From Singapore to Slovenia, here are the places setting the pace for nurturing environmental and culture sustainably.
The birthplace of Greenpeace, Vancouver’s status as one of the worlds most sustainable cities is practically a given. It has the smallest carbon footprint of any major North American city – unsurprising, given it’s a leader in green building. Vancouver also has an impressive action plan in place to be the greenest city on Earth by 202: it’s aiming for zero waste and 100% of its energy coming from renewable resources.
This city-state may be tiny, but it’s a massive force on the worlds sustainable development scene. Balancing economic, social and environmental priorities, Singapore is switching to desalinate and NEWater (a process of purifying treated used water). Singapore also holds top honours in MIT’s Treepedia Green View Index, which measures the number of trees in urban areas. Thanks to 72 hectares of rooftop gardens and green walls, more than 47% of Singapore is covered in flora.
In addition to claiming one of only five Blue Zones in the worlds (where people live longer than average), Costa Rica is home to 5% of the worlds biodiversity and topped the Happy Planet Index for a third time in 2016. A progressive reforestation policy and the fact that almost all of the country’s electricity now comes from renewable resources makes its goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral country by 2020 seem achievable. No wonder its citizens call life there the “Pura Vida”.
On the last Saturday of every month in Rwanda, citizens participate in Umuganda, a countrywide program of community action for a common purpose that even extends to the president. People pick up rubbish (not plastic bags, they’re banned), sweeping street, building schools, planting trees – whatever needs doing to improve the community and return 30% of the country to its forested state. With flora thriving so too is the country’s fauna, including lions, rhinos and mountain gorillas.
Recently announcing it will stop granting offshore oil and gas exploration permits, New Zealand is also launching strategies to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels – the government wants NZ to achieve 100% renewable electricity generation by 2035 and to become carbon neutral by 2050. Over the next 10 years, more than a billion trees will be planted across the country as well.
Often hailed as the worlds shiniest example of sustainable urban living, Freiburg had to be rebuilt from the ground up after heavy bombing during Worlds War Two. Handed a fresh slate, the city erected “passive houses” that require minimal energy to heat and cool. Solar panels were added to most buildings; cars were banned in the inner-city; and gardens were planted and parks established, including on home and office rooftops.