The most sustainable cities in the world

The most sustainable cities in the world

Photo: Getty Images

Some destinations are leading the fight against pollution in inspiring and imaginative ways

Large cities have a responsibility to tackle climate change because of their rapid growth and the city of Madrid recently launched a new project to reduce its CO2 emissions. Soon you will see small roof gardens on buses and bus stops in the Spanish metropolis. Other urban centres have gone even further.

These are four of the most environmentally-friendly cities in the world:

  1. Zurich
  2. Singapore
  3. Curitiba
  4. San Francisco
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When it comes to ‘green cities’ in Europe, the first name that comes to many minds is Copenhagen. And it’s no wonder, as much of the Danish capital’s infrastructure, along with its electro-powered buses and a huge number of cyclists, is designed to counteract CO2 emissions. But according to a study by environmental consulting company Arcadis, at the moment Europe’s most sustainable city is Zurich.

By 2050, the Swiss city aims to reduce its energy usage to only 2,000 watts per person. Zurich’s well-coordinated public transport network is considered a model for other cities but the quality of life and growing importance in the financial sector currently make the city one of the most livable on the planet.

Eco-Tip:Greencity’ is the first quarter that will be built according to the target requirements of the ‘2,000 Watt Society.


The Asian city-state has more than 3,300 hectares of parks and green spaces. Again, the transport system is one of the most advanced in the world. By 2020, nearly 70 per cent of the population will use public transportation in the morning. To own a car there, you have to buy you an expensive license but almost all taxis and buses are hybrids consuming up to 30 per cent less fuel.

Singapore is also a leader in the area of recycling and the city boasts some of the most advanced waste-energy recovery plants. The same applies to the collection and recycling of water.

Eco-Tip: Vertical Gardening - planting on house facades - is common in Singapore while another interesting sight is the ‘Super Trees’ of the ‘Garden by the Bay’ park area.


The greenest city in South America is famous for its clean air. A large part of that is attributed to the high quality of the Brazilian city’s public transport network. Curitiba is considered the birthplace of the BRT or ‘Bus Rapid Transit’. In addition, it is home to numerous parks and forests - there are 54 square metres of green area for each inhabitant.

Since 2009, the environmental authorities regularly measure CO2 emissions as well as the CO2 absorption rate in parks. Millions of trees have been planted along the motorways and, unusually for Latin America, a program has run since 1989 which sees the city recycle 70 per cent of its waste.

Eco-Tip: In 1972, the Rua XV de Novembro, one of the main thoroughfares in Curitiba, was closed to cars and has since been an idyllic pedestrian street.

San Francisco

San Francisco may have been the centre of the hippie movement but there are plenty of other reasons why the west coast city is one of the greenest in the United States. They were the first to banish plastic bags from supermarkets, and in 2009, the city launched an initiative whereby residents, restaurants and businesses undertook to separate waste and compost material. This saw San Francisco become the leading force in the North American recycling sector.

Incidentally, San Francisco is the first US city which legally defined that green spaces could be created on roofs.

Eco-Tip: The Cavallo Point is a lodge at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge that not only has stunning views of the city but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified hotel has also won several sustainability awards.

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12 2016 The Red Bulletin

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