What is a Green City?
Jan 23 2016
According to the French environmental company Energe-Cites, 75% of all power consumption worldwide occurs inside the confines of cities. Clearly, our urban centres are an ideal place to begin in the fight against climate change, and with this in mind, a number of regulatory bodies have outlined a variety of criteria which qualify as a city as ‘green’.
These criteria are wide-ranging and encompass many different aspects of urban life, including energy consumption, transportation and environmental practices. Below is an outline of some of the major contributing factors to delineating a green city.
What Makes a City Green?
- Energy production and consumption. With increasing concerns about global warming and our carbon emissions, businesses, individuals and governments are being encouraged to move towards cleaner energy sources. Of course, this includes renewables such as wind, wave, solar and geothermal energies, but also comprises alternatives to fossil fuels such as biomethane and other biofuels. Setting up such a European green gas market is not without its challenges and obstacles, however.
- Green spaces. The number of parks, forests and lawns in a city can make a big difference to a city’s environmental performance. As well as extracting CO2 from the environment and reducing the chance of a city becoming an urban heat island, green spaces on the top of buildings can lead to better insulation, thus keeping homes and offices warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
- Public transportation. Less cars on the road means less pollution – so making public transportation readily available is of paramount importance. This means not only increasing bus, metro and tram links, but also making cycle paths and walkways accessible to all.
- Recycling. Cities which promote responsible recycling and reuse of resources help to fight climate change by reducing the amount of waste we generate. This in turn directly reduces the impact on landfills – which are really a temporary solution to the problem of waste disposal, even if their transience will outlast generations to come – as well as reducing emissions in producing new consumer items.
Many cities have gotten on board with this project over the last years and decades and made concerted efforts to clean up their act and reduce their impact on our environment as a whole. Though by no means comprehensive, the list below gives an idea of some of the top-performing cities in this sphere.
- Reykavik, Iceland. The use of geothermal energy means that this city is almost entirely independent of fossil fuels.
- Vancouver, Canada. Hydro-electricity, solar-powered trash compactors and more than 200 green spaces make Vancouver one of the greenest cities in North America.
- Portland, Oregon. Relying on renewables for almost all of its energy needs, Oregon now has its sights set on promoting local produce, recycling, carpooling and increasing its already extensive cycle pathways.
- Singapore City, Singapore. Named in 2011 as Asia's greenest city, Singapore has undertaken an impressive project to clean up its airways and promote green living.
- Malmö, Sweden. Vacuum rubbish chutes and the third largest wind farm in the world are just some of the reasons for this Swedish city’s success in environmental matters.
- Freiburg, Germany. With a plethora of solar panels atop many governmental and privately-owned buildings around the city, Freiburg also has a whole district which is (almost) entirely free from cars.
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