The 5 top sustainable cities in the world

These top sustainable cities all minimise their impact on the environment and improve the standards of living for their people.

sustainable cities

These top sustainable cities all minimise their impact on the environment and improve the standards of living for their people.

The 5 top sustainable cities mentioned here show it is possible for large urban areas to improve their sustainability.  With an increased urbanisation it is important that more cities follow their example to limit our impact on the environment.


Reykjavik, Iceland

Energy consumption for cities is the most damaging impact an urban area has on the environment.  Reducing the use of non-renewable energies is essential for top sustainable cities.

Reykjavik is a great example of how this is possible.  It is the capital of Iceland.  The whole of Iceland uses their natural environment for their energy.  Reykjavik fuels its heat and electricity totally from renewable energy sources.

  • Geothermal, 13%
  • Hydropower, 87%

The city also uses buses that run on hydrogen power.  These emit no emissions.  Reykjavik is one of most sustainable cities in the world because of these initiatives.


Vancouver, Canada: 

Vancouver has set an ambitious goal to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.  Reducing carbon emissions in cities is very important for two main reasons:

  • Limit climate change
  • Improve air quality for residents

Vancouver is one of the world’s most sustainable cities as it has taken steps to reducing the use of car transport in their city.  They have done this by:

  • Increasing mass transit
  • Building many bike lanes
  • Ride sharing programs
  • Greenways

They currently make up to 90% of their electricity by hydroelectric power.  They also use wind, solar and wave power technologies to generate more energy.


Curitiba, Brazil: 

The top sustainable cities will increase the amount of green space they have.  Curitiba has committed itself to greening its city.  There are:

  • 16 parks
  • 14 forests
  • Over 1,000 green public spaces

Environmental legislation in Curitiba protects local vegetation from urban developments.  This has resulted in more than 52 square meters of green space per person.


Bristol, UK

The top sustainable cities support organic food and local farming, as they are more environmentally friendly. Bristol can be considered one of the world’s top sustainable cities because of its commitment to providing healthy foods for its people.

Locals have easy access to organic food suppliers.  There is a weekly farmers market and a regular slow food market.

Bristol also hosts the annual soil association organic food festival.  This is the biggest organic food festival in Europe.

The city also promotes green accommodation.  7 hotels, B&Bs and campsites have been awarded green tourism business scheme awards.


Copenhagen, Denmark: 

Copenhagen is well on the way to becoming the world’s top sustainable cities.  They are aiming to be the first capital city to be carbon neutral by 2025.  City officials are thinking of unique ways to increase vegetation in their city.

They have instituted a green roof policy.  These green roofs can:

  • Absorb 50-80% of the rain that falls on the roof
  • Cool and insulate the building
  • Reduce increased temperatures in cities

Copenhagen also reduces car transport, emitting harmful emissions.  1.2 million people cycle to work everyday.  This is hoped to increase to include 50% of the population by 2015.

More cities have to find a sustainable solution to the impact urbanisation has on the environment.  Fortunately, there are many more urban areas around the world implementing sustainable policies.  It is likely this will also increase.


Image: Rob Warde

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