Global warming, overflowing landfills, and declining natural habitats are all a result of a variety of habits and practices that have been undertaken by humans over the course of the last century. As scientists begin to focus more on the environment and as people become more aware of what contributes to its decline, many are taking action. At the government level, green cities have made a real effort of promoting sustainability, conserving resources, and educating the public. Find out which cities top the list and how they have achieved green city status.
San Francisco, California
One of the greenest cities in the United States, San Francisco currently has the distinction of maintaining the highest recycling rate in the world. San Francisco’s progress toward becoming an eco-friendly city can be partially credited to a city government that has put a variety of environmentally focused programs and initiatives in place to encourage green living among its citizens, such as purchasing food from farmer markets in the area.
Among the reasons why San Francisco is considered one of the greenest cities in the United States is its recycling and composting programs. In addition to these programs, San Francisco has maintained a ban on plastic bags and containers since 2007. In order to further its commitment to reducing the use of plastic, the city also regularly sponsors events that prohibit the sale of plastic bottles and other containers at these events. City officials have often stated that they fully anticipate that San Francisco will be a completely waste-free city by the year 2020.
Another North American city that is being recognized as eco-friendly is Vancouver, Canada. Located in the province of British Columbia, Vancouver’s biggest environmental accomplishments include the significant reduction of harmful greenhouse gases, which have resulted in improved air quality. On top of that, Vancouver is a very pedestrian and bike-friendly city, with a variety of community gardens and green public spaces.
One of Vancouver’s initiatives, The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan, is a strategy for achieving a high level of sustainability. The Greenest City Action Plan is a collaboration between residents, businesses, and council members working toward the common goal of creating a strong economy while simultaneously protecting the environment and its inhabitants. Currently, city officials have an aggressive plan to reduce emissions even further, seeking to achieve a 33 percent reduction in emissions by the year 2020.
Cape Town, South Africa
On the other side of the world, Cape Town, South Africa, is committed to environmentalism. Cape Town is recognized as the first city in South Africa to utilize wind energy and to promote environmentally friendly outdoor activities. As South Africa’s second-largest city, Cape Town has increasingly shown a commitment to renewable energy and energy conservation. For example, in 2008 Cape Town began to use wind farms in order to save energy, and the city hopes to derive about 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
Cape Town, South Africa, continues to be a work in progress in terms of environmentalism, and many activists believe that further strides are possible in the future. In an effort to help the environment, the city will also begin to focus more on its public transportation systems and address widespread electrical shortages that have recently become more common.
Last but not least is Oslo, Norway, which is one of many eco-friendly Scandinavian cities. Oslo has a very dense population, which makes it even more surprising that the city has been able to implement such sustainable practices over the years. The government in Oslo has been dedicated to finding workable solutions for sustainable development and has remained vigilant and about protecting wildlife and natural habitats.
Despite its density, Oslo has an abundance of government-protected forests, agricultural land, and waterways. The city also boasts low levels of greenhouse gas emissions despite the fact that it’s a major metropolitan area. When compared to other European cities with similar populations, Oslo, Norway outshines comparably sized cities when it comes to being eco-friendly.
Oslo’s reputation for sustainability can be attributed to its public transportation system, its commitment to biofuel use, and its car and bike sharing programs designed to reduce the population’s reliance on automobiles. The city of Oslo has a goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by the year 2050. With aggressive environmental programs in place, the city is likely to reach that goal.
While all of the cities mentioned here have been widely identified as some of the greenest on the planet, there are many other municipalities dedicated to environmentalism, if on a smaller scale. As more citizens become aware of the harmful effects of greenhouse gases, household plastics, and a variety of other threats, it’s quite possible that one day eco-friendly cities could be viewed as the norm.