The citizens of the world want to be more eco-friendly, and major cities are working to empower those choices. Around the world, governments are making great strides in encouraging eco-friendly building practices, transit options, and carbon-neutral environments for their citizens. While a majority of large cities are making positive changes, there are five cities that’s efforts place them above the rest. These most sustainable cities are leading the charge in changing the environment for the better. If you’ve been wanting to be more sustainable, maybe you should consider moving to one of these most eco-friendly cities! And even if relocating isn't realistic, you can always add more eco-friendly furniture to your home, wherever that may be.
1. Oslo, Norway
Oslo is the largest city in Norway, as well as the capital of the country. Due to its plan to be a “City of the Future,” it is among the most sustainable cities in the world. Much of the city’s work is helping to contribute to their goal of being climate-neutral by 2030. This goal has led them to track emissions across the city, invest in green projects instead of fossil fuel-based ones, and is working toward creating a car-free city center. The city’s mandate that all new municipality-built buildings be not only zero-emission, but must also be “energy-plus,” meaning they generate energy, is a major move toward sustainability.
Oslo also pushes its citizens to be more eco-friendly. It offers tax credits and waived tolls to those who drive electric cars, and encourages people to purchase electric transport bicycles. Buildings throughout the city are more sustainable thanks to their FutureBuilt program, which is projected to complete 50 new buildings which have a 50% lower carbon footprint that traditional structures by 2020. Oslo continues to lead Europe and the world as one of the best examples of urban sustainability.
2. London, England
London is a great example of how a massive city in both size and population can still prioritize sustainability. The city has goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2025, and to be zero-carbon by 2050, which has led to a number of innovative changes. In 2003, the city introduced a tax on cars entering the city center on weekends, in order to encourage the use of public transit and bikes, and they’ve only increased their efforts since then. Their buses are diesel-electric which reduce carbon emissions by 40%, which has helped them to maintain a status as one of the most sustainable mass transport systems in the world.
London encourages green building practices throughout the city, including green roofs, glass designs that maximize solar gain, and buildings made of cross-laminated timber. The Bloomberg headquarters in London was the first building to earn a 98.5% BREEAM rating. The structure has breathable” walls open and close based on weather conditions, and has 500,000 LED lights—using 40% less energy than a traditional office fluorescent light system. London is making great strides in staying eco-friendly despite its vast size.
This city-state in Southeastern Asia has made great strides in responsible water usage, because this island nation does not have its own adequate supply of fresh water. They use numerous water management innovations including saltwater desalination, recycling of reclaimed water, and rainwater catchment methods.
Singapore is the greenest city in Asia, partly due to it’s extremely eco-friendly building mandates that have been in place since 2005. The goal is to have 80% of all new buildings achieve the Green Mark environmental performance rating by 2030, in order to reduce energy use and carbon emissions. The so-called Garden City encourages green spaces to be built on the roofs of buildings, to overcome the dense urban structure. They also created one of the largest freshwater city reservoirs in the world and set aside 250 acres of prime real estate for the Gardens by the Bay, a “green lung” in the city. Their continued efforts will help them to maintain a reputation as among the greenest cities in the world.
4. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is an extremely sustainable city and has a strong reputation as a liveable, contemporary hub for eco-friendly efforts. It was actually named the Most Sustainable City in 2016 by the Dutch building consultants Arcadis. They have an ambitious long-term goal of becoming a 2000-watt society by 2050, meaning its citizens will only use use 2000 watts of energy per capita.
The city has an extremely sustainable transport system, with highly coordinated trams, trains, buses, and light rail that make cars unnecessary. It also has a lot of green space – 30% of Switzerland’s surface is made up of forests and woodlands, helping to sink CO2 levels. Their work in encouraging public transit, empowering low energy usage, and maintaining green spaces has helped them maintain a reputation as a top eco-friendly city.
5. Seattle, United States
Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US, but maintains its commitment to eco-friendly lifestyles. They reached “peak emissions” in 2008 and have been on a downward trend ever since.
Seattle aims to reduce total core greenhouse gas emissions 58% by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050 including a 91% reduction in passenger vehicle and building energy emissions, which encourages businesses and citizens alike to embrace green practices. Seattle claims they have the “Nation’s Greenest Utilities,” with a zero carbon footprint and clean hydroelectricity supplying 90 percent of Seattle’s power.
As more cities make investments in sustainability, this list is sure to change. Hopefully, there won’t be a need to rank the most eco-friendly cities in the world, as everyone will be equally committed to lowering carbon emissions and keeping the planet healthy.