5 Beautiful Cities Working to Save the Environment

5 Beautiful Cities Working to Save the Environment
iStock/AleksandarGeorgiev

With so much not being done about climate change, it’s easy to lose hope in the idea that the American government, and the rest of the world for that matter, will ever rise to the challenge and invest in our future in an immediately gratifying way. But there is hope on the horizon. While the big picture remains grim, small players are hoping to play their parts to change that. Cities around the world are aiming to become renewable powerhouses that tread the carbon emissions road lightly. Here are five impressive cities – and there are certainly more than five – that are leading the pack and setting an example for the rest of the world.

5 Cities that Are Set to Save the Environment

1. Reykjavik, Iceland

Reykjavik, Iceland is a pioneer in the use of geothermal power. Geothermal district heating provides nearly 95% of the city’s heating. The city’s electric supply is powered 100% by renewable resources – 70% from hydroelectric and 30% by geothermal resources. On a per capita basis, Iceland is the leader in the world in geothermal generating capacity. Meanwhile, nine out of 10 inhabitants are within a five-minute walking distance from a green space.

2. Copenhagen, Denmark

So far, wind and offshore wind farms comprise 30% of Danish electricity supply. In Copenhagen, wind fulfills 90% of the electricity demand while solar provides the remaining 10%. Copenhagen has a large heating network where waste heat from power plants is used to keep buildings warm with district heating. In the warmer seasons, water from the city harbor is used to cool larger buildings in the city, such as offices, data centers, hotels, and department stores.

Government programs are helping to fund new energy projects that will help the city become the first fully renewable energy-reliant city in the world by 2025 (other eco-conscious cities are aiming for 2050). Buses in Copenhagen are being converted to run using biofuel and by 2025, most of the vehicles in the city are expected to operate on hydrogen, electricity, bioethanol, and biogas. More than one-third of Copenhagen dwellers bike to work or school.

3. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is gearing up for a waste-to-energy plant that will generate 50MW of electricity for its people. In Ethiopia’s capital, there is one landfill that serves over three million people and is as large as 26 football fields. The waste-to-energy plant, which is being built according to EU emissions standards by the $120-million Reppie Project, will generate three million bricks from white ash and 30 million liters of water from the garbage. The goal is to prevent the release of 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

4. Ljubljana, Slovenia

The European Green Capital 2016 gets all its electricity from hydropower. The city relies heavily on public transport and pedestrian and cycling networks. Ljubljana has banned cars from its city center. It is the first European city to aim for zero waste, and it already recycles more than 60% of its waste, which is one of the highest rates in Europe.

5. San Francisco, USA

When you think eco-friendly, you think of San Francisco. The city was the first US city to ban plastic bags (in 2007), and some grocery stores offer compostable bags as an alternative. In 2009, the city instituted a large-scale urban food waste and composting program that helped to decrease gas emissions by 12% from 2009. By 2020, the city hopes to be a zero-waste city.

More than half of MUNI buses and light rails are zero emission, and the remainder will transition to hybrid diesel by 2020. Nearly 90% of its electricity is supplied by renewable resources, including hydro (76.9%), wind (5.8%), Nuclear (7.5%), Solar (0.1%), gas (0.8%), and biomass (6.4%), among others (2.5%).

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Aylin Erman
Aylin Erman

Aylin is founder of GlowKitchen, a food blog with an emphasis on vegan and gluten-free fare. Aylin has been living in Istanbul, where she is founder and CEO of a cold-pressed juice and healthy foods company JÜS (www.jusistanbul.com).