- Ljubljana in Slovenia was the first European city to commit to a zero-waste goal. According to our guide Ivana, “Ljubljana has transformed itself into a remarkably green and sustainability-oriented city. We have more than 500 m2 of green surfaces per capita. Almost half of the municipality is covered in a forest and 20% is under some sort of protection status.”
Since 2008, the city center has been a traffic-free pedestrian zone that is also bike-friendly. “The removal of parked cars from these areas allowed local businesses, such as shops and restaurants, to flourish and spill onto the streets as well, which gives Ljubljana the charming laid-back vibe which visitors love so much. The riverbanks of Ljubljanica River thus became important centers of life”. Along with uncountable sustainable actions, Ljubljana is a member of Ellen MacArthur’s Foundation for circular economy and supports all sorts of projects that focus on reusing and repurposing materials, which would otherwise go to waste.
2. Copenhagen definitely puts sustainability at the forefront. Since 1995, Copenhagen has reduced carbon emissions by 50% and it has been recognized as the world’s greenest city many times. Bente, our guide in Copenhagen, mentions that “the goal is that the city becomes the world’s first carbon dioxide neutral capital by 2025. I guess the outside world has noticed and thinks of Copenhagen as sustainable”. She highlights that many people around the world connect Copenhagen with the bicycle culture: “the bicycles are very visible everywhere in the city – on average every Copenhagener owns more than one bicycle”. Also, Bente comments on Copenhagen’s new district Nordhavn where “sustainability is a cornerstone of urban planning. That makes the district very interesting to visitors who are keen to learn about the sustainable Danish way”.
3. Vienna has been awarded one of the greenest major cities in the world for its high percentage of open spaces. Almost half of Vienna’s area is covered by green areas. According to our guide Lindsay in Vienna, “the green spaces of Vienna are everywhere. Millions of trees line our streets – if one is felled, it must be replaced by law”. Lindsay also emphasized that “the city is full of water fountains so you can refill your water bottles free of charge with our delicious mountain spring water; there are almost 1400 km/over 850 miles of cycle paths and bikes and electric scooters can be hired all over the centre”. Similarly, there are car sharing schemes and nearly 1,000 electric car charging points enabling the City of Vienna to achieve its target of cutting transport-related CO2 emissions to zero by 2050.
4. Stockholm is probably Sweden’s most famous eco-friendly city but Gothenburg isn’t far behind. Since 2016, the city has been ranked as a top sustainable destination with approximately 95% of all hotels certified as environmentally friendly. Sweden’s second-largest city runs 97% of its public transport on renewable energy. It has also been named a European Capital of Smart Tourism 2020. Besides, it’s Greta Thunberg’s Nordic homeland! ToursByLocals guide Inna highlights: “I absolutely agree that Gothenburg is one of the most sustainable destinations! Once travelers arrive in Gothenburg they are going to see a lot of nice green areas and parks. There is also clean water in the river and sea, and also drinkable from taps that are available. The harbor, which is one of the largest in Northern Europe, is using most of its energy from wind turbines. Many buses use locally produced gas or electricity. Garbage that is not possible to recycle is burned and the heat distribution in the city”.
5. Portland, Oregon is one of the highest ranked eco-friendly cities in North America. For decades, it has been known for its parks and world-class gardens. It is also one of the most bikeable and walkable cities in the USA, with over 620km of designated bike routes. ToursByLocals guide Marcus mentions that “when guests are exploring Portland, the visible evidence they will have of Portland’s commitment to environmentalism includes a plethora of parks and green spaces, a lack of containers littering the ground as a result of the first mandatory container deposit law in the U.S., abundant car-charging ports, many street trees that are over 100-years-old, urban swales, and rentable self-service bicycles and scooters available on the street.” Oregon’s biggest city is full of eco-conscious entrepreneurs so it’s definitely a city to go shopping and support local businesses. Also, it is known as the top one vegan cities in North America.
6. Zurich is considered one of the most livable and sustainable cities in the world. After 2008, when Zurich residents voted for a reduction of energy consumption by 2050 to 2,000 watts as well as to 1 ton of greenhouse gas emissions per person, there are major efforts to be climate-friendly, such as a sophisticated public transit system, green building requirements, good recycling opportunities, the switch to electric cars for postal vehicles and more. Like many citizens of Zurich, our guide Véronique thinks there’s still much to be done, and preferably before 2050. What she loves most in the city is the water. There are two rivers and a lake, and the lake water, which is treated in a clever sustainable system, supplies over 1200 fountains as well as all the city’s pipes with the finest drinking water. When visiting Zurich, you will see a big variety of fountains, often surrounded by people drinking or filling their bottles.