1. London, England

Photo: Telex4

Designed by Bill Dunster, London’s BedZED project aims to be a carbon neutral area that strives to create an environment that facilitates a more sustainable lifestyle in Britain. Built in 2002, it has 82 units that include flats, maisonettes, town houses, and office space.

Solar panels and biomass materials are prime energy resources, and there is an onsite sewage treatment and rainwater recycling systems in place. Most of the materials were sourced within fifty miles of the site, as the project wanted to have a low impact on the environment from the word ‘go’.

As the UK’s largest eco-village of this kind, BedZed strives to enable residents and office workers to drastically reduce their carbon footprint. This includes reducing energy usage, reducing the amount of fossil fuels we burn, and the amount of materials we throw away as waste through the recycling of sewage, water, and food wastage.

2. Aberdeen, Scotland

Aberdeen wants to reduce its Co2 emissions by 42% by 2020. There are also six city parks within the city and many more around the outer reaches. In fact, over a quarter of the land in Aberdeen consists of open spaces of various forms, and the city council is currently auditing these spaces to discern their quality and how accessible they are to the city’s population. You can donate or volunteer in one such incentive here.

3. Oslo, Norway

Oslo wants to become Co2 neutral by 2030. It has introduced high taxes for companies with high carbon emissions — money which is then invested into technologies looking into carbon dioxide capture and storage by which to slow down global warming.

Not only is it one of the most heavily populated cities in Norway, it’s also the greenest. The economy in Norway is thriving and it’s refreshing to see that they aren’t complacent with this wealth.

4. Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is saying adjö (goodbye) to fossil fuels. Having heavily invested in alternative energy, it aims to be fossil fuel free by 2050. Despite being one of the highest-energy consumers, Sweden has very low carbon emissions due to its nuclear and hydroelectric power stations and conservative way of living. It also boasts energy efficient housing and wind power initiatives.

Hammarby Sjöstad, an eco town within Stockholm, is a 10,000 home-strong destination located in what was a former industrial area. With rain water harvesting, solar powered homes and street lights, they are well and truly an eco town. They also use processed sewage by which to fuel their cookers. Car pooling is prominent here too.

Hammarby Sjöstad is a result of Stockholm’s mandatory reuse of land before any such urban sprawl can continue. This recycling of derelict areas into modern and efficient communities is just one way in which Sweden can be called an eco city.

Stockholm also boasts a growing second-hand clothing market, a sound recycling infrastructure, and emphasises research into sustainability.

5. Reykjavik, Iceland

With hydrogen buses for transport and its heat and electricity coming almost entirely from geothermal and hydropower sources (like all of Iceland), Reykjavik is well and truly making the most out of the resources it has available to it. Geothermal heat is also used for heating local outdoor swimming pools.

Not resting on its laurels, despite already being very eco minded, Reykjavik has aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 35% by 2020. In fact, the pioneering city is a global hub for renewable energy research.

This independence from a reliance upon fossil fuels has saved Iceland more than $8 billion over the last thirty years, and the Natural Energy Authority has estimated that the country is only using around a quarter of its hydropower capacity and a fifth of its geothermal capacity.

6. Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand’s capital is a green city with a population that supports an eco friendly way of life. 33% of Wellington’s population already uses public transport to get to work, and its transport runs on green energy. In 2007, Wellington’s council set the goal of cutting their emissions by 40% and community emissions by 30% before 2020.

7. San Francisco, USA

The greenest city in America, San Francisco is hoping to be a waste free city by 2020 and currently reuses 80% of its waste. It was also the first city to ban the plastic bag, back in 2007, from all grocery stores.

The city is showing that recycling is not only good for the environment, but in creating 10 times more jobs than cities that rely on landfills, it can also be economically advantageous. If the rest of the country followed suit, a landmass as big as the USA could have a huge impact on a lamenting job market and help begin to restore the damage to local ecology. Plastic isn’t biodegradable and has a hugely detrimental effect on nature.

8. Sydney, Australia

With miles and miles of pristine coastline and an abundance of wildlife, Sydney has a lot at stake when it comes to their ecology. To combat this they have the ‘Green Sydney Government Initiatives’ that range from delivering energy and water to the city, sustainably.

There have been 8,900 street trees planted in the inner-city since 2005. 14 ‘rain gardens’ have been installed, bringing the total up to 107 — these rain gardens help filter stormwater and help to prevent harmful pollutants making it into Sydney’s waterways. 5,500 solar panels have been installed to more than 30 city buildings, and these panels are expected to supply around 12.5% of the city’s requirements by 2015.

9. Bristol, England

Bristol’s emissions have been falling every year since 2005. Bristol has big plans for sustainable energy and transport investment. There are solar panels on council-owned buildings, a thriving ‘cycling city’ culture, and an engaged number of inhabitants wanting their town to be both an economical and ecologically-thriving metropolis.

Bristol has also won the European Green Capital Award 2015 (somewhat prematurely), accredited by the European Commission. The award was given for Bristol’s rapid progress and continuing ambition in being a city with a good quality of life while also being environmentally minded and putting £140 million into an energy investment programme.

10. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen has recently won the world’s ‘Most Liveable City’ moniker — stripping the title from the likes of Melbourne and Madrid. More and more cities are proving that being a great place to live doesn’t have to go hand in hand with being environmentally negligent.

Bicycles are in abundance, with a third of the city’s residents using them for commuting to work and school. It is estimated that this will rise to 50% of people over the next year. The city’s Queen Louise Bridge sees an amazing 35,000 commuters cycling across it every day. It’s been dubbed ‘Europe’s coolest green city’ by The Ecologist magazine and it’s one of Europe’s biggest organic food consumers.

There’s also an abundance of green spaces for the city’s inhabitants to enjoy, and environmental places to sleep, eat, and shop. The Danish capital is one of the world leaders in clean technologies, with financial incentives to recycle and tax reductions for using electric cars.

11. Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver hopes to become the greenest city in the world by 2020, and although it will face heavy competition, with multiple cities doubling their efforts in this vein, the densely-populated city does have a chance of achieving this aim. The city already leads the world in hydroelectric power — making up to 90 percent of its overall supply — as well as investing greatly into wind, solar, and wave power. There are also over 250 miles of cycle lanes and new solar powered waste compactors on the rise.

It plans to reduce greenhouse emissions by a third before 2020, to double the amount of ‘green’ jobs in the city, and to reduce waste going to landfills dramatically.

View their Greenest City 2020 Action Plan here.

This article was originally published on MigratoryMan.com, and has been re-published here with permission.