Which are the best cities for sustainability and why are they so good? Sustainability is becoming more and more important and prominent in our lives and with this, we are seeing more cities becoming more sustainable. So lets find out which cities are doing well and why…
The best cities for sustainability
Welcome to our blog post on sustainable cities, a growing movement towards creating urban environments that are environmentally friendly, socially equitable, and economically viable.
In recent years, cities around the world have been grappling with the challenges of rapid urbanisation, climate change, and social inequality, leading to a growing interest in sustainable urban development. Sustainable cities aim to address these challenges by promoting smart growth, resource efficiency, and community engagement, while reducing the negative impacts of urbanisation on the environment and human well-being.
In this article, we will explore the best sustainable cities in the world and discuss the benefits of sustainable urban development for both people and the planet. So, let’s delve into the exciting world of sustainable cities and discover how we can build a more liveable, resilient, and sustainable future for all!
10. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Starting at number 10, we have Amsterdam – capital city of the Netherlands in Europe. It always comes high up in terms of work/life balance, being a happy place to live and so on. But it’s also great in terms of how sustainable it is. They have a fantastic public transport network but further to that, it is well known for being a city full of cyclists. When you travel by bike, there are no carbon emissions whatsoever; with so many residents choosing this option for getting around the city, it’s no wonder that the city gains points for its sustainability.
There are subsidies in place for people looking to improve the sustainability and energy efficiency for their own homes, for example by adding solar panels to the roof. Another fantastic initiative that makes Amsterdam one of the 10 best cities for sustainability is their repair cafés.
According to Municipal Power, these cafés are based on the principles of skill sharing and empowerment. Anyone can come with items that are broken, from kitchen appliances to bicycles, so that they can be fixed free of cost. An expert is present to help visitors with the repairs, but the focus is primarily on teaching people to do it themselves. These skills can then be transferred and taught to others, sharing skills with many more people, not just the visitors to the cafés.
The city also has plenty of green and eco hotels, perfect for conscientious travellers, such as the Conscious Hotel Vondelpark and the central Mövenpick Hotel. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best cities for sustainability.
9. San Francisco, California
San Fran is another of the 10 best cities for sustainability. They tick off a lot of big points when we look at sustainability, particularly when it comes to waste management across the city. 77% of municipal waste is recycled, and there are mandated composting rules in place too.
They excel in terms of public transport too. There is a goal in place that by 2030, 80% of journeys will be taken on low-carbon modes of transport: cycling, walking, and of course public transport. Because there is such a wide variety of public transport options – tram, ferry, cable car etc – people are more likely to use it, as it generally works quite well.
With a goal of net-zero emissions by 2040, the city has a variety of initiatives. According to SilverDoor Apartments, these feature discounts for 100% renewable energy for low-income customers, rebates to replace fossil fuel powered appliances, and incentives to promote the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. These initiatives go a long way to ensuring San Francisco is one of the 10 best cities for sustainability!
8. Paris, France
This one might come as a shock, but Paris is also one of the 10 best cities for sustainability across the globe. Being one of *the* biggest hotspots for tourism, it is in their best interest to ensure they can keep the city safe and sustainable to keep tourists flocking year after year. Of course, that many tourists descending on one place does have a massive impact – so it’s a very ‘catch 22’ situation.
The city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has really pushed sustainability in the city since being elected in 2014. Over the past decade, over 900 miles of cycle lanes have been built into the city’s infrastructure; alongside this, many central roads have been totally pedestrianised meaning no cars are allowed. This has gone a long way to cutting carbon emissions in Paris, but it doesn’t stop there – by 2030, all diesel AND petrol cars will be banned within the city.
There are also plans in place to grow ‘urban forests’ near major tourist attractions, by planting thousands of new trees. Adding extra greenery into the city means the overall temperature drops slightly, which is a bonus for the environment! The city also has plenty of eco and green hotels available for its hordes of tourists, such as Eden Lodge Paris and the Solar Hotel.
7. Seattle, Washington
Back to the USA with the next of the 10 best cities for sustainability – now we’re in Seattle, where there are plenty of provisions in place to ensure a more eco-friendly environment. The government will cover the cost of installing systems that collect rainwater in residents’ back gardens, for example, and you can apply for free trees to be planted in your neighbourhood if you live there. Again this really helps with lowering the temperature of a city and even reducing air pollution.
In recent years, the Emerald City (as Seattle is known) has doubled its economy while halving its carbon emissions – and pretty much all of the city’s electricity comes from hydropower. The state has a clean car law, and the city of Seattle also has one of the largest numbers of green spaces in any US city. There are many things that make Seattle one of the 10 best cities for sustainability, and these are just some of them!
6. London, UK
On the other side of the Atlantic, London is another surprise on this list – being a big capital city, it isn’t particularly well known in terms of cities for sustainability. But there are many provisions in place which make it so. One of the biggest ones is the Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which covers all areas of the North and South circular roads. If you drive in these areas, you face a congestion charge; this helps to reduce carbon emissions from vehicles, which are a big cause of air pollution and climate damage.
