With the rapid growth of the world population and the constant technological advancement, our lives are changing a lot, and our planet’s sustainability is at risk. It’s a proven fact that the harmful GHG emissions and excess waste contaminate our air, soil, and water sources.
How to fight this crisis?
The rate at which these natural resources are getting polluted is alarming. Governments along with private organizations are continually trying to find new ways to make the world more sustainable and livable.
The authorities of the major cities around the world are not behind too.
In this exclusive piece, we’re going to explore the top 10 greenest cities in the world. These cities are setting fantastic examples for others by reducing carbon emissions, implementing eco-friendly transportation systems, managing waste sustainably, and many more ways to improve the quality of life of their residents.
Before diving deep, let’s take a quick look at our list:
- Copenhagen, Denmark
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Vancouver, Canada
- San Francisco, USA
- Portland, USA
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Helsinki, Finland
- Berlin, Germany
- Curitiba, Brazil
Read on to learn why we’ve picked these cities among hundreds of other contenders.
The ‘city of bikers’ is the frontrunner of becoming the first carbon-neutral.
Copenhagen, the capital and largest city of Denmark, proudly opens our list of the top eco-friendly cities around the world. The rigorous policies it has adopted to improve the living standard of its residents in unprecedented. One of the most remarkable of these is that Copenhagen is set to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025!
One of the unique features of this city is, more people enjoy cycling than using cars or any other motorized vehicles as transport. No wonder Copenhagen is frequently ranked as the most bike-friendly city in the world. Around 62% of residents use the bike as their primary outdoor transportation. The data they’ve gathered in recent years proved that cycling is incredibly beneficial to health and has helped reduce carbon emissions in the last decade.
When you take a stroll along its bridges, you’ll see hydrogen-powered taxis, man-made swimming pods, and floating saunas made with natural products. Copenhagen has the initiative to plant 100,000 new trees before the end of 2025. As if that’s not all, 24% of the total food sold in the city is organic.
To continue being one of the greenest cities on Earth, the City of Copenhagen is constantly introducing environment-friendly policies and regulations. European Commission recognized Copenhagen’s well-planned investment into green initiatives as it was awarded as European Green Capital in 2014.
Read more: List of European Green Capital winners
Working round the clock to reach some significant milestones.
Amsterdam is one of the most eco-friendly cities you’d dream of living in.
The Dutch capital aims to decrease carbon emissions by 55% by 2030 and 95% by 2050 . Besides, 2040 would be the last year of using natural gas, and the city is planning to ensure about 80% of local homes have access to sustainable energy by 2030.
These are huge milestones, and the authority is continuously working on it and have put in place strict measures to keep its residents safer and healthier across the board.
Currently, Amsterdam has more bikes than people. Meaning there is more cycling and walking than driving in this city. People who don’t enjoy biking use electric vehicles benefited by more than 300 charging stations installed city-wide.
But that’s not all. Amsterdam supports local farmers and ensures there is a sufficient supply of homegrown organic food within the city. City dwellers also enjoy wearing clothes made from eco-friendly materials.
The city is continuously taking initiatives towards a more sustainable future.
- City of Amsterdam sustainability and energy goals
- Implementation plan of making Amsterdam a healthy and sustainable city
The frontrunner of becoming the most sustainable city in North America.
With around 95% of state electricity coming from renewable energy (thanks to its hydroelectricity), Vancouver is arguably the most sustainable city in North America.
It was one of the first major cities in North America to join the 100% renewable energy movement, and it plans to do so by 2050.
The city has also invested heavily in expanding its transportation system. There is a ton of commuter shuttles, trolleys, and SeaBus routes in Vancouver today.
The city is renowned for its reduced amount of carbon emissions among the major cities of North America. In 2010, the city built separate lanes for cyclists to ensure more people can use bicycles instead of driving cars when going to work. To encourage people to use electric vehicles, Vancouver has multiplied the number of charging stations across the city. What’s more, Vancouver’s Farmers’ Market ensures the residents get enough homegrown organic food round the year.
