More and more people live in cities. According to the UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics, the urban population grew from 51.1% in 2009 to 55.7% in 2019. No wonder it is also in the large centers that most of the emissions of CO2 are seen and where most waste is incorrectly disposed of. There are several rankings and their respective criteria to define what is a sustainable city. The vast majority adopts a cross-sectional index because it considers socioeconomic factors as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Next, you will know the 10 main sustainable cities.
1. Stockholm, Sweden
Environmental sustainability is a priority that can be noticed in the Swedish capital’s lifestyle and political agenda. All the household waste is recycled, and many restaurants use fresh, local produce in their dishes. In this city, there is a large network of hotels committed to sustainable measures, such as training their teams to optimize the use of resources and abolishing plastic packaging. But if you still think this is not enough, know that other factors make Stockholm one of the world’s largest sustainable cities: its low CO2 emission and excellent air quality.
2. Copenhagen, Danemark
As if the dozens of awards that the Danish capital received for being one of the most exemplary sustainable cities were not enough, it is considered the most bike-friendly city in the world. This doesn’t mean that it has the largest length of cycle paths, but a transport system in which this mode is better integrated. To top it off, Copenhagen aims to be the first city in the world to neutralize carbon emissions by 2025. And with the contribution of one of the most sustainable fashion scenes in the world, this is not far from intended.
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
No, it is not just because of the massive use of the bicycle as a means of transport by residents that Amsterdam is a sustainable city. But also because the government has banned all cars powered by non-renewable energy sources like gasoline and diesel until 2030. The city’s agenda stimulates not only the reduction in energy consumption but also the production of renewable energy per person. Also, it is one of the few to mention as objectives the promotion of the circular economy and the increase and maintenance of green spaces.
4. Vancouver, Canada
What if you also found a set of impressive natural beauty in addition to being a sustainable city? This is the case in Vancouver, where the mountains meet the ocean in unique reliefs and landscapes. It is also here that the lowest greenhouse gas emissions among all cities in North America are celebrated. Many parks and green areas, such as the famous Stanley Park with over 1,000 acres, also contribute to this milestone. In 7 years, the city has reduced the amount of waste sent to landfills by 27%, and by 2040 the goal is to zero.
Is everything that is high tech necessarily polluting? The answer is no: Singapore is proof that technology, sustainable agriculture, and respect for the environment can live together. The extensive area of its parks that touches train lines is one of the symbols of this junction. Singapore is one of the most ambitious sustainable cities, as it has a program that requires compensation for any loss of vegetation in the soil in areas above skyscrapers. This city is also an example of how to achieve development sustainably from unfavorable conditions and with few resources.
6. Reykjavik, Iceland
Certainly, the best-known sustainable metric in Iceland’s capital is the proportion of energy from renewable sources: 100% comes from hydroelectric and geothermal plants. Another city’s commitment against the human impact on the environment is to neutralize carbon transfer until 2040. In addition to energy efficiency, the Reykjavik Municipal Plan prioritizes the preservation and construction of green areas and the clean-up and integration of the public transport system. Of every 10 city residents, 9 live within a five-minute walk of a park.
7. Cape Town, South Africa
In summary, the biggest advantages of the South African capital as one of the sustainable cities are the preservation of nature reserves, their fauna and flora, and the integration and efficiency of the public transport system. Energy is also a priority, so Cape Town has implemented a program to increase the percentage of renewable sources in the energy produced by the country, with a focus on solar. Besides, there is a wide and diverse network of ecological hotels for tourists who wish to assert their environmental awareness.
8. Curitiba, Brazil
Four pillars place Curitiba among the 10 main sustainable cities in the world: the Bus Rapid Transit System, a large expanse of green spaces with millions of trees and dozens of parks, recycling 70% of the waste produced in the city, and an education policy dedicated to the theme. BRT is a transport system that mixes buses with trains and guarantees express lanes on the city streets for these vehicles. Boarding is fast, and the ticket is cheap. Added to them is a good space for pedestrians and a good cycle network. Thus, the city stops emitting a considerable amount of CO2.
9. Montevideo, Uruguay
This must be the least known case of a sustainable city. Montevideo is the center of Uruguay’s ecological policies, with more than 97% of its electricity, from renewable sources, such as hydroelectric and wind farms. Carrasco Airport was the first in the region to generate clean and proprietary energy. Besides being considered the city with the best quality of life in Latin America, it intends to modernize and improve the transport system, focusing on its digital transformation and electrification, as implement an exclusive network of fast bus lanes.
10. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana was the Green Capital of Europe in 2016 thanks to the urban transformation it underwent in the previous 15 years. Before it was cars that dominated the most used means of transport, now the priority is public transport, bicycles, and pedestrians. This is one of the sustainable cities with the greatest potential because it not only preserves and protects a good part of its green areas but also revitalizes underutilized spaces. Also, the Slovenian capital has reduced its waste by 95%. Incredible, isn’t it?
These cities are proof that sustainability is not limited to a beautiful speech but is expressed by a set of agendas and public policies that count on the cooperation of all: citizens, governments, and companies. The 3 pillars of sustainability must be considered when assessing the cities’ commitment to the preservation of the planet. Therefore, all sustainable cities must guarantee economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity. So, be relieved if you are a tourist looking for eco-friendly destinations to visit because you want to align your ideas with your practice. Here you have several to try your way.