In celebration of Earth Day, there’s never been a better time to go green. Founded in 1970, this day aims to raise the profile of the most important environmental initiatives affecting our planet today and to encourage public support and awareness. The events of Earth Day are aimed towards helping us all to live a cleaner life by supporting clean energy initiatives, minimising the impact of climate change and create more eco-friendly cities.
In recognition of this global initiative and the billion people worldwide who take part in Earth day, we’ve sought out the top five eco-friendy cities in the world and taken a closer look at the innovative and highly successful strategies they have implemented on the path towards an eco-friendly future.
The Danish capital should be very proud of itself, at least where going green is concerned. As the European Green Capital 2014, this stylish city has been implementing initiatives left, right and centre aimed towards their goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025. Over a third of the population regularly cycle to work, with stringent plans aimed towards increasing this figure year-on-year. The city’s planners have developed its infrastructure to be extremely conducive towards cycling, with 217 miles of dedicated cycle lanes, a free bike-share scheme and guided cycle tours for tourists. The electric CityBus emits zero exhaust fumes, which makes public transport travel green, too.
Copenhagen is famous for being a cool and trendsetting city, and its style credentials also make this one of the most ec0-friendly cities. There are many eco-friendly fashion labels along the main shopping precincts, including an organic baby clothes shop. There has also been a significant shift in the food landscape. There are now a number of organic supermarkets and farmers markets in the city, and a focus on organically sourced, local and sustainable produce in the city’s restaurants, to the point where this eco style of dining is slowly becoming the norm. It’s also common to see Globe Ale served in bars – Denmark’s first carbon neutral beer.
Along with Copenhagen, the Canadian city of Vancouver has often been voted one of the world’s most liveable and eco-friendly cities. The cleanest city in Canada and the birthplace of Greenpeace is dedicated to their Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, which aims for Vancouver to be named the greenest city in the world by 2020 and decrease emissions by a third. This goal has taken in a number of dedicated initiatives, which have set the city well on the way to achieving its aim. There are sophisticated systems in place for carbon management and waste handling, with the latter including solar-powered rubbish compactors on the high streets that can hold five times the waste of a regular bin and also help to reduce the number of highly polluting rubbish lorries on the roads.
Vancouver is a world leader in renewable energy, with dedicated policies and investments made into wind, solar, wave and tidal energy power systems. The 2020 Action Plan includes a major building project with policies that dictate how all new developments must be carbon neutral. It also states that existing structures must aim to improve their energy efficiency by 20 percent. Many of the buildings have already begun to introduce policies including dual-flush toilets and geothermal heating.
The city is an extremely cycle-friendly zone with 248 miles of bike lanes, as well as promoted ridesharing schemes and greenways. A new Bikeway aims to further develop the transport system and reduce the number of cars on the road.
This is probably the greenest city that you’ve never heard of. As the green capital of Brazil, this is one place that is richly deserving of its green credentials. An impressive 70% of the city’s waste is recycled and this southern Brazilian metropolis is famous for developing a world-leading recycling initiative back in the 1980s. The city is also known for building one of the world’s first large-scale, rapid-transit bus systems and public transport is the travel mode of choice for most of the city’s residents thanks to the excellent transport links. This also helps to explain why Curitiba has one of the highest air qualities among the cities of South America.
The green initiatives have been carefully designed to cater to all of the city’s residents, with a farmers market that moves around the city in order to reach those in more remote areas and offer them access to organic produce. Residents in the city’s outskirts can also take advantage of the Green Exchange Employment Programme which offers bus tickets and food (or chocolate and toys for the kids) in exchange for bags of reusable rubbish in order to creatively incentivise the clean up of the city.
More than one million trees have been planted along Curitiba’s highways in recent years and the city is home to over one thousand green spaces as well as a number of forests and parks, where sheep graze in order to keep the grass under control.
As a forward-thinking and groundbreaking city in many ways, it comes as no surprise that this Californian city has long been a pioneer of sustainable living and environmental awareness. It is here that the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 – a grassroots environmental organisation that has grown to become one of the nation’s most prestigious. In 2010, the Sunset Reservoir Solar Project was introduced – over its 25-year lifespan, it is believed that this facility will generate five megawatts of clean energy every day, which is enough to power more than 1,500 San Francisco homes and businesses.
San Fran was the first city in the US to introduce the coloured bins recycling system into homes and workplaces, making it a legal requirement that residents compost and recycle using the appropriate bins. An outstanding public transport infrastructure has also been developed alongside a dedication to establishing eco friendly commuting options and improving the air quality. To this end, there is an exceptionally high volume of electric cars on the road with public charging stations located across the city. There has been great encouragement for commuters to walk, cycle or use public transport options instead of private cars.
Food is another area in which San Francisco marks itself out as a one of the world’s most eco-friendly cities. There has been a focus on increasing awareness of the origins and production methods of the city’s food, which has led to an increase in the contribution of local farms and organic foods. Regular farmers’ markets and seasonal markets now held in neighbourhoods throughout the city.
As the EU’s first city to win the European Green Capital Award thanks to its commitment to sustainability, the Swedish capital has continued to show how richly deserving it is of its green credentials. Its ultimate aim is to be entirely fossil fuel free by 2050 and it is already well on the way to achieving this goal. The city’s carbon emissions are 3.4 tonnes per capita in comparison to a European average of 10 and there have been effective environmental planning policies in action since the 1970s.
A whole range of environmental initiatives are focused on maximising the city’s eco potential. More than 40 per cent of the city is made up of green spaces and 99% of the household waste across Sweden is recycled or reused, while other initiatives specific to Stockholm include the purifying of rainwater. The city’s Central Station has no heating system but is instead warmed up by the excess body heat from its passengers. The city is dedicated to renewable energy usage and is highly innovative with its use of alternative energy sources. It has the largest ethanol bus fleet in the world and has promised to only introduce new buses into its fleet if they operate using renewable fuels.