But that’s merely the tip of the iceberg. Vancouver relies on urban planning (eco-density) to ensure it is clean and efficient. Walking around the city, you’ll see all the skyscrapers were built keeping energy efficiency in mind.
Vancouver also maintains the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions of any major city in North America, keeping the value below 6 metric tons since 2015.
The city aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.
San Francisco, USA
The city who declared war against plastic and landfill!
From proper disposal of waste and carbon emissions to building eco-friendly houses and structures as well as land use, San Francisco is no doubt fighting the war against pollution from the front.
The City of San Francisco was crowned the Greenest City in North America in 2011. Since then, it has frequently been appearing on the list of top sustainable cities in the world.
Primarily, the city focuses on educating people on waste management. Being a global leader in this area, in 2008, the city introduced a tri-part waste management system that offers its citizens bins for landfill waste, recycling, and compost. The city diverts almost 80% of its waste away from landfills and aims to make landfills obsolete by 2030.
Related: San Francisco’s quest to make landfills obsolete
San Francisco prioritizes farming and offers great support to farmers to source organic and healthy food. It is also the first American city to ban plastic bags in 2007 and the first major American city to ban plastic water bottles in 2016.
A perfect example of eco-trendsetter, right?
The authorities continue to prohibit products that could be dangerous to the environment.
The most eco-friendly city in Asia.
That was enough to include Singapore in our list of top 10 greenest cities in the world. It’s also the cleanest city in Asia and is working on its way to becoming the most sustainable state in the world.
Singapore uses many ways to incorporate green into the city. First off, the city limits energy consumption in both residential and commercial areas. This helps reduce the number of greenhouse gases emitted and prevents urbanization from conflicting with the environment.
Also, to moderate power consumption, the city is prioritizing green buildings. In 2005, Singapore introduced the Green Mark scheme, a benchmarking system of evaluating buildings and rating them based on their performance and effect on the environment. The evaluation initiative aims at reducing water and energy consumption in both commercial and residential settings. According to studies, an office that meets the Green Mark requirements translates to an average of 11% reduction in total operating costs.
But that’s not all when walking along the streets of Singapore. You’ll spot many new skyscrapers built for both residential and office purposes are featuring energy-efficient technologies. If you get a chance to explore, you’ll also notice the wavy roof of Canopy Park that’s meant to protect people against the erratic weather. There are tons of solar panels for the provision of power and renewable energy. The canopy is also used for catching rainwater as it is covered with succulent plants.
Although being one of the world’s densely populated cities with 100% urbanization rate, it’s astonishing to see Singapore achieving such a feat as one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable cities in the world.
The North American city proud of its sustainable transportation system and trees.
When you live in Portland, Oregon, you’ll be taught about nature and how to embrace it. But that’s not the only way the city is leading the green city initiative.
First off, the city is cycling heaven. Residents use the bike as their primary mode of transport to and from workplaces. For safe cycling, Portland has installed more than 188 miles of bike lanes as well as 77 miles of Neighborhood Greenways. In fact, the city has been ranked on the top spot as one of the most bike-friendly cities in North America.
However, if you’re not a biking fan, you can use one of their 84 bus lines, 90 light rail stations, or WES. Either way, you’ll have access to quick and eco-friendly transportation at any given time no matter your destination.
Portland is also a hydroelectric powerhouse. The city joined has pledged to shift to 100% clean energy by 2050.
In fact, Oregon is the fourth-largest renewable energy-producing state  in the US. During certain times of the year, the city produces huge amounts of renewable energy that is then supplied to California. What’s more, most of the buildings within the city are green certified.
In 1971, Oregon was the first state in the US to introduce recycling program. This has seen Portlanders recycle and compost more of their trash than before.
Last but not least, Portland has strict policies for protecting its trees. When you live in Portland, you’re going to be dictated how you’ll use your trees in your yard. Businesses are also forced to plant trees on an annual basis. This may sound harsh, but it works!
They took eco-tourism to the next level.
Stockholm was ranked as the cleanest city in Europe in 2010, and still ranks among the top of that list.
Some reports indicate that Sweden is beginning to experience a shortage of rubbish due to its huge recycling abilities. It has started taking in waste from outside countries to recycling and processing.
To encourage eco-travel, Stockholm focuses on three distinct areas, as mentioned below:
- The country has a great number of outdoor places to explore.
- As an eco-traveler, you want to make sure your activities have low to no impact on the surrounding environment.
- There excellent parks, nature reserves, and impressive gardens across the city.
If you love the outdoors and nature, then Stockholm should be on your bucket list for your next.
The city has an excellent public transport and cycling network as well. Stockholm has huge traffic congestion and tons of pedestrianized places. That means that using a car is almost impossible. Citizens use the T-Bana metro system to move around the city. You can also use boats to connect to your destination island or pick a bus to your destination national park. There is a ton of excellent cycle lanes as well. The city protects cyclists so you can cycle around the city without any worries.
Last but not least, Stockholm boasts brilliant eco-restaurants and supermarkets.
The closest competitor of Stockholm in eco-tourism.
Finland’s capital appreciates nature and a sustainable lifestyle for the planet.
Currently, over 77% of all journeys in Helsinki are made through cycling, walking, and public transport, according to Josephat Andrews, an environmentalist and book report writer who also is a travel enthusiast.
In fact, two-thirds of Helsinki’s residents prefer to walk or public transport on weekdays than any other means of transportation.
Tourism is one of the largest contributors to the economy of Helsinki. And the city appreciates this by offering tourists eco-friendly accommodation. Most of the hotels in the city are environmentally-friendly certified with those that are yet to join the move having some plans with their food, water, waste management, and energy usage.
It was also recognized as the cleanest city in Europe according to the Pollution Index 2018.
Impressive parks and electric vehicles – welcome to Berlin!
Berlin boasts more gardens, parks, and forested places than any other city in Europe, making it one of the world’s greenest cities.
Part of the reason why Berlin is green is that World War I made the citizens self-sufficient and reliant on homegrown food – a trend that has been observed to date.
Currently, Berlin has over 700 charging stations distributed across the city to encourage residents to use electric vehicles and plans to take the number up to 1600 in the coming years. Residents are also embracing more energy-efficient public transport than personal cars in recent years.
The little Brazilian surprise!
Curitiba is a little-known eco-friendly city in Brazil that recycles over 70% of its waste to process reusable energy and other products. The city also boasts a robust public transport network that allows residents to get around the city without using personal cars. It won the 2010 Sustainable Transport Award for implementing the best public transport projects in the world.
What’s more, Curitiba regulates urban planning to ensure all of the buildings are planned to avoid congesting the city. To keep the city clean, Curitiba has an incentive system where residents are given tokens, cash, snacks in exchange for items or products that can be recycled.
Let’s go green together
These are the 10 examples of major cities that set great examples and shape the way of urban living for the future. If other cities can embrace the changes and adapt their strategies, together, we can make our planet more eco-friendly and sustainable for the generations to come.
Do you agree with our top 10 picks? Do you have any suggestions to swap one or two cities from our list?
Please share in the comment section below or reach out to us. We’ll gladly update our list in the coming days.
- The World’s Top Cities for People and the Planet
- The World’s Greenest Cities. What Can We Learn From Them?
- The World’s Greenest Cities are Our Future
- The 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities on the Planet, Ranked, WIRED
- Amsterdam, Netherlands, CNCA
- How did Vancouver get so green?, Grist
- Volume of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in Vancouver, Canada from 2013 to 2018, Statista
- List of U.S. states by electricity production from renewable sources, Wikipedia
- 1,600 new electric car charge points for Berlin, Electrive
- Curitiba – An Environmental Showcase, Huffpost
- 100,000 New Trees for Copenhagen, State of Green
- A sustainability guide to Copenhagen, Visit Copenhagen
- Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape 2016 – Energy Market Analysis, Canada Energy Regulator
Joshua Sharp is a professional freelance writer who offers essay writing service and assignment help to students around the topics of green living and how to make life more environmentally friendly. He also has expertise in media and travel and shares tips on how to be an eco-travel in his writing.
Photo by Chait Goli from Pexels