THE TOP TEN...
Cities in the World
Each day we make important decisions that affect the health
and well-being of people everywhere. Whether thats
to recycle a water bottle or eat organic, small changes
help to positively impact our world. While our personal
decisions are an important contribution to the future,
individual actions alone are not enough. It is imperative
that we work together with businesses, social organizations,
and government agencies and representatives to ensure
that we can make the largest impact possible in protecting
our planet. In order to understand what works best, weve
scoured the globe for cities that are models for the global
community. These ten destinations help move our world
closer to a more sustainable future and should give those
in doubt hope that going green and reducing our carbon
footprint is not only possible, but also advantageous.
From redefining the urban landscape with Copenhagens
bike lanes and pocket parks to the innovative use of natural
resources like Reykjaviks geothermal energy, these
ten cities are an important example of what can be done,
and needs to be done.
is widely considered one of the greenest capitals in
the world. Chosen as the host of the Global Summit on
Climate Change, the city served as a model for the 170
countries that attended. By 2015, the city hopes to
reduce CO2 emissions by 20% and by 2025, it aims to
be the worlds first CO2 neutral capital. Policies
in place have already helped the city move closer to
this goal. Copenhagen has invested heavily in clean-energy
technology. Once based on coal and oil, the city is
now run almost entirely on natural gas. Denmark is also
home to 5,600 windmills that supply around 10% of the
countrys electricity. The worlds largest
offshore windmill park is located in Copenhagen and
powers 32,000 homes, which is around 3% of the citys
The average Dane is also ecologically responsible. It
is estimated that each resident produces about half
the CO2 of the average American. A majority of city
residents (55%) bike to work on the citys 300
KM of bike lanes. Busses also leave almost no ecological
footprint as they are all run on battery power. Organic
foods play a big role in a Copenhageners day51%
of food consumed in the citys public institutions
is organic. When residents throw things away, they can
rest assured that even their waste wont harm the
environment as 75% of all household garbage is incinerated
and used for heating and electricity. Once where sewage
and wastewater were collected, the citys harbor
is now considered one of the worlds cleanest.
It is so unpolluted that its used for swimming
and recreation. The city is also increasing green spaces14
parks, which include 3,000 new trees, will be added
in the 1960s, using a tiny budget and lots of creativity,
the people in charge of running this Brazilian city
began to turn it into a model of urban planning and
sustainability. Curitiba faces similar problems that
plague cities all around the world, including poverty,
pollution, overcrowding, and limited public funding.
According to Tim Gnatek of PBSs Frontline, What's
unique about Curitiba is that the city invested in an
extensive bus system that operates for less than a tenth
of what a subway costs to operate; developed recycling
programs that clean up the environment and also address
poverty; and attracted new industry while expanding
As a result of their forward thinking and desire to
provide jobs and green space for the residents of this
city of more than three million, Curitiba is considered
one of the most important examples of what government
can and should do with taxpayers money. The city
planners wanted to alleviate the traffic congestion
that contributed to long commutes and terrible air pollution,
so they revamped their bus system that now serves 85%
of the people every day. To reduce the amount of trash
being thrown out and ending up in the environment, Jaime
Lerner, the former mayor of Curitiba, instituted some
remarkable programs. According to The Guardian: Recycling
in Curitiba is perhaps the most radical reform of all.
In 1989, residents in a nearby favela were dumping their
trash in surrounding rivers and fields, as there were
no collections from their narrow streets. Lerner arranged
for a truck to visit the favela at fixed times each
week, and residents rubbish was exchanged for
bus tickets, football tickets, and shows. Soon, the
locals were cleaning the rivers and fields of old rubbish
to sell. Schoolchildren were given new plastic toys
for old bottles and bags in a scheme called Garbage
that's not garbage. Under this program, 70% of
the citys trash is recycled every week.
Today, because of the innovative planning that took
place over 40 years ago, the residents of Curitiba take
pride in their city and enjoy a standard of living that
is one of the highest in all of Brazil. In looking toward
the future, this Brazilian city hopes to provide more
green jobs by continuing to find ways to improve the
environment and the quality of life for its citizens.
years, Freiburg has been known as Green City
because of its long history as a rallying point for
the environmental movement. Over thirty years ago, a
successful campaign against a proposed nuclear power
plant nearby resulted in one of the first big victories
of the green alternative movement in Germany.
Since then, Freiburg has continued to remain a staunch
advocate for alternative energy and green jobs. In 1986,
the city council voted to abandon nuclear power. In
1992, Freiburg was chosen as Germanys Environmental
Capital, and the city was one of the first in
the country to establish an Environmental Protection
Office. Freiburgs preference for environment-friendly
forms of transport with a focus on traffic avoidance
and easily accessible city centers earned it the European
Local Public Transport Award.
