In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day, we’re covering green cities around the world—cities that have taken many steps forward in being environmentally-conscious. These places, such as Singapore and Amsterdam, employ energy-saving and waste-reducing initiatives for a better lifestyle. It’s important to care about the environment because eco-friendly measures can attribute to a better quality of life for residents, preserve animals’ habitats, and stop harmful changes to the environment.
BRITISH COLOMBIA, CANADA
Surrounded by natural beauty, Vancouver has an advantage when it comes to being one of the greenest cities. Its use of renewable energies and hydropower means it has refreshingly clean air. There’s also more than 200 parks where you can breathe the city’s incredibly fresh air to your heart’s content. But that’s not all, the city has taken measures to ensure that it’s not leaving behind a damaging carbon footprint. It has the lowest per-person greenhouse-gas emissions of any city in North America, which is a direct result of a carbon tax that British Columbia put into place in 2008. Since 2010, 125,000 trees have been planted. Single-use plastics have been banned since 2019. Additionally, over 50% of commutes occur by foot, bike, or public transportation.
Way back in the year 2012, Copenhagen launched an initiative to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city by 2025. It’s making incredible progress toward that goal. It has since won countless awards for its environmentally-conscious strides, like being named the European Green Capital of 2014. The city has hydrogen-powered taxis, natural swimming baths, and floating saunas made from local wood. There’s also a huge sustainable-fashion scene here, with eco-conscious clothing and jewelry shops remaining abundant. The food has also become a main talking point as to why Copenhagen is one of the best green cities in the world. A whopping 88% of the food served in public organizations is organic. Residents feel comfortable here knowing that their food is organic and healthy.
When you think of Amsterdam, you probably think of cycling. It is the number one form of transportation in the area, with residents choosing to bike to work, school, and more. This greatly reduces the emissions from cars. But for those who prefer to drive to work, the city has also been scheming up a plan to lower those emissions as well. They have introduced electric cars and charging stations around the city. The city itself has also announced some future plans for an even greater impact. They’re aiming to reduce CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030 and 95% in 2050. Additionally, they will stop using natural gas before 2040 and within the next ten years will have only emission-free transport by road and water.
Ljubljana appears in the Sustainable Top 100 list and has also been included in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index). It was also proclaimed Europe’s Green Capital of 2016! Although this city isn’t known for being a renowned tourist destination, it is known for being beautiful and eco-friendly. Over 75% of the city is made up of parks and green spaces and it has 142 miles of cycling routes. Cars are banned from the city center but when residents do need to use a car there’s free electric taxis called Kavalirs that are there to help! Free fountains offer water throughout spring and summer and buses are methane-powered to reduce emissions. Ljubljana is definitely a prime example for the rest of the world to follow.
Singapore is aiming to be the world’s greenest city and are on track to do so. Since 2008, Singapore has had an ambitious eco-building program, which promises that any greenery lost on the ground must be replaced with greenery in the sky. That is why their Marina Bay area now contains reclaimed land, filled with gorgeous gardens, pools, and waterscapes that act as the city’s “green lung.” They have planted numerous “super trees,” which are high-tech structures that range from 80 to 160 feet and collect solar energy to power a nightly light show. Their trunks act as vertical gardens, laced with more than 150,000 living plants, and they also collect rainwater. Green building has been mandatory in the country/city since 2008.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
There’s not many U.S. cities that have taken the environment into consideration but thankfully, San Francisco is one of them. Recycling is required by law and plastic bags were banned way back in 2007. There are also large-scale commitments to solar energy and a real effort to lower the city’s waste. In fact, San Fran sends less trash to the landfill than any other U.S. city. But perhaps the city is most known for being environmentally savvy when it comes to food, as their organic market scene is thriving. Countless restaurants participate in sustainable sourcing and the city as a whole has more farm-to-table restaurants than anywhere else in the country! San Fran is also home to the Sierra Club, one of the first environmental grassroots movements in the country.
Not many people are “in” on the fact that Uruguay is leading the way when it comes to eco-friendly policies. The country creates more than 97% of its electricity from renewables. All over, you’ll find wind farms, hydroelectric plants, and fields filled with solar panels. Today, there are around 30 wind farms dotted around the country, producing over a third of the country’s total electricity supply. Montevideo is at the heart of these initiatives and is a green, walkable city. As you walk through it, not only will you see barely any litter, you’ll also be breathing some of the cleanest city air you’ve ever inhaled. Its airport, Carrasco, was also the first in the area to generate its own energy from clean sources.
In Stockholm, even as a tourist you can lessen your carbon footprint as the city has the highest number of eco-hotels in the world. The Scandic Hotel chain is an example—they use local water instead of bottled and all of their staff are trained in sustainability measures. Stockholm is one of the only cities in the world that recycles all of its household waste and labels everything according to how things are sourced. For example, you will be able to find out how a fish was caught or how your shirt was made. Transportation is another aspect heavily taken into consideration; town planning ensures that visitors and residents can walk or cycle between most locations like tourist destinations, or to and from work.
South Africa’s second-largest city is making some of the biggest environmental strides in the continent, pushing for increased energy conservation and a greater use of renewable resources. In 2008, Cape Town started using energy from the country’s first commercial wind farm. The environmentally-conscious mindset has also seeped into the city life. Bike routes are becoming more available, residents are shopping at farmer’s markets, and restaurants are sourcing locally. While there aren’t a huge number of bike routes yet available, the city has made it easier to travel by bike by allowing them to be perched on the My CiTi rapid bus service for free. Residents have also taken to using solar energy and growing their own fruits and vegetables.
By Selene Rivera