The World’s Most Sustainable Cities and What We Can Learn

August 29, 2019
August 29, 2019 Jim Paar

The World’s Most Sustainable Cities and What We Can Learn

2019 World’s Most Sustainable Cities Have Been Revealed.

As you know sustainability is so important as we experience global warming and growth. With just 12 years left to limit climate change catastrophe, people and governments around the world are investing in ways to lower pollution levels, manage waste and encourage greener living, and the following cities are at the forefront of these sustainable innovations.

To take the honor of being the most sustainable city in the world is more than an honor but also gets the attention of leaders around the globe. Many cities are taking huge strides to be sustainable but we could not list all of them in this list. By 2050, Dubai believes it can reduce its carbon footprint to almost zero.

Here is our list of the world’s most sustainable cities in no particular order:

golden-gate-bridge-World’s Most Sustainable Cities

San Francisco, USA

Sustainable City is a dedicated initiative to achieve the long-term sustainability of San Francisco’s built and natural environment.  It includes city-wide and neighborhood-scale efforts addressing classically environmental sustainability categories: climate protection, energy, water, waste and materials, air quality, ecology, and resilience.

In its commitment to the long-term vitality of San Francisco’s built and natural environment, the Planning Department embeds a comprehensive sustainable lens (Environment, Equity, Economy) across all of its initiatives. These include neighborhood plan development, land use, housing, and transportation policies, public space and urban design, community engagement, and more.

The Sustainable City Team leads creative and collaborative partnerships with other City agencies and key stakeholders to support and exceed existing environmental regulations, maximize co-benefits, and facilitate widespread innovation and implementation.

The Bay Area city was the first in the United States to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. San Francisco aims to become waste-free by 2020 and is already making huge progress on its target as it diverts 80% of all trash from landfills. It should also come as no surprise that there is a huge vegan scene amongst it’s finest restaurants. Plus, the vintage stores alone are worth the trip.

cape town south africa most sustainable city in the world

Cape Town, South Africa

The second-largest city in South Africa, Cape Town, has made some exciting sustainable developments in recent years. With around 10% of its energy derived from renewable sources, the government has also set a goal for 10% of all households to use solar energy, which is significant as it is one of the cities most affected by blackouts.

South African Tourism (SAT) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Moeketsi Mosola recently congratulated Cape Town on being voted one of ten cities in the world that are most likely to become a global sustainability center by 2020.

This award is added to Cape Town’s already impressive list of accolades including it being named Africa’s Best City (US Travel and Leisure Best in the World Awards, July); Favourite Foreign City (UK Telegraph); Best Travel Destination in Africa and Middle East (US Travel & Leisure magazine, 2004 through 2007); and One of the World’s five Bluest Sky Destinations (

Cape Town was acknowledged for its sustainable development program in 2004 to help deal with the growing energy needs of the city.

The program aims to have 10 percent of homes using solar power and 10 percent of the city’s energy consumption coming from renewable sources by 2020.

Among the environmental and sustainability practices considered as health and recreation; education; arts and culture; economic and business environment; regulatory framework; law enforcement and transparency; media and speech; transportation and housing and innovation and investment.

Vienna, Austria sustainable cities

Vienna, Austria

The Austrian city of Vienna ranks in at number five. The city of Vienna is no stranger to the list, ranking within the top 10 for the past two years. The Austrian city has also been voted as the world’s most liveable city, boasting low crime rates, comprehensive healthcare, and moderate housing costs.

More than half of Vienna’s metropolitan area is made up of green spaces. In total, Vienna is home to 2,000 parks including 280 imperial parks and gardens. According to the city, there are nearly 100 square meters of green space for each of their 1.8 million inhabitants.

Traveling around Vienna is easy and efficient. Vienna offers 1,300 km of cycle paths with numerous rental and charging stations for bikes and e-bikes.

singapore sustainable cities

Singapore, Asia

Singapore’s sustainable environment is another leading factor that has attracted numerous investors. Most cities in the world have failed to address environmental issues brought about by urbanization. Towns or urban areas cover over 2% of the Earth’s surface; they are responsible for about 80% of the greenhouse gases emitted while using up almost 75%  of nature’s resources.

