Our world is working to be a greener place every day. With new sustainability initiatives that include everything from green building to recycling to organic farming, there are plenty of ways that individuals and corporations can make a difference for the environment. If you’re looking to continue your environmentally responsible practices on your vacation, then it’s a good idea to take a look at the green reputations of your destination before you go.
There are several factors that go into determining how “green” a city is. First and foremost is their commitment to reliance upon renewable energy, eschewing fossil fuels as much as possible in favor of solar energy, geothermal energy, and even biofuels. Another important criteria involves their adoption of green policies, whether that has to do with citywide recycling regulations or building code adjustments that require new construction to adhere to sustainable construction guidelines. However, it’s not just about the objects in the city, it’s about the people, too. Cities that promote green lifestyles by encouraging biking or walking instead of driving, and offer healthier and more environmentally friendly diet options like organic food and farmers markets tend to rank higher on these lists.
For travelers in search of the greenest cities to visit, this list represents that top 10 green cities across the globe from recent evaluations by environmental organizations. While there’s no authoritative list, these cities consistently rank highly and fairly represent global green practices.
This distinctive European capital runs almost entirely on renewable energy. The availability of geothermal energy goes a long way towards meeting the city’s energy needs, reducing the need for fossil fuels to below 1%. Their future goals include improving public transit and reducing the need for commuting via fossil-fuel burning vehicles, increasing the availability of public greenspaces and preserving the already extensive park system, and reducing pollution across the board. Reykjavik is also a hub for researchers working to improve upon green technologies. Plus, the Icelandic government funds a significant amount of climate change research.
Not only the UK’s greenest city in recent years but Europe’s as well (in 2015), Bristol is an up-and-comer on the eco-friendly scene. Their Bristol Green Capital organization is dedicated to making Bristol a low carbon city that offers green living options to all its residents. They consistently achieve high environmental standards like a reduced carbon footprint, use of renewable energies, and widespread sustainable building practices. They also have a very good air quality that is only improving with the increase in cycling commuters and the expansion of greenspaces.
Portland, OR, United States
Portland has some serious green credentials, not least of which involves their use of renewable energy: they utilize 20% more renewable energy than the national average! As far as greenspaces go, they offer 250 miles of bike and walking trails, plus a number of parks and a couple of botanical gardens. Much of their new construction adopts sustainable building practices, and there are even entire real estate agencies devoted to providing green living options. And of course, there are plenty of green eating options, too, like farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants.
San Francisco, United States
A leader among American cities that strive for green living, San Francisco has been promoting intensive recycling efforts for several years now, banning plastic bags and making citywide recycling mandatory. They encourage zero waste production among their businesses and residents, and offer educational programs to help people learn about healthier, greener lifestyles. They also have a high number of people who bike or walk to work, and an extensive number of parks like the iconic Golden Gate Park and nearby Muir Woods. And of course, they’ve been a leader in sustainable dining for a long time now.
With aspirations of being the greenest city in the world by 2020, Vancouver is currently Canada’s most eco-friendly urban area. Greenspaces are abundant here, with more than 200 parks (including the gorgeous, waterfront Stanley Park) to provide residents with fresh open space to exercise and play. New technologies like solar-powered trash compactors are everywhere, and new buildings consistently rank among the most sustainable constructions in the country. They also offer community resources to help everyone from citizens to corporations to make their practices greener.
This Swedish city makes it onto the list for their massive wind-energy park; it’s actually the world’s third-largest facility of its kind. They also offer a significant amount of greenspace to their residents, which contribute to fresh oxygen production. One district to highlight is the Western Harbor, which runs on 100% renewable energy through the use of various alternative sources of energy like wind and solar power. Most construction in this neighborhood utilizes sustainable building practices, and commercial operations run on biofuels.
This popular German city has one major unique thing going for it when it comes to being green – the entire city is literally car free. Because of roadways that have barely been expanded since the city’s founding, car traffic is impossible and residents get around the old fashioned way. Other green efforts include ubiquitous solar panels, recycling programs, and the increasing availability of locally sourced food. They also aim to substantially reduce carbon emissions by 2020.
Winner of the European Green Capital title, Copenhagen has a lot to be proud of when it comes to green living. Because they’re also a major tourist destination in Europe, they strive to make green living accessible not only to their residents, but to their visitors as well. Recycling and organic food initiatives are common, and the city itself works to reduce carbon emissions, encourage sustainable building practices, and promote healthier lifestyles among its residents.
Much of Europe’s greenest architecture can be found in Stockholm, so it’s no surprise that it ranks on the list of greenest cities. They have incredibly low carbon emissions compared to other major European cities, and have recently achieved a complete revitalization and rehabilitation of their waterways. New initiatives encourage the use of bikes for transportation, to endorse environmentally friendly food production and distribution, to improve recycling practices, and to reduce carbon emissions.
Oslo has been making it onto green lists for nearly a decade now, and has been consistently one of the most sustainable cities in spite of its massive population. They have one of the lowest rates of greenhouse gas emission among comparable European cities, and all new construction adheres to green guidelines. And while many people walk or bike to work and school, those who don’t can take advantage of hydroelectric-powered public transit.