Hurricane Katrina caused catastrophic damage in August 2005 and, at the same time, provided New Orleans with an opportunity to be part of an eco-friendly environmental revolution like never before. The catastrophe affected over 80 percent of the city and displaced or killed thousands of New Orleans residents. However, despite the enormous destruction, the city has been restored by adopting a new and unexpected element of city rebuilding and redevelopment. This time around, the city is not just being built back up, it's being built greener and more eco-friendly.
"After the storm happened, everybody is now interested in the environment," said Wynecta Fisher, the director of the Environmental Affairs office. He also added that he "hates to say that the disaster came at a good time," but it did allow them to rebuild with renewable technology. Eco-friendly and sustainable-development groups like the international nonprofit global green came in to give their assistance in rebuilding New Orleans. Also, celebrities such as Brad Pitt were not left behind either in supporting the rebuilding of the city.
There have been dramatic improvements in energy-efficient homes, schools, neighborhoods, and public buildings since the devastating storm of Hurricane Katrina. The city has established a fleet of hybrid buses and installed enough solar-powered LED street-lighting lamps. Today, residents can easily choose from different energy sources and companies to power their homes and businesses. The city's dependency on fossil fuels has also been diversified to other eco-friendly and sustainable energy sources, such as solar, hydrokinetic, biofuels, etc.
Green Building Revolution
The green building revolution is aimed at reducing or eliminating all negative impacts on the environment and replacing them with creative positive natural environmental impacts on the climate. Hurricane Katrina made New Orleans more environmentally conscious, taking it to the forefront of the green building revolution. They have rebuilt the destroyed commercial buildings, homes, and schools in a greener and more sustainable way. New Orleans has adopted building designs and processes that are adaptive to the changing environmental factors. They have turned to non-toxic, sustainable, and ethical building materials. Besides, good indoor as well as outdoor environments with clean air are something to enjoy while in New Orleans. Investments are being made in wind energy to catch Louisiana up with the rest of the U.S.
Waste Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling
Proper waste management is an integral part of any green city. Despite the disruption of the New Orleans curbside recycling, the city has recreated new and cost-effective waste management programs. The program integrates a system of efficient facilities for collecting, combining, recycling, composting, reusing, converting waste into energy, etc. This is also seen in the "Green Project," where construction materials are salvaged during building demolition and reused. In addition, organic waste is no longer a burden but a resource for New Orleans. As part of the sustainable New Orleans strategy, yard clippings, food scraps, and biosolids are turned into high-quality soil.
Flood Risk Reduction
To reduce flood risks, the Orleans Parish coast areas had to be recovered and restored. Despite the funding and bureaucratic issues, Orleans Parish has fully maximized on nonprofit organizations and made tremendous efforts in managing the existing coastal wetlands, as well as restoring the areas protecting habitats and infrastructures. The city of New Orleans is currently a national model for coastal restoration.
In conclusion, natural catastrophes will always occur. However, New Orleans is living proof that humans can design, restructure, or build our cities in a way that is eco-friendly, resilient, and capable of withstanding disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.Cover photo by Mary Hammel on Unsplash