As more and more people move to urban areas, cities are faced with greater responsibility when it comes to countering our planet’s changing climate. This includes prioritizing things such as natural disaster defense, energy efficiency, and waste management. Luckily, some of the world’s most brilliant and resilient minds reside in cities, engineering unprecedented practices and tactics to make our urban sprawls more sustainable. To celebrate this, we’ve compiled a list of some of the cities around the world that are doing their part in our battle against climate change!
Boulder, CO, USA
Boulder may be the the smallest city on the list, but it makes up for its small population with big sustainability initiatives. A proud member of the Carbon Cities Neutral Alliance, Boulder continues to set new precedents with assertive policies that counter climate change. But maybe what’s most impressive about Boulder is that the change isn’t coming solely from its politicians, but rather from citizens themselves. This type of intra-city comradery was on display when the taxpayers voted for the nation’s first Climate Action Tax. These steps have solidified a greener future for Boulder, one with energy-efficient infrastructure and less waste.
When visiting Copenhagen, it won’t take you long to recognize the city’s dedication to a climate-friendly future. The city’s streets are filled with cyclists (only 29 percent of households own a car), and grocery stores are lined with local, organic foods. Denmark’s capital has been a leading voice in the conversation surrounding sustainability for quite some time now, and not only are its citizens encouraged to join in, but visitors are as well — in fact, 71 percent of the city’s hotels are eco-friendly. To top it off, although the city was named the “European Green Capital” in 2014, Copenhagen has recently vowed to become the world’s first carbon neutral capital by 2025.
Melbourne may be known for its cutting-edge art and music scenes, but the city is also a leader when it comes to sustainability. Melbourne divides sustainable practices into four components: heat, energy, waste, and water. The city also implements engaging tactics, like rewards points, to encourage its citizens to become more mindful in the light of climate change. With a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 4.5 percent annually, Melbourne is top-notch when it comes to supporting public and alternative forms of transportation, which proactively steer residents and visitors away from driving.
Munich is going all-in on the environmental front. The German city known for manufacturing BMW vehicles has a new goal: 100 percent clean energy by 2025. Measures have been taken throughout the last few years to reach said goal, including the construction of hydro and solar plants, as well as offshore wind projects. In total, almost 10 billion USD has been invested into creating this greener, more sustainable city.
New York City, NY, USA
From its mayor to its Department of Environmental Protection and its classrooms, New York City understands the importance of combating climate change. Whether it’s aligning with the Paris Climate Agreement, or creating grassroots initiatives like the Carbon Challenge, NYC continues to assess and improve its management of energy, waste, and water, proving its commitment to a greener future.
San Francisco, CA, USA
San Francisco originally made environmental headlines over a decade ago, when, in 2007, it became the first American city to ban plastic bags. Since then, the city has taken huge strides toward greater sustainability — including the creation of the San Francisco Sustainable Fashion Week International initiative, among others — and plans to be completely waste-free by 2020. On top of this, SF has been forced to battle through arduous droughts, like many other cities in California, which has led to sustainable water consumption practices — something the city believes is a key component to its future survival.
Singapore has made headlines for all the right reasons when it comes to sustainable success. In 2017, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister addressed the crowd at the Ecosperity Conference, saying the country wanted to focus on four things: building a sustainable economy, creating a sustainable living environment, ensuring sustainable development for its people, and contributing to international collaboration. After looking into the country’s sustainable efforts, these goals seem very much attainable — a world-class public transit system, growing green spaces, and targets set toward becoming a zero-waste nation are already in place.
It’s no secret that Sweden is a shining example when it comes to sustainable cities. The country prides itself on creating new benchmarks for a greener world, and its capital city, which was chosen as the European Union’s inaugural “European Green Capital” in 2010, is no exception. Stockholm is home to countless local food markets, second-hand clothing shops, and even an urban national park. The city is also known for repurposing areas like Hammarby Sjöstad — and old industrial park — to create more engaging urban spaces.
Waterfront promenades, neo-classical architecture, and a world-renowned financial center help create an amazing standard of living for those that call Zürich home. But Switzerland’s largest city also has another focus when it comes to quality of life — sustainability. According to a study facilitated by Arcadis, Zürich was the world’s “greenest” city in 2016, and it continues to emphasize organic, educational tactics to instill sustainable habits into the lives of its residents. Zürich Tourism is also ahead of the curb when it comes to sustainable travel, as it continues to collaborates with foundations such as myclimate, with hopes to become a world leader in eco-friendly tourism.
Header image by Noel Y. C.