There are over 35,000 acres of public green space in London; the city is also said to be a global leader when it comes to sustainable mass transit, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. London has a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2030, and they are working hard towards that. The city also has plenty of ‘green buildings’ – buildings which use low-carbon steel, solar panels, cool roofs and more.
Again, London is a huge hotspot for tourists. There are plenty of eco-friendly things to do in the city, and a lot of eco-certified hotels too, making it worthy of a spot on the list of the 10 best cities for sustainability!
5. Berlin, Germany
The German capital is another of the 10 best cities for sustainability. One thing which you’ll probably have seen first hand if you’ve visited Berlin is the recycling scheme they have across the city; known as Pfand, it’s a system whereby you return plastic and glass bottles for a partial refund to encourage recycling. You can take them back to shops, or visit specific machines used for the return of these bottles. People also pass empty bottles on to homeless people in order for them to get some money.
Sustainability is a huge part of life in Berlin in many ways. There is a big focus on veganism in the city, which is a sure way to reduce carbon emissions – cutting down on meat is something we can all do to live more sustainably. The city also sees a lot of guerilla gardening taking place, where residents make the most of every space to plant new trees and grow more greenery. I’ve spoken before about how important it is to have green areas, as this lowers the overall temperature of a city to make it much healthier.
With solar powered ferries, an extensive public transport network and plenty of second-hand markets to explore, Berlin is definitely one of the 10 best cities for sustainability. There are, of course, a lot of eco and green hotels available across the city for conscious tourists to stay in while visiting; Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, for example, has beehives on the roof – while Hotel Berlin has its own photovoltaic system.
4. Copenhagen, Denmark
Another European hotspot on the list of the best cities for sustainability is Copenhagen, a colourful city full of bars, restaurants, museums and more. It is number four on the list of the 10 best cities for sustainability, and for good reason. The city has the earliest target date for carbon neutrality: 2025! They may not pull it off, but they’re doing everything they can to do so – which means they are very sustainable in a lot of ways.
Copenhagen has already reduced its carbon emissions by 80% since 2009. They have already got rid of a third of their fossil-fuelled public transport systems, and their public transport in general is really reliable meaning more people choose to use that rather than cars. It is also super easy to cycle in Copenhagen, which is of course very eco-friendly.
The city is incorporating roof gardens into newly constructed buildings, and thanks to rainwater these will be completely self sufficient. And according to Urban Life Copenhagen, the city is also investing [in] efficient energy through district heating and cooling. In this system, heat and chilled water is produced centrally and later carried out towards surrounding neighborhoods. For heat, Copenhagen has innovated Combined Heat and Power (CHP), which captures and re-uses heat energy that is otherwise lost when electricity is generated. For cooling, the district system is still applicable. Copenhagen distributes chilled water, which has been partly cooled with cold seawater.
It’s not hard to see why Copenhagen deserves a place in the list of the 10 best cities for sustainability.
3. Tokyo, Japan
In third place we have Tokyo in Japan. Often known as a hub of technology, you might wonder how it can also be so sustainable. Only 10% of city transport is motorised, and most people opt to either cycle or use public transport. With tight alleyways and various restrictions in place, this is definitely the best option for most people looking to get around.
They have a net zero goal for 2050, and are working hard to be able to achieve that. They’re investing in renewable energy, reducing food wastage, and have laws in place to ensure people recycle. When it comes to renewable energy, it won’t be long before all of the city’s energy is clean like this: smart grids, floating solar farms, wind power… it’s all going on in Tokyo!
From rooftop beehives to stunning eco hotels like the Trunk Hotel and the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, there are many reasons why Tokyo is one of the 10 best cities for sustainability…
2. Stockholm, Sweden
Scandi countries are well known for their incredible way of life, and Stockholm is another of the 10 best cities for sustainability. It is important to remember that when we talk about sustainability, there are three pillars – and while this blog post focuses a lot on the environment, one of the pillars is actually focused on social equity. Work-life balance in Stockholm is incredibly good, which is a big part of a sustainable society.
Trains and buses across Stockholm use 100% renewable energy, which is a huge win for sustainability in a city. They are also aiming for all maritime traffic to be free of the use of fossil fuels by 2030, which will be a massive accomplishment in terms of how eco-friendly the city is.
District heating has really reduced the city’s carbon emissions, and Sweden’s country-wide carbon tax doesn’t hurt either. There are plenty of eco-friendly things to do across Stockholm, like hiking and swimming and sustainable shopping.
1. Oslo, Norway
Coming in top of the list of the 10 best cities for sustainability is Oslo in Norway – a big part of their high rating is the great quality of life here, coupled with their incredible efforts towards protecting and preserving the environment.
The city has so much green space alongside the low carbon emissions they have been working towards – and as such, their air pollution figures fall within the WHO’s guidelines which is a huge achievement. They’re aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030.
Oslo is also *literally* one of the greenest cities in the world, with over 72% of it being lush greenery. Overall the city has low energy usage, and the city has fantastic public transport which is also really clean and sustainable in itself. With eco hotels, vegan food in abundance and much more, it comes as no surprise to see Oslo on the list of the 10 best cities for sustainability.
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