As people around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the need for environmentally responsible practices in the face of climate change, more and more cities are making big moves towards eco-friendly practices. From policies that encourage research into alternative fuel sources and recycling to sustainable building practices and the expansion of urban greenspaces, there are plenty of ways a city can earn the “green” label. It’s also important that cities offer opportunities for their residents and visitors to live greener lives, too, by offering advantages such as an extensive and eco-friendly mass transit system, bike and walking trails, and plenty of parks.
If you’re looking to make eco-friendliness a criterion when choosing your next Latin American vacation destination, then this list should provide a good starting point for your planning. Environmental assessments were recently conducted by the Latin American Green City Index, and represent the most up-to-date information about green cities in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Actually among the most eco-friendly cities around the globe, Curitiba has some pretty impressive green credentials. They began one of the region’s first recycling initiatives decades ago, and today they recycle 70% of the city’s waste through an innovative program that provides residents with food baskets in exchange for waste. They’ve also won green city awards for their extensive mass transit system that reduces car traffic and the resultant carbon emissions. Plus, they’ve got greenspaces all over the place for residents and visitors to enjoy, and they make a point of planting new trees as many places as possible. Curitiba is in a class of its own when it comes to green cities in this region of the world.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
With impressive overall rankings when it comes to green cities in Latin America, Rio is not only an immensely popular tourist destination but also an increasingly eco-friendly destination. Policies encourage responsible energy use and the reduction of C02 emissions, as well as investment in renewable sources like hydropower. Sustainable architecture and efficient use of land are also major factors, with new buildings reflecting important developments in green building, just as new parks are going up throughout the city. Recent investments in city infrastructure and new construction inspired by the recent World Cup (2014) and Summer Olympics (2016) have also meant a lot of new green buildings for Rio, many of which can serve transferable community purposes after the events.
This Chilean city also ranks consistently high among Latin American cities, particularly given its size. Santiago has an ambitious plan to create parks out of nearly 4,000 hectares of currently urban space, and their frequently-tree lined streets go a long way towards increasing air quality. Their expanded metro system reduces carbon emissions by discouraging people from driving, and the city is working to bring the metro rail to more regions of the city in coming years. As far as recycling goes, although they don’t offer city pickup like many American cities, they do have dozens of drop-off points throughout the city and have developed partnerships with several charities to encourage community-wide recycling practices.
The Colombian capital has a lot to be proud of in recent years when it comes to being green. This city especially ranks quite well when it comes to issues of transportation. They have an expansive network of buses and rail lines, and have millions of riders per day that utilize these services. Bogotá also boasts an extensive park system, with effective land use policies and the co-development of greenspaces with new construction. Their C02 emissions per person are low, which is aided by the fact that more than 80% of the city’s electricity is generated by hydroelectric systems. Many more systems have converted from fossil fuels to natural gas, too, including their rapid transit bus fleet.
Mexico City, Mexico
Harboring impressive green aspirations in Latin America, Mexico City is taking the lead when it comes to sustainable development and environmentally responsible policies in Mexico. Although it used to be among the most polluted cities in the world, the recent “Plan Verde” (Green Plan) has helped Mexico City to improve in many areas. In addition to better public transit, there are also good walking and cycling pathways. They also frequently offer public service programs and local initiatives that encourage less driving and more sustainable transit. For example, they also have a compulsory public transit policy for schoolchildren.