Singapore made the top five on Arcadis’ world ranking and also came in first for the sustainability ranking of Asian cities. Sustainability is a high-priority for Singapore, the self-proclaimed garden city.

In 1963, Singapore set out on the journey to becoming a garden city with a focus on a clean environment and abundant green spaces. Five decades later, the city-state is living up to the name. The Singapore Botanic Gardens was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. Singapore has dedicated 10% of its land for parks and nature conservation. As of 2018, 80% of households are within 400 meters of a park.

The city-state also encourages residents to opt for public transportation. Singapore’s transport systems have been rated as one of the best in the world regarding efficiency and affordability.

edinburgh-castle-most sustainable cities

Edinburgh, United Kindom

Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh has the most abundant green space of any city in the UK. The mapping software company, Esri UK, shows Edinburgh with 49% green space. “Edinburgh in 2020 will be low carbon, resource efficient city, delivering a resilient local economy and vibrant flourishing communities in a rich natural setting.”

Sustainable transportation is a priority for the City of Edinburgh Council. In 2011, the city introduced a fleet of hybrid, low carbon buses. Lothian launched a fleet of 30 low emission buses in 2017. Lothian’s Euro 6 buses are serving one of the city’s busiest roads to curb air pollution. Transport Convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, Lesly Macinnes stated, “We welcome this investment by Lothian, which will significantly impact emissions in areas of poorer air quality across the city as part of a continued effort to convert to cleaner, greener vehicles. As a Council, we are committed to improving air quality and reducing CO2 emissions via a range of measures, but it is only with the support of companies like Lothian that we will be able to achieve this.”

In addition to public transport, the city is also working towards safer travel for pedestrians and cycles.

Stockholm received the European Green Capital Awar

Stockholm, Sweden

The city’s sustainability initiatives are well-known. In 2010, Stockholm received the European Green Capital Award, an award given to cities with a consistent record of achieving high environmental standards and commitment to sustainable development.

Stockholm was the first city to be awarded the European Green Capital Award in 2010 by the EU Commission and has announced it aims to go fossil fuel-free by 2040, even though it already makes use of very little compared to other cities. Hammarby Sjöstad is an urban construction project completed in 2017 that has been developed to support environmentally-friendly housing and a greener lifestyle for its residents (think solar panels, car sharing, composting, low noise pollution and more green spaces). The city’s airport is entirely carbon neutral with respects to its own operations and the people of Sweden are also leaders in recycling, vintage fashion and investing in green innovations – definitely one to visit and explore.

Stockholm aims to be free of fossil fuels by 2040. In the meantime, petrol stations around the city offer an alternative to traditional fuel: sewage. Biofuel is generated from the sewage and is used regularly by cars and taxis. In a statement to BBC, the Head of Department and GrowSmarter Coordinator, Gustaf Landahl stated, “One hundred people going to the toilet powers one car, but if we add organic household waste, that goes down to 60 people,”

worlds-most-sustainable-city in canada

Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver scored well in a number of categories, notably air pollution – the city received the highest score worldwide in this measure. With the lowest carbon footprint of any major city in North America, Vancouver has a number of policies and programs in place to reduce emissions, stemming from the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan. The action plan has attracted global attention and took center stage at the Paris COP21 Climate Change Summit, where Vancouver was honored with the coveted C40 Cities Award.

Vancouver also scored well in terms of transit infrastructure. The city boasts an extensive network of bike lanes and car-sharing co-ops, and a new bike-share program was introduced in August 2016. An accessible transit system combined with a walkable downtown core makes it easy and eco-friendly to get around.

Vancouver already boasts one of the lowest carbon emissions of all North American cities and is continuing to pursue greener goals. The city has committed to getting 100% of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2050, and to become zero waste by 2040. Local food production is supported across the city through urban farming and by increasing the number of farmers’ markets.

Oslo, Norway

OAC will use only energy created within the city itself, and driverless, electric vehicles will roam its streets. “This is a unique opportunity to design a new city from scratch,” said Tomas Stokke, director of Haptic Architects, to Dezeen. But, