Cities that are leading the way to a greener future

A sustainable future is the only future for our planet. With a population that continues to grow, the only way we can hope to support everyone is by reusing resources that do not harm the environment around us.

Both local authorities and larger government bodies have felt rising pressure from the public in regard to combating climate change and taking responsibility for the damage we are inflicting on the world. But some cities are flourishing in green, setting the example for the rest of us to follow. In this article, we are exploring the top ten most eco-friendly cities.

10. Reykjavik, Iceland

For a peaceful place to holiday or live, Iceland has everything you need. But how has the country’s capital city, Reykjavik, landed the title of tenth most eco-friendly city? Well, believe it or not, the city has a small population of 126,100 people — one of the main factors that allows for easy and adaptive changes for it to become a greener space. By 2040, Reykjavik plans on eliminating their production of greenhouse gas emissions by not only promoting walking and cycling, but also the use of public transport.

With only 4% of people using busses, the city plans to push the public transport agenda further and introduce more hydrogen busses. To ensure this happens, the city has a goal of trebling this by 2030. As well as this, the city invested millions into the creation of cycling paths and is encouraging electric car use for its 9,000 public employees by offering free parking and lower taxes.

9. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver is framed by seas, forests, and mountains. What more could you ask for when picturing what an idyllic eco-friendly city looks like? Taking ninth place on the list of most eco-friendly cities, Vancouver has recognised that its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than what the Earth can sustain. The captivating city launched the Greenest City initiative, which has set realistic goals that can be achieved in the near future. Out of all major cities located in North America, Vancouver produces the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, which highlights the efforts put in place by the local authority to combat the environmental impact the city could potentially have.

The city isn’t resting on its laurels, as it continues to work towards a green future. For example, the residents have found a 23% increase in green jobs and a 26% increase in local food jobs since 2013. As well as this, a further 23% of Canada’s CleanTech companies are located in the capital — whether this is through digital contracts or by implementing a cycle-to-work scheme.

8. Helsinki, Finland

Appreciating the environment is a top priority for Helsinki. With a mix of urban locations and peaceful reservoirs, the capital sits on the peninsula on the Gulf of Finland. One of the biggest contributors to Helsinki’s economy is tourism, which has led to an increase in eco-friendly accommodation. In fact, around 75% of hotel rooms in the city have been certified as environmentally friendly and those that haven’t fully pledged their allegiance to the cause have some sort of environmental plan in place covering all aspects of the business; from food and water to waste management and energy consumption.

The district of Viikki within the city is a particularly green zone. The 23-hectare residential area focuses on sustainability and as an experimental project, the district has made use of solar and wind energy systems. So much so, that the first apartment building to use solar electricity in Finland is located here.

7. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is both living the green life as well as looking for new ways to improve the impact we have on the planet. It is always looking at new and innovative technologies to create a more sustainable location — so much so, they began using wind farms for energy way back in 2008. Because of this, the city has now set an aim to get 10% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, which is becoming more realistic as technology advances.

An outdoor lifestyle is also being pushed in the city. To encourage this, the city has invested in safe-cycle routes and itsMy CiTi rapid service allows bikes on buses for free to help people get around without a car. As well as this, many people have started to grow their own vegetables and make use of solar panels.  

6. San Francisco, California

A large population is no excuse for not being green, says the 860,000-strong city of San Francisco. Innovative solutions have led to a more sustainable lifestyle for the residents of this iconic setting, maintaining that picture-perfect reputation.To ensure that this Californian city remains within the top ten, there are many focus areas for local authorities. For example, with immense knowledge on waste management, San Fran currently diverts 80% of its waste away from landfills and plans to increase this number to 100% by 2020.

Authorities are even banning products that are known to cause damage to the environment. It has even pushed through legislation to ban plastic bags and plastic water bottles, among others. This is definitely a step in the right direction for more beneficial environmental results.

5. Portland, Oregon

Oregon’s population is around 647,000 and rising. The city itself has made some remarkable changes to ensure it plays its part in the bettering of the planet and the lifestyles of those living in the area. But how has it done this?Believe it or not, 25% of workers in the city commute by bike, carpool or public transport, which is showing great benefits to the environment. Because of this, the number of damaging vehicles on the roads has been reduced. On top of this, there is an estimated 250 miles of bike paths, highlighting how easy and safe it is to get around the city. Apparently, 8% of the city’s population use cycling as a main method of transportation.

As a major city, Portal produces 2,434,840 tonnes of waste, but recovers an amazing 1,235,924 tonnes of it. As well as the above, the city uses 33% of renewable energy — the national average is 13% — and like San Francisco, it has banned plastic bags.  

4. Berlin, Germany

How does Berlin, with its population of over 3.47 million, remain so environmentally friendly? According to some research, many believe that it’s due to a more personal story. After World War I, residents became extremely self-sufficient and valued their green spaces much more than they ever did, learning to grow their own foods — which is a trend that has been passed down through the generations.

Berlin has also encouraged the switch to electric cars with 400 charging points available across the city. Not only this, but residents aren’t seeing the need for personal cars and are opting to share with one another in a bid to save the planet.

3. Stockholm, Sweden

The top three starts off with Stockholm. With 14 islands and more than 50 bridges, this location has made its fair share of improvements to help its citizens lead a more sustainable lifestyle. The major city has an aim to remove the use of fossil-fuels by 2040 and is doing so by implementing new policies that encourage a greener society — with investment help from the European Union to become smarter. On top of this, bio-fuel is becoming more popular and is generated from sewage waste, powering vehicles around the city.

Its 30,000-seat stadium has its waste heat reused too. Recovered heat may be able to help warm over 1,000 flats more efficiently using sustainable methods.   

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

You may be surprised that Amsterdam isn’t in first place. To become more sustainable and remove the negative effects of climate change, the city was one of the first to outline sustainability measures — with an aim to achieve results by 2020.

As many know, cycling is the main form of transport in this city. However, when it comes to vehicles, the authorities are trying to reduce the number of emissions being emitted by introducing electric vehicles around the city, which has been accompanied with around 300 charging points.

Amsterdam homes are also working towards a more eco-friendly approach. More homeowners are beginning to install solar panels on roofs and grow their own foods, or alternatively, purchase from local farmers’ markets, which in turn, puts money back into the local economy.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen has been crowned the most eco-friendly city in the world, thanks to its dedication towards a greener life. The city offers a high quality of life for its residents and has an ambitious goal to become even more eco-friendly.The capital is set to become the first CO2-neutral city by 2025 too. More people enjoy cycling than using a vehicle to get around, with only 29% of households owning a car, and the city is has introduced even more cycle lanes. The popularity of cycling has increased even further, as most hotels across the city now provide guests with bicycles!

Organic food is a new trend for the city, with 24% of food sales going towards it. As well as this, 88% of the food that is serviced in public organisations is actually organic. Copenhagen is constantly bringing in new ways to develop an eco-friendly way-of-life — there’s no reason you wouldn’t want to visit!