The World’s Greenest Cities
In 2008, the UK’s Guardian newspaper called Freiberg, Germany the world’s greenest city. Energy-efficient homes were the norm, andone super-efficient, passive-energy house boasted needing 93 percentless electricity, and less heating fuel than the average home by afactor of 40.
Freiburg, which was decimated during World War II, rose from theashes as an entirely new, and highly energy-conscious, metropolis. Cars, instead of being prestige symbols, became necessities which residentscould “share” through a club, thus freeing the streets of parkingclutter.
In one suburb, recycling became not only a paradigm, but sopersistent that one resident described it as “claustrophobic.” Housingwas concentrated into fewer units, all sharing a greenbelt/garden plot – a model reflected in the UK’s council estates, but without the crime,grime, and pervasive poverty.
Today, Freiburg – known as the European center of the modern environmental movement – offers an environmental studies program to further polish its green image, but no longer ranks first, or evenamong the top five green cities, largely because its sustainabilitymodel was so appealing and achievable that Freiburg itself got lost inthe shuffle.
Supplanted by Vancouver (Canada), Malmo (Sweden), Curitiba (Brazil), Portland(Oregon) and Reykjavik (Iceland), Freiburg rests on its laurels.Meanwhile, Vancouver (at undisputed No. 1) boasts of being Canada’smodel for renewable energy cities, with its 100-year “green living” plan and an abundance of hydroelectric energy (proving that, sometimes,being green is largely about luck).
Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city, plans to be climate-neutral by2020 — that is, it will emit no greenhouse gases. By 2030 it plans torun entirely on renewable energy. In the meantime, its greenbelts andinsistence on sustainability earned it the 2009 UN Habitat’s Scroll ofHonor award.
Curitiba was also ahead of the pack when it began developing its public transportation model in the late 1960s. This, combined with 14 forests, 16 parks, and morethan 1000 green spaces – and its Green Exchange program, which offersCuritiba’s poorest free food and transportation in exchange for rubbishrecycling – clearly puts the city at the top of sustainability profiles.
Portland disputes Vancouver’s No. 1 ranking, at least in the U.S., and rightly so. It has been seeing green since its 1903 parks and open spaces report aimed to convert the city into an oasiswith 92,000 acres of greenways and the designation, “The City ofRoses”.
Last, but certainly not least, Reykjavik, which is currently vying for the 2012 (and 2013) title of European Green Capital, is another city blessed with natural resources (geothermal steam andhydroelectricity) that help it meet energy efficiency and sustainability metrics. The city’s public transportation system also runs on hydrogen, meaning residents can breathe easily, even if the air is somewhat chilly.
Image credit: daveeza via Flickr
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