You want to see the world, immerse yourself in another culture, learn how to say hello in another language. But, you want to do it as sustainably as possible.
The truth is that travel accounts for 2.5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. It may sound like a small number, but one study found that aviation could take up a quarter of the globe’s “carbon budget” by 2050. Even so, some climate activists would encourage you to travel, simply based on the idea that education is the most powerful tool against climate change.
If you’re looking to support green cities, or consider a move abroad, we’ve put together a list of the most eco-friendly cities around the world.
In addition to recycling 70% of its waste, the Brazillian city of Curitiba is a rockstar when it comes to public transportation. Not only do their busses have designated tracks and lanes, they even have wider doors so more people can get in. They’ve also made it more accessible for people of all socioeconomic situations to take public transit, with a flat fare no matter how far you travel. About 60% of the population uses public transportation in Curitiba.
They’ve also continued to prioritize their greenspace, using a green belt of sorts to address frequent flooding in the area. And they know a thing or two about recycling. The city offers rewards of school supplies, show tickets and even turns old busses into mobile classrooms.
These Canadians aren’t kidding around when it comes to composting, eh? Rotting food in landfills makes up for a huge portion of methane that is emitted into the atmosphere. In addition to cheeky public advertising, the city has literally banned food waste. They even have a Waste Wizard tool that residents can use to search for the best way to dispose of different kinds of waste.
Lookout Amsterdam, Vancouver is vying for the top spot when it comes to the title of the most cycle-friendly city in the world. They’ve gone to great lengths to make biking in the city safer with dedicated bike lanes with barriers that double as planters to protect them on both sides.
Melbourne is thinking about the present and the future. They’ve worked with climate change experts to develop a Climate Change Mitigation Strategy to 2050. They’ve got an ambitious target to completely switch over to renewable energy. Yep, that means 100%, and Melbourne isn’t stopping there. They’ve got plans for zero-emissions transport through rethinking their road space infrastructure, parking controls and changes to road user pricing.
Putting energy-efficiency and waste management in the spotlight, Melbourne offers incentives to residents, developers and building owners who are keeping sustainability top-of-mind.
The world has watched as Accra, Ghana in West Africa has sprouted into its own version of a concrete jungle. It might be a surprise to see this city on the list of the most eco-friendly in the world, but bear with us. We’ve included Accra for it’s potential. Eco-conscious developments, more organic markets and sustainable cafes are opening up, but sustainability is still a new concept.
Travelling here means you can help support sustainable businesses so they can keep their doors open as society catches up to the idea of going green. Today, Accra still has poor waste management, air pollution and hasn’t moved over to clean energy quite yet, but the citizens aren’t waiting for the government to act. They’re building their own parks, starting local produce programs, and more.
Meanwhile, local entrepreneurs have come up with great ideas like building mud houses that are both affordable and eco-friendly to address both issues at once. The houses are made from locally sourced materials like clay and granite chippings. They are deliberately avoiding the use of cement, which can become toxic in the heat and humidity of the region.
Taking the lead on eco-cities since the 1970’s, Freiburg, continues to clean up when it comes to environmental awards. They’ve gone as far as converting whole areas of the city into pedestrian-only zones and is committed to updating their city plans every 10 years to improve mobility, while reducing car traffic.
Their goal for 2020 is to reduce motorized vehicle traffic to under 30%, with the rest of the pie going to pedestrians, cycle traffic and public transportation. The government has also introduced laws and regulations that put limits on energy use in the home.
If that isn’t enough, Freiburg also has schools that encourage children to build a relationship with nature. In Freiburg’s forest kindergartens, children play outside for almost half of the day.
"Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir
Kudos to the cities doing their best to act responsibly, promote sustainability and encourage citizens to get involved. Start thinking green before you board the plane, by packing a reusable water bottle in your Solgaard Check-In Closet. You’ll be pulling 5lbs of plastic waste from the ocean just by buying one.