Greenest cities happen to be the practice of creating communities beneficial to human and the environment. According to Timothy Beatley, it is an attempt to shape more sustainable places, communities, and lifestyles and consumes less of the world’s resources. Greenest cities are interdisciplinary, combining the collaboration of landscape architects, engineers, urban planners, ecologists, transport planners, physicists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and other specialists in addition to architects and urban designers.
The European Commission has named Oslo as Europe’s Green Capital for 2019. Three years ago the city introduced a ‘Climate Budget’ that measures CO2 emissions in the same way as the financial budget, with the aim of cutting 50% of emissions by 2020 and being completely carbon neutral by 2050. Additionally, 30% of vehicles sold are electric and biogas is produced from biowaste and the city’s sewage. The local government has also closed down street parking and limited traffic to enable more room for bikes and greenery, in order to become a car-free city. Definitely one to watch and to visit this year.
Helsinki has one of the highest urban standards of living in the world. In 2011, the British magazine Monocle ranked Helsinki the world’s most liveable city in its liveable cities index. In the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2016 livability survey, Helsinki was ranked ninth among 140 cities.
If you want to travel to a place that heavily appreciates the environment and the planet’s sustainability, Helsinki is the perfect place. With a mix of urban locations and peaceful reservoirs, the capital sits on the peninsula on the Gulf of Finland.
One of the biggest contributors to Helsinki’s economy is tourism, which has led to an increase in eco-friendly accommodation. In fact, around 75% of hotel rooms in the city have been certified as environmentally friendly and those that haven’t fully pledged their allegiance to the cause have some sort of environmental plan in place covering all aspects of the business; from food and water to waste management and energy consumption.
Singapore’s meteoric economic rise launched a landscape of towering architecture in the compact city-state, but as the metropolis continues to grow, urban planners are weaving nature throughout—and even into its heights. New developments must include plant life, in the form of green roofs, cascading vertical gardens, and verdant walls.
The push to go green extends to construction as well—the green building has been mandatory since 2008.
Much of that vision to keep Singapore both sustainable and liveable stems from Cheong Koon Hean, the first woman to lead Singapore’s urban development agency. The veteran architect and urban planner is credited with reshaping the skyline through landmark projects such as the waterfront residential and entertainment quarter Marina Bay—whose gardens are one of the city’s top draws—and the Jurong Lake District, slated to be a second business district and home to a new high-speed rail link to neighbouring Malaysia.
New York, United States of America
By the most significant measures, New York is the greenest community in the United States, and one of the greenest cities in the world. The most devastating damage humans have done to the environment has arisen from the heedless burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric.
New York City leads the United States for sustainability, according to the Sustainable Cities Index from Arcadis, the leading global design, and consultancy for natural and built assets. From North American cities measured, New York City ranks ahead of Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle while rounding out the bottom rankings are Indianapolis, Tampa, and Detroit. Canadian cities ranked ahead of most U.S. cities, with Vancouver taking the highest spot and Toronto and Montreal ranking in the top five.
Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe, with more parks, gardens and forested areas than any other European city. It is, in literal terms, green. However, this doesn’t necessarily translate into being environmentally friendly. Given the dry climate, policy apathy and relative poverty of Berlin when compared to other European and German cities, Berlin scores quite poorly as an eco-green city.
London, United Kingdom
The good news is that London is on course to becoming one of the greenest and most sustainable cities on Earth, thanks to a raft of new initiatives. In fact, as of next year, London will become the first-ever National Park City – a project that will push for half of the city area to consist of green and blue spaces – parks and bodies of water – by 2050. The figure is currently at 47 percent. Support for the campaign has been so successful that organizers are now launching an initiative to also plant nine million wildflowers across the city.
Vancouver is located in a perfect setting between the ocean, forest, and mountains. What more could you ask for when picturing what an idyllic eco-friendly city looks like? Taking ninth place on the list of most eco-friendly cities, Vancouver has recognized that its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than what the Earth can sustain.
The captivating city launched the Greenest City initiative, which has set realistic goals that can be achieved in the near future. Out of all major cities located in North America, Vancouver produces the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, which highlights the efforts put in place by the local authority to combat the environmental impact the city could potentially have.
There’s a lot of evidence that suggests Vancouver is making countless changes to create a more sustainable city for its residents. For example, the residents have found a 23% increase in green jobs and a 26% increase in local food jobs since 2013. As well as this, a further 23% of Canada’s CleanTech companies are located in the capital — whether this is through digital contracts or by implementing a cycle-to-work scheme.
The Danish capital consistently ranks among the world’s greenest cities. A former European Green Capital (a title awarded by the European Commission in 2014), Copenhagen has been recognized globally for its environmental urban planning and its bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly streets. More than a third of its people bicycle to work or school, and the city aims to increase that to 50 percent to reach its goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. For those that do take public transport, all of the city’s buses will be electric by the end of 2019. And 96 percent of residents have access to green space in 15 minutes or less—all 5,584 acres of it.
Copenhagen is also a leader in commercial wind power—the large, offshore Middelgrunden wind farm, two miles from the city center, was started by wind-energy pioneers, who formed a cooperative to make it happen. The city is also at the forefront of eco-friendly commercial building design. The Green Lighthouse, the first carbon-neutral public building in Copenhagen, uses 75 percent less energy than regular buildings.
San Francisco, California
The Bay Area city was the first in the United States to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. San Francisco aims to become waste-free by 2020 and is already making huge progress on its target as it diverts 80% of all trash from landfills. It should also come as no surprise that there is a huge vegan scene amongst it’s finest restaurants. Plus, the vintage stores alone are worth the trip.