Our friends over at Mother Nature Network have compiled a list of the ten greenest cities on the planet. More than just having a solid recycling program, green public spaces like parks and community gardens, and ample bike lanes, these cities have risen to the top for “actively fighting climate change on a large scale, and setting an example for the rest of the world.”
The following cities were chosen for exemplary use of renewable energy, promotion of green lifestyles, green laws that protect the environment, and innovative strategies for new green communities.
1. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik runs its city almost entirely on renewable energy. The island nation is plush with geothermal activity that is converted into clean energy and uses only 0.1% fossil fuels to power its electricity. Likewise, according to How Stuff Works, the country of Iceland plans to unplug itself from all dependence on fossil fuels by 2050 to become a hydrogen economy. Already, Reykjavik (and all of Iceland) gets energy for heat, hot water and electricity entirely from hydropower and geothermal resources — both of which are renewable and free of greenhouse gas emissions.
2. San Francisco, California
Since starting their mandatory recycling program in October 2009, San Franciscans have kept 77% of discarded materials out of landfills — the highest such diversion rate in the United States. San Francisco came in the top three greenest cities of North America in five out of nine metrics ranked by the Economic Intelligence Unit in 2011 including energy, green buildings, transportation, water and air quality. In 2007, San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic bags – saving about 100 million bags from ending up in landfills each year.
Sweden’s third-largest city is a model of urban sustainability, leading in renewable energy solutions and abundant green space. The city is home to the third-largest wind energy park in the world and aims for all of its city operations to be climate-neutral by 2020. Likewise, Western Harbour, a neighborhood within Malmö, runs on 100-percent renewable energy from sun, wind and hydropower, as well as biofuels generated from organic waste. Its buildings are constructed with sustainable materials and designed to be energy efficient, and its streets are pedestrian and cycle friendly — 40% of commuters and 30% of all travelers go by bike! [source: PV Upscale]
Vancouver is the greenest city in Canada and the second-greenest in North America after San Francisco. Vancouver aims to become the greenest city in the world by 2020. The city is a hub for clean-tech innovation, such as the solar-powered trash compactors which have popped around the city, each the size equivalent to a normal trashcan but able to hold five times the waste (which puts fewer emissions-spewing garbage trucks on the roads), boasts low-carbon emissions and draws an impressive 90% of its power from renewable sources, mostly in the form of hydroelectric power. Vancouver is also home to more than 200 parks. Continue reading