When it comes to eco-friendly cities, there are several remarkable destinations around the world that prioritize sustainability, green initiatives, and a high quality of life. This doesn’t come at the expense of resident happiness or draconian measures, either. Indeed, these five cities consistently rank as some of the happiest in the world, with the highest quality of life.
It goes to show you how vital a clean and sustainable environment is, when factoring in satisfaction, health, and overall wellbeing.
So what makes a sustainable city, anyway? The themes that these cities share include:
•A commitment to using renewable energy, from hydro and geothermal, to extensive use of solar, wind, and biomass.
•Robust infrastructure for cycling, public transportation, and alternative modes of transportation, de-prioritizing cars and trucks for cleaner modes of transit. That includes walking!
•Green building codes and standards that emphasize the need for smart building practices, eco-friendly materials, and highly energy efficient heating and cooling.
•Strong programs for waste management, including composting, recycling, and improving the circular economy.
•Ample green space – large numbers of parks, pathways, gardens, and natural areas that improve air quality, support biodiversity, and improve mental and physical fitness.
All but one of these top five are in Europe, giving an indication of how far the rest of the world needs to go to catch up, in terms of sustainability, and being eco-friendly.
Here are five of the most renowned eco-friendly cities worth visiting:
1. Copenhagen, Denmark:
Copenhagen consistently tops the list of eco-friendly cities. It boasts an extensive bicycle infrastructure, excellent public transportation systems, and a strong commitment to renewable energy. The city aims to become carbon neutral by 2025 and is known for its innovative urban planning, green spaces, and focus on sustainable architecture.
One visit to Copenhagen, and you’ll understand why this city wins so many accolades when it comes to promoting and living a sustainable lifestyle.
2. Vancouver, Canada:
Nestled between mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and commitment to sustainability. Though the city’s history had to do with logging, now Vancouver is known for its protection and embrace of nature, and the surroundings. The city has made significant efforts to promote renewable energy, green building practices, and sustainable transportation options. Vancouver also prioritizes green spaces, with numerous parks, gardens, and bike lanes that encourage outdoor activities and reduce carbon emissions.
3. Stockholm, Sweden:
Stockholm is a shining example of an eco-friendly city. It has implemented ambitious goals to become fossil fuel-free by 2040, with a strong emphasis on renewable energy and efficient public transportation systems. The city’s focus on waste management, recycling, and sustainable urban development has garnered international recognition. Stockholm’s citizens are also a large part of what makes the city eco-friendly, with lifestyles that are smaller-impact and less car dependent than cities in America, for instance.
4. Reykjavik, Iceland:
Reykjavik is a small capital city with big ambitions in sustainability. Nearly 100% of its energy comes from renewable sources, mainly geothermal and hydroelectric power. The city promotes electric vehicles, green spaces, and sustainable tourism practices. Reykjavik’s commitment to the environment extends beyond the city limits, with initiatives to protect and preserve Iceland’s unique natural landscapes.
Iceland’s natural beauty has a fascinating history (the country was full of trees before Vikings landed!), and its landscapes are jaw-dropping in their color, texture, and overall wild beauty.
5. Zurich, Switzerland:
Zurich, Switzerland, has earned a reputation as a sustainability leader, encouraging public transportation, recycling, and green energy. The stereotype of things working “like a Swiss watch” are applicable here, with systems and plans that all operate smoothly and with efficiency. Zurich also has innovative and smart green building codes, which should ensure its sustainability future.
These cities showcase a range of eco-friendly practices, including sustainable transportation, renewable energy, waste management, and a focus on preserving natural resources. Each destination offers unique cultural experiences, breathtaking landscapes, and a commitment to building a greener future. By visiting these cities, travelers can witness firsthand the possibilities of sustainable urban living and gain inspiration for their own communities. While there, we recommend living like a local does. Getting around by bicycle or public transit, exploring local cafes, and learning what sets these cities apart.