Smart Lifestyle Choices for Urban Living: More Dematerialization, No More Waste




Topics: Sustainable and inclusive cities and buildings
Keywords: Citizen participation, Green goods and services, Smart Cities Challenge, Sustainable Lifestyles, Urbanization

Sanjeevan Bajaj

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India;


Continuing population growth and urbanization are projected to add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050. Pursuant to the coining of the term ‘Smart City’, a lot of discussion has happened around what this means. While the term evokes glamorous images in the mind, the reality is that if urban populations in developing countries grow at projected rates, acute problems of energy, water, septage and waste management will ensue. Innovative and cost-effective solutions are needed for the cities of tomorrow in these countries. The massive man-made infrastructure and services needed in cities is both a problem and an opportunity. Existing lifestyles of the people who will move into cities over the next few decades are still rooted in traditional culture and practices, many of which are regaining relevance in the western world. It would indeed be a pity for such a large populace to first move over to unsustainable consumption patterns and after causing irreversible harms, turn the wheel and come full circle. Upcoming cities must become cornerstones for Sustainable Lifestyles with increased water/energy efficiency and demand for green goods and services, coupled with economic development and poverty alleviation programs. This paper aims to develop a common understanding of what Smart Cities mean for low to middle income countries with high population densities and unprecedented urbanization rates. It identifies three key elements underlying the concept of cities we hope to live in: service delivery standards, frugal technologies for delivering services sustainably, and systems/processes for generating genuine/high quality community participation. Using these three elements as the foundation, it discusses the role policy-makers, businesses, and city dwellers can play in making cities resource-efficient, livable and inclusive. Finally lessons are drawn for how the learning from the Indian government’s recently launched Smart Cities Challenge can be used in other contexts.


Sanjeevan Bajaj is Adviser, FICCI Quality Forum and works to promote Life Cycle thinking for managing environmental and socio-economic impacts of business. She holds a PhD in Management, a Masters in Economics and a degree in Law.