Top 5 Eco Cities
By Pippa Sorley
Every year urban sprawl spreads upon farmland, forests, and shorelines. Rural areas are rapidly losing ground to their rival cities. Hundreds of thousands of people flock each year to their nearest city in search of sustainable employment. Farmers are losing their farms, ranchers are losing their pastures, and fishermen their livelihoods. Some say it is unavoidable-with population growth comes development. And with development, comes a loss of nature. So, in light of this inevitability, we face a predicament. If cities generate the greatest pollution across continents, which ones are taking the lead in their fight against climate change? eCo Times searched for the greenest cities, attempting to find one on each continent. We picked out our Top 5 and a couple of runners up which seemed to deserve it. Each of these cities have gone above and beyond standard operating practices to implement policies and incentives to create a truly sustainable urban environment.
CURITIBA, BRAZIL (SOUTH AMERICA)
With a population of 1.6 million, Curitiba represents a model sustainable city. Faced with a fast-rising population, worsening air pollution and imminent gridlock, this city turned its center into a pedestrian-only zone and transformed several key highways into roadways reserved solely for mass transit. By planting millions of trees, the city created “green moats” to buffer against the harmful effects of polluting industry. Perhaps Curitaba’s most famous greening story is that of its innovative recycling program. The Mayor created a social and environmental revolution by offering groceries and bus passes to the city’s poor in return for bags of recyclables. The result? Two-thirds of Curitiba’s garbage is recycled.
VAXJO, SWEDEN (EUROPE)
The Nordic countries of Europe continue to excel when it comes to environmental stewardship. Winner of the Sustainable Energy for Europe Campaign Award in 2007, Växjö , Sweden, is a stark example . The city made a pledge in 1996 to become fossil-fuel free. With the cooperation of the city’s administration, NGO’s, universities, and individuals, as well as the energy, housing, and transport sectors, Växjö is well on its way to meeting this goal. In 1980, at a time when environmental issues were barely a blip on the planetary radar, Vaxjo created an energy company that used biomass to produce heating and electricity. By 2006, the city had succeeded in reducing its CO2 emissions per capita by 30% since 1993. US citizens emit around 20 tonnes per year, the EU’s per capita emissions average 10 tonnes, and China’s roughly 5 tonnes. Today, the citizens of Växjö emit a mere 3 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, a level far below the global average. With such impressive numbers, Växjö produces a carbon footprint similar to that found in many developing countries, while still maintaining high living standards.
TORONTO, CANADA (NORTH AMERICA)
Toronto boasts a population of over 5 million, a number that represents almost one sixth of the whole population of Canada. By implementing programs to cut overall emissions from its own facilities by 42%, Toronto is recognized as one of the greenest cities in North America. It uses cold water from Lake Ontario to cool its buildings in summer, saving up to 90% on electricity compared to conventional air-conditioning systems. The city has also established the Toronto Atmospheric Fund which creates new programs to accelerate the incubation and scale-up of low carbon initiatives in Toronto.
For the rest of the list
The United States really needs to get on the ball. There is no reason that we can not incorporate everything these cities are doing. I especially love the incentive of food and transportation in return for recyclables, what an amazing and creative solution! What do you do in your daily life to help change the world?