Today, the scenic German city, nestled amid gorgeous
views of the Black Forest and Rhine River, continues
to carry the torch of environmental stewardship. One
of the most notable aspects of contemporary Freiburg
is its plethora of solar panels on top of buildings
as diverse as local churches, schools, and even City
Hall. The Badenova Stadium, home to the citys
soccer team, is also a notable tourist draw, being the
only stadium in the world to have its own solar power
In addition to Freiburgs impressive cultivation
of solar energy, the city also has plans to reduce their
CO2 emissions 40% by 2030.
a major manufacturing center for Sweden, Malmö
was forced to turn over a new leaf and reinvent itself
when the countrys industrial era ended. With innovative
ideas and a collective appreciation for the environment,
Malmö is widely recognized as one of the greenest
and most sustainable cities in the world. Residents
are famous for their love of biking. Huge numbers of
locals use their bikes to get to work or school. The
260 miles of pathways meander through gorgeous coastal
scenery as well as through the well-manicured cityscape.
The area known as Western Harbor is entirely powered
by locally produced and renewable energy. It also utilizes
vacuum waste chutes so the areas streets are free
of garbage trucks. Many of the buildings have green
roofs to both keep temperatures cooler in the summer
and increase biodiversity. Augustenborgs Botanical Roof
Garden is a series of roof gardens that are connected
by footpaths. Altogether, the series of roof parks equals
100,000 square feet. Green points have been
set up to further beautify the city and offset CO2 emissions.
The tallest building in Scandinavia and one of the tallest
residential towers in Europe, the Turning Torso, is
energy self-sufficient. Harvesting power from the sun,
wind, bedrock, and water, the building uses one hundred
percent renewable energy. City residents also dont
feel too bad about throwing out waste because its
compacted and then turned into biogas, which is used
to help run the busses.
Malmö has been dubbed Swedens first Fair-Trade
city because of its extensive offering of Fair-Trade
products from coffee to fashion. In addition, a majority
of the eateries and markets are considered organic.
With so many advancements already, the city hopes to
be climate neutral by 2020.
one of the most diverse areas in the world, Victoria,
Australia is home to deserts, rainforests, wetlands,
volcanoes, coastline, and various waterways. It is no
surprise then that this city must maintain a delicate
balance with its surrounding nature. After being named
one of the worlds most livable cities, the Melbourne
City Council began to work on ways to further their
standing. They began a six-goal plan to achieve zero-net
emissions by 2020. From strict green building codes
and better city planning to larger educational programs,
the city is well on its way.
With a low population density, its important that
the citys public transportation system is sustainable.
Just one example is Melbournes airport shuttle,
which is Australias first carbon-neutral public
transportation operator. With each ride, you also support
Greenfleet, an organization that helps offset carbon
emissions by planting trees around Australia. Trying
not to waste the areas naturally heavy rainfalls,
the city has constructed man-made wetlands. The wetlands
effectively rid the water of nitrogen and other pollutants,
providing a healthy supply of water to the city.
Green buildings are also key to the citys environmental
efforts. The Melbourne Convention Center is considered
the greenest convention center in the world. From the
locally sourced food that is prepared to the filtering
of the convention centers waste water, this meeting
place is a model for sustainability. It was the first
building to earn a Six-Star, Green-Star
environmental rating, an honor that is even harder to
receive than the US Platinum LEED Certification.
With acres of unused rooftops, both the private and
public sectors have been working together to create
green roofs. Melbourne is currently home to the worlds
first fully funded, competition-designed, retrofitted,
a recent episode of the new IFC show Portlandia, a sketch
show that gently skewers Portlands leftist culture,
a couple sits down for dinner at a local restaurant.
After ordering a chicken off the menu from a local farm,
they request to see its papers, learn its family history,
and then decide to visit the lands it grazed on before
deciding whether or not to purchase it.
Though the residents of the real Portland might not
be quite so extreme, their reputation for being incredibly
receptive to green and sustainable initiatives is well
deserved. The city government currently has a number
of interesting programs that it runs through its Bureau
of Environmental Services that keep the city clean and
green. The MAX light rail transportation system and
the citys extensive bicycling lanes also provide
Portland with effective green transportation options.
The Portland Brownfield Program takes previously contaminated
spaces and transforms them into vital and thriving lands
for development. Through financial and technical support,
the program transforms areas such as large industrial
sites and former gas stations into land that can be
reused for the future. In 2006, Portland launched its
first solar energy program. The campaign, Solar Now!
provides advice and assistance for Oregonians planning
on converting their home or business to solar energy.
Another program that is positively transforming the
lands of Portland is the Watershed Revegetation Program.
This initiative forms partnerships with public and private
landowners and works to restore degraded stream banks
and improve water quality of local rivers. In addition,
the WRP works to restore native plants and wildlife
that have been lost due to erosion and pollution.
With these ongoing government initiatives, 35 community
gardens, and numerous education programs, Portland is
definitely embracing its green reputation. If youre
not convinced, you can find out for yourself with one
of the ongoing, and completely free GreenWalks that
the city offers through gardens, parks, and natural
areas around town.