city with turbines and trees
city with turbines and trees

Most Sustainable Cities Around the World 

 

When most of us think of a city, we don’t immediately think of farming, healthy living, or clean air. The UN estimates that by 2050 over 68% of the world’s population will reside in cities. While they only cover 3% of the planet, cities consume a large portion of energy. Cities weren’t historically designed with sustainability in mind, so why is cultivating our urban areas to be more sustainable suddenly so important?


We explore some of the most exciting sustainability projects happening around the world, find out how we can make a city sustainable, and discover which cities are leading the way in sustainable urban development.

 

What is the need for Sustainable Cities?

When you consider that cities are responsible for around 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, it’s clear why now more than ever, countries are investing in ways to make their cities more sustainable. Reassuringly, there are dozens of countries finding innovative ways to be more eco friendly.

 

 

The Best Sustainable City Examples

Green Cities

Singapore

Green Cities

What makes a city a green city? Singapore’s recent efforts to turn around the metropolis’s buildings have seen 80% incorporating green elements within their design. Singapore has been dubbed ‘The Garden City’ and is a great example of sustainable urban living. In 2008, a mandate was introduced to make building construction more sustainable - meaning that buildings must meet a set of standards to help Singapore limit its greenhouse gas emissions. To be a certified ‘green building’, it must be self-sufficient and consume minimal energy. That means efficient use of water, renewable energy, recycled materials, resources, and showcase design innovation.

Walkable and Cycleable

Woman with a bike

Walkable and Cycleable

Walking is also big in Scandinavian countries, but cycles rule in Copenhagen. In one of Europe’s most beautiful eco cities you’ll find around 300m2 of green space per person, with a 70-acre nature reserve planned for the industrial North Harbour area. Copenhagen in Denmark aims to become carbon neutral as soon as 2025. Already, buses are being adapted to become electric, while more of the city’s roads are getting an upgrade to make them cycle safe. Many roads are being designed specifically with low-cost hire electric bikes in mind.

Urban Agriculture

woman farming

Urban Agriculture

Medellin in Colombia has gathered support from local government departments to develop community gardens and build more sustainable communities. Hundreds of families benefit from the gardens which allow them to grow food and even sell the surplus supply, providing a source of income for their communities. The project is proving so successful that similar schemes are being developed country-wide.

Renewable Energy

wind farm

Renewable Energy

In a move to protect the natural eco systems, protected water environments and tackle the many challenges it faces from urbanisation and climate change, Montevideo in Uruguay has transformed the city’s electricity supply. Harnessing wind power and hydroelectricity, over 85% of the city’s power now comes from renewable energy sources. Montevideo International Airport is on track to become the first completely sustainable airport of its kind in the world.

Electric Vehicles

electric car in front of shop

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles (EVs) now account for 6.5 million, up by 109% since 2020. Countries like Norway are leading the way, with incentivised policies such as tax and road toll exemptions that have seen a huge uptake of EVs in the city of Oslo. Hefty vehicle import duties and car registration taxes make cars more expensive than in other countries, and by waiving duties for EVs, Norway subsidies purchases - making owning one more affordable. The net-zero pathway suggested by the International Energy Agency for 2030 is of 60% new car sales should be BEVs. It’s not all that surprising that resourceful  Norwegians have already beaten the requirement.

Food Recycling and Repurposing

Rubbish on the street

Food Recycling and Repurposing

In Lima, Peru, the Food Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations is supporting local groups to tackle the worrying issue of food waste and loss. City measures are supporting sustainable urban living by recovering food that can be redistributed through charities and foodbanks. A centre for composting biomass waste to generate energy instead of dumping it has dramatically reduced the amount of food waste heading to landfills and city drainage areas. What’s more, it’s set to boost the statistic from 1% to 66% by 2040. This move cuts the amount of harmful methane generated by decomposing food waste, as well as the money and natural resources that go into food production and processing.

20 Minute Neighbourhoods

People having a drink

20 Minute Neighbourhoods

Melbourne is leading the charge with its neighbourhoods designed to enable residents to live locally. This means transforming the city so that locals can cycle, walk or take public transport to all of its amenities. Shops, leisure centres and businesses will be easily accessible - transforming the lives of everyone who lives there. The long-term policy aims to implement 20-minute neighbourhoods across Melbourne by 2050, with several projects already underway. Interestingly, Paris is following suit. Paris’s Mayor is busy working on ways to make its districts places where every resident can get to work or access shops on foot or by bike.

What is London Doing to Become More Sustainable?

London has been top of sustainable cities lists for years - namely for its drive to get people on public transport. Various schemes, such as the congestion and Ulez charges encourage locals to use public transportation, easing congestion and improving air quality across the capital. Bicycle sharing projects include the 750 affordable cycle hire docking stations which have popped up around London. But that’s not all. Every one of London’s buses are now hybrid vehicles and, did you know the capital is proudly home to the world’s first hydrogen bus? In 2020, the Mayor set out plans to power the TFL tube network with renewable energy - plus, there are ambitious plans for a zero-carbon railway network by 2030. 


If you and your friends need to use a car in London, why not help reduce emissions by booking your next trip with Zipcar?

 

 

Top Sustainable Initiatives

building with lots of greenery

Top Sustainable Initiatives

If you’re looking for more information about sustainable cities in action, check out these inventive sustainable urban areas around the globe.

  1. Vancouver, Canada - The Economic Intelligence Unit voted Vancouver third greenest city in the world due to its ambitious efforts, such as aiming to be entirely zero waste by 2040.
  2. Milan, Italy - architects have created ‘vertical forests’ on two of its cities residential tower blocks, including 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs and 15,00 plants that would take up three and a half football pitches if planted on the ground!
  3. Reykjavik, Iceland - is leading in hydroelectric and natural geothermal energy resources that provide heat for the city’s buildings.
  4. Valencia in Spain comes in first for its efforts to priortise water conservation. Partnering with a water company, the city has a unique pipe monitoring system that allows local councils to efficiently anticipate fluctuations in water quality and demand.
  5. Hamburg, Germany is on track to become a ‘green city’ of Europe by developing green spaces and forests which already make up 16.5% of the city. In turn, this is encouraging future green cities around the world.
  6. Brisbane, Australia aims to ensure 40% of the mainland will become natural habitats by 2031 - home to native plants and wildlife that will protect these areas and keep them free of invasive species.

For anyone wondering what a sustainable city will look like in 2050, look no further than Dubai in the UAE. Architects have developed a housing project known as the ‘Sustainable City’ which recycles water and waste to produce more energy than it consumes. Dubai aims to secure 75% of its energy from clean or renewable sources by 2050.

 

Why not do your bit to keep your carbon footprint minimal by carsharing with friends? All you need to book a Zipcar is a valid credit or debit card. You won’t even need to organise insurance, as Zipcar cover this for you.

Book now

More from the blog

To stay up to date with the latest news, advice and tips from Zipcar visit our blog.

couple walking towards a church

Best day hikes near London

Head out for a change of scenery, fresh country air and some exercise. There's plenty of hiking trails near London

walking in an autumnal woods

Autumn walks near London

Time to wrap up and get outside and bask in the changing of the seasons.

deer in a london park

The best London parks to see deer

London has lots of places to spot these majestic creatures. 

gardens of the pig, winchester, early in the day

Five eco-friendly places to stay

Looking for an eco-friendly break? We’ve rounded up some of the greatest sustainable places to stay near London.