5 Sustainable Cities Around the World


If you come from a busy, crowded city, you’re probably used to inefficiencies – a sluggish train system, trash-ridden sidewalks and an ever-present stench that you unfortunately have gotten used to. However, not all cities are like that – in fact, there are metropolitan sustainable cities around the world (and in the US) that have got their business in order.

With plenty of greenery, bike paths, efficient subway systems and high air quality, the following 5 sustainable cities from around the world are sure to inspire you to make a change in your own community, or hit the road and move elsewhere.

1. Portland, Oregon

Portland stands as a green model for the rest of the nation, so much so that it became subject of numerous parodies on IFC’s show “Portlandia”. Since 1990, its per capita carbon emissions dropped 26 percent and it uses 20 percent more renewable energy than the national average. It was the first city to ban plastic bags and it was ranked as the number 1 most bikeable city in the U.S., with more than 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes. The Business Insider posted a fun infographic, detailing just how eco-friendly Portland is.

2. Vancouver, Canada

Hoping to be the greenest city in the world by 2020, Vancouver is an environmental-friendly powerhouse. It surpasses the world in its use of hydroelectric power, comprising 90 percent of its total supply. It has some 248 miles worth of bike lanes and is the lowest per capita carbon emissions compared to any other major city on the continent. By 2020, the city hopes to reduce emission by another 33 percent, implement strict green building codes and improve energy efficiency of the existing structures by 20 percent. The city also hopes to have electric vehicles account for 15 percent of total vehicle sales by 2020.

3. Oslo, Norway

Oslo is a global eco-pioneer. Over two-thirds of the city is covered by protected forest, waterways and agricultural land. The city hopes to slash its carbon emissions by 50 percent until 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050. Oslo has an “eco-certification” program that employs 43,000 people, aims to install intelligent lighting and convert bio-methane from waste to power mass transit and heating. The city also has an extensive network of bike and car-sharing programs and is equipped with some 400 charging stations for electric vehicles – some 1,700 electric vehicles are on Oslo’s roads. Electric vehicle drivers also benefit, receiving free parking, toll immunity and access to public transportation lanes. Some 80 percent of the city’s heating system is fueled by renewable energy and Oslo aims to reach 100 percent in the coming years.

4. Curitiba, Brazil

Deemed one of the best places in Brazil to live, Curitiba is lauded for its conservation efforts. Since the 1970s, it has been on a path that has sought to protect green spaces and a clean environment. Once having only one square meter of green space per person, Curitiba now boasts 52 square meters of green space per person. Some 1.5 million trees have been planted in the city and more than 28 parks and forests installed. Its efficient fast train serve is used by about 2.3 million people per day. Approximately 90 percent of residents recycle two-thirds of their garbage per day and a program is in place that allows people to swap trash for transit tokens or fresh produce.

5. Copenhagen, Denmark

With more than one-third of the Copenhagen’s 1.2 million residents cycling to work each day on some 217 miles of dedicated bike lanes, it is no wonder the city is drawing attention from environmental enthusiasts. Officials are hoping that by 2015, 50 percent of residents will be cycling. To achieve this, the city is closing down major roads and replacing them with another 43 miles of bike lanes.

Denmark is known to have the largest wind turbine industry in the world and supplies 19 percent of the country with its power needs. By 2025, the city hopes to be carbon neutral and has implemented a mandatory green roof policy to achieve this. Under this policy, all new developments are required to bring in some vegetation into building designs. Additionally, so-called “pocket parks” are being created around the city so that by 2015, for 90 percent of residents, it will take less than 15 minutes to reach a green space.

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Photo Credit: R0ng