5 of the most sustainable cities in the world.
By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be concentrated in cities – it will be inevitable to redesign these cities to cut the emissions and aim for a carbon-neutral lifestyle. There are dozens of different strategies to create sustainable cities, considering the so-called triple bottom line (social, economic, and environmental impact) such as sustainable public transport, environment-oriented policies and changes, energy and water conservation, green roofs, zero-energy buildings and all kinds of renewable energy sources. Let’s see what cities are on the “green list” and how they got there:
COPENHAGEN, DENMARK. Copenhagen is set to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025. The city is working on the so-called “on waste-to-energy” supply, which already accounts for the fifth of total energy requirements. The government grants help to replace any roofs with integrated solar systems – the Copenhagen International School already has the largest solar panel façade in the world! Copenhagen is designed perfectly for carbon-neutral public transport – just a reminder that this is a city where bikes outnumber cars (over 50% of the population get around on bikes). The city has an amazing bus and train network encouraging its residents to give up cars, with only 29% of households owning a car. Buses are being substituted with those that use electricity and biogas.
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA. Canberra is not only the most sustainable city in Australia but also in the world, according to a recent report. The reputation is earned by the city’s reliance on renewable energy – Canberra offers 48% of its energy in sustainable ways and relies heavily on solar power and nearby wind farms. Canberra is aspiring to become the first city outside Europe to source 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewables (the statement they made in 2019). The local government aims to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, while more than 86 percent of Canberra's transport infrastructure is already green.
ZURICH, SWITZERLAND. In 2016, Zurich was ranked as the world’s most sustainable metropolis. First, Zurich is all about green energy goals – by 2050, the government pledged to use just 2000 watts per person, hence, reducing energy consumption by two-thirds in Switzerland. Other Zurich’s sustainable achievements include a sustainable public transport system and a willingness to increase public awareness of environmental issues. Switzerland’s largest city is likely to top the list of most sustainable places due to the impressive recycling habits of Swiss residents – 94% of old glass and more than 80% of PET containers end up in special collection points instead of household bins.
LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA. This year, Lonely Planet included Ljubljana in the eight most sustainable cities in the world. Following the eco-friendly patterns of Western Europe, Slovenia’s capital has become the greenest post-socialist city. Having achieved the largest number of sustainable amends in the shortest period, Ljubljana was named the European Green Capital in 2016. Over 10 hectares of Ljubljana’s city centre are pedestrianized, which makes it so far the largest car-free zone in the European Union. Ljubljana was the first European city to commit to a zero-waste goal planning to reduce that to just 60kg per person per year by 2025 – new waste-management systems send 80% less waste to landfill than they did 12 years ago. Taking an example from Copenhagen, Ljubljana has 230km of cycling routes providing the public with a free bike-sharing network, and 542 square meters of green space per inhabitant.
VANCOUVER, CANADA. Vancouver’s success is all about eco-friendly initiatives including the ‘Greenest City Action Plan’, ‘Renewable City Strategy’, and ‘Zero Waste Vancouver’. More than 122,000 trees have been planted here since 2010. Vancouver is the first major city in North America to commit to 100% renewable energy of their energy production and consumption needs, thanks to the city's large supply of hydroelectricity. The city follows the urban planning concept called eco-density, which implies building the city vertically (as in skyscrapers), as opposed to urban sprawl. Also, Vancouver’s goal is to have 66% of all trips made by walking, cycling, or public transit by 2040. The city already features over 279 miles of bike trails and encourages alternative transportation modes – SkyTrain is the largest autonomous mass public transit system in the world.
Being sustainable means respecting natural resources and seeking social justice at the same time. If we want to live in the cities and improve our quality of life, the local authorities need to put the efforts in place to combat the environmental impact the city could potentially have.