and no single country or region can address the issue on their own. International cooperation and agreements, such as the Paris Agreement, are crucial in promoting sustainable practices and mitigating the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, developed countries have a responsibility to support developing countries in their efforts towards sustainability. This can be achieved through financial and technological assistance, as well as sharing knowledge and best practices.


In conclusion, the issue of climate change requires collective action and cooperation from individuals, cities, and countries around the world. Tucson serves as a model for cities seeking to promote sustainability and mitigate the effects of climate change. By implementing sustainable practices and promoting education and awareness, we can create a more sustainable future for ourselves and future generations.