Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Madeline+ Colin from Wilmette , IL. Madeline+ Colin Wonders, “Will cities of the future be clean like in photos?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Madeline+ Colin!

What will future cities look like? Will there be flying cars? Towering skyscrapers? Will people travel through tubes instead of sidewalks? Will they be shiny and clean? Or will they be full of trash and pollution?

When we imagine future cities in pictures and movies, they’re often cleaner than today’s cities. Is that just a dream? Many of today’s cities are hurt by pollution. They’re often full of smog. This makes the air hard to breathe. Littering results in trash everywhere. If we dream of cleaner cities for tomorrow, we need to make changes today.

So, how exactly do you clean a city? Many people know what it’s like to clean a smaller space. Whether at home or at school, most people have helped clean before. We tidy up, wash dishes, and wipe down surfaces. We might also take out the trash or mop the floor. But cleaning a whole city is a lot more work.

To learn how to clean cities of the future, we can look to the people who clean cities today. That’s right, not everyone is contributing to the filth of modern cities! For some people, keeping cities clean is their job. Sanitation workers collect trash and recycling and dispose of it appropriately. Street sweepers clean trash and other debris from city streets. Window washers work high up on the tallest skyscrapers to keep our buildings clean.

However, these people can’t keep a city clean on their own. If cities of the future will be clean, we’ll all need to do our part. Some cities already work toward this goal. We can learn a few things from them about cleaning our own cities, as well.

Adelaide, Australia works to eliminate landfills. Instead of throwing things away, people there do their best to repurpose or recycle. In Oslo, Norway, people put their trash into vacuum-sealed tubes that carry it underground. Garbage is whisked away from above-ground chutes to underground plants. There, the trash is burned. But that’s not the end! The burned trash makes fuel to heat buildings in Oslo.  Using this system, the city has reduced both littering and pollution.

In Zurich, Switzerland, the cleaning focus is on transportation. Citizens have many options for public transportation, so they are more likely to take it. They can travel by tram, bus, boat, and train to their destinations. Others simply ride a bike everywhere. This lowers the city’s carbon emissions, which helps to keep the air cleaner.

Singapore is one of the world’s most densely populated areas, yet it is also one of its cleanest. How is that possible? The city has hefty fines for littering and signs everywhere as reminders. It also outlawed chewing gum. That means there’s no gum on the city streets or under people’s shoes.

Most of these examples require help from city governments. However, you can get started cleaning your city on your own today. Organize a group of friends to help you pick up litter. Start walking or taking public transportation instead of driving. Ask a friend or family member to help you plant a tree. You could even work with your school to spread awareness about recycling. There are plenty of ways you can help clean a city!

What will cities of the future look like? Will they be full of clean air and sleek, shiny buildings? Or will they be overrun with trash and smog? The decision is up to you! What will you do today to help clean your city?


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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day might take you any way the wind blows!