Global Green: 5 of the Most Eco-Friendly Cities in the World

image from Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Brian Koprowski. 

As the world’s urban population booms, so does the global emphasis on sustainability.

According to a 2011 study by the United Nations Environment Program (UENP) urban areas now constitute 50 percent of the world’s population and another 60-80 percent of its energy consumption.

Such rapid and dense consumption of energy coupled with a projected 20 percent increase in urban populations over the next 35 years has prompted some international cities to adopt a more serious approach to sustainability. Below are five of the world’s greenest cities, and we’re not talking jealousy.

Copenhagen, Denmark


by Moyan Brenn courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons 

Finishing in the top five for all eight of the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Green City Index criterion, Copenhagen, Denmark is the most consistently eco-friendly city in all of Europe. From the extensive public transit system to the whopping 223 miles of cycle track, Copenhagen has not only encouraged eco-friendly behavior, but delivered it.

The city even announced a target to become 100 percent CO2 neutral in 2025. Good luck Copenhagen, the environment is rooting for you.

Curitiba, Brazil


by Mathieu Bertrand Struck courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons 

For years, Curitiba’s environmental agency has been studying the effect of its CO2 emissions as well as the CO2 absorption rate in the municipal green spaces. This ongoing study has in part allowed for a more informed and nuanced approach to city programs — most evidently through its innovative recycling program which allows its poorer residents food and transit in exchange for recyclable collection.

About 90 percent of Curitiba’s population recycles, which is about two and a half times that of the United States.



by Leong Him Woh courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Both Tokyo and Singapore lead Asia in many of The Green City Index’s sustainability standards, but one facet that sets Singapore apart from the rest is its highly advanced system of water reclamation.

NEWater is Singapore’s technologically astounding public water treatment system, which turns contaminated and potentially harmful biological by-product into safe, clean, and even drinkable water. Through micro-filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet sanitation, NEWater is successfully supplying one-fifth of Singapore’s water supply.

San Francisco, United States


by Pascal Bovet courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons 

San Francisco has taken initiative in promoting eco-friendliness from an environmental perspective, but also a financial one. The city has teamed up with the private sector on green initiatives to offer low-cost loans for businesses looking to help improve their environmental infrastructure as well funding eco-awareness programs.

Most notably the city has helped ease the financial burden on its citizens by requiring all businesses with 20 or more employees to offer its employees discounted or sometimes free access to public transit.

Vancouver, Canada


by Magnus Larsson courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Vancouver’s most notable performance is in the arena of CO2 emissions. In The Green City Index, Vancouver boasts the lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita of any city.

Additionally, the city’s eco-ambitions include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent and planting 150,000 new trees by 2020, making it one of the greenest cities on the map both literally and figuratively speaking.


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James Pero