Oslo is the capital of Norway, a modern city with numerous parks and recreational areas. While European cities are known for their leadership in sustainability and green lifestyle, Oslo is one of the cities that tries to be on top of things when it comes to the environment. Oslo produces the least CO2 emissions of all European cities and was one of the first to give up oil heating in buildings in favour of renewable energy. The city’s public transportation system is very developed and a bike rental system makes it very accessible. Oslo received The European Sustainable City Award in 2003 and in 2007 Reader's Digest ranked Oslo as number two on a list of the world's greenest, most livable cities.
- Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm was the first city to be awarded the title of the European Green Capital by the EU Commission. The city put in place new standards for cleaner water, had taken an excessive measure towards noise pollution and an outstanding 95% of the population live 300 meters or less from green areas. And now the city has a new target – to be fossil fuel free by 2050. Stockholm features 1000 parks, seven nature reserves within city’s boundary, 12000 trees in the city center alone, 24 beaches, and 2700 clean-tech companies. Good air quality and clean water awards the city with 9th position in our list of the greenest cities in the world.
- Copenhagen, Denmark
Scandinavian cities traditionally make the list when it comes to the greenest or the best cities to live in and Copenhagen is no an exception. Copenhagen set a goal to become carbon free by 2025 and since 1995 was able to reduce carbon emissions by 50%. The city offers a wide range of organic meals. Every 10th meal sold in Copenhagen is organic. Copenhagen maintains a developed public transit system and free city bike program which greatly shortens commuter time in this relatively small city.
- Freiburg, Germany
Freiburg, a small city in the South-West Germany, was heavily bombed during World War II and most of the city center was destroyed. After the war the city map was reinstated but with a small difference, the roads were widened in order to make space for trams and a future bike lane network which was initiated later in 1969. Freiburg is concentrating on renewable power sources and the municipality built 400 solar panels throughout the city. Houses that generate electricity with solar panels usually generate more power than they can consume and distribute the leftovers to the city power grid. In such a small city of Freiburg (population close to 250,000 people) 10,000 people are employed in environmental positions. If this doesn’t get Freiburg a place in our list of greenest cities in the world, then what does?
- Malmo, Sweden
Malmo is the third largest city in Sweden that used to be a shrinking industrial hub. In the last few years, a lot has changed and the city is looking forward to a bright environmental future. There are many redevelopment projects scheduled that will take care of brownfields and treat soil contamination. The city put a plan in place according to which the whole city will run on renewable energy by 2030. Malmo is concentrating on reducing greenhouse emission and optimization of transportation facilities, waste management, and proper urban planning. In 2015 Malmo was chosen as the best city for biking in Sweden.
- Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver is one of the densest cities in Canada, which doesn’t prevent it from being one of the top greenest cities in the world. Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson said: “Cities around the world must show continued leadership to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, and the most impactful change we can make is a shift toward 100% of our energy being derived from renewable sources. The future of Vancouver’s economy and livability will depend on our ability to confront and adapt to climate change. Moving toward 100% renewable energy is another way that Vancouver is working to become the greenest city in the world.” The city put in place a plan according to which Vancouver should become the greenest in the world by 2020. The plan concentrates on climate and renewable energy, green buildings, green transportation, zero waste, clean water, clean air and green economy.
- San Francisco, California
San Francisco tops the list of North America’s greenest cities and makes the 4th greenest city in the world. In a study conducted in 2011 by Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Siemens, 27 major cities in North America were compared for sustainability and San Francisco left behind cities like Denver, New York, Seattle and Vancouver. The study took into account parameters such as CO2 emissions per unit, electricity consumption per unit, green spaces, energy efficient buildings and standards, percentage of workers travelling to workplaces by public transit, water consumption and quality policy, waste reduction policies and other. The city was at the top in most categories of the study which made San Francisco (in 2011) the most sustainable city in North America.
- Portland, Oregon
Portland is continuously focusing on sustainability and environmental lifestyle. By taking the lead in usage of renewable energy and carpooling, the city has earned the reputation of one of the greenest cities in America. Portland has to offer almost 250 miles of bike paths and 25% of the city’s population uses bikes to get to their workplaces. In addition to this, Portland is a national leader in renewable energy. The city uses 33% renewable energy compared to less than 15% national average. Portland was one of the first cities to ban plastic bags and the city has a recycling plan in place which helps to recycle almost 60% of all generated waste.
- Bristol, South West England
Bristol is a city in South-West of England with a population of close to a half a million people. In 2015 the city committed to a sustainable improvements plan with a budget of €500 million for transportation needs and an additional €300 allocated towards renewable energy causes. From 2005 to 2010 Bristol was able to reduce domestic energy use by 16%. The city’s target is to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. Bristol is the most sustainable city in the UK and second in the world based on environmental performance, addressing climate change, and recycling practices.
- Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is Iceland’s biggest city with a population of approximately 120,000 people. Iceland is well-known for its volcanos and locals found a way to utilize this natures’ gift to create the largest geothermal heating system in the world. Almost 95% of heating in the city is provided with the use of geothermal power, which basically means that almost all the electricity used in Reykjavik is renewable. The city focuses on the development of their public transportation system and preservation of green spaces. Roughly 90% of the population in Reykjavik live just 5 minutes’ walk from green areas. While other cities strive to become 100% renewable energy users by 2050, Reykjavik already is. This makes Reykjavik the greenest city in the world and the top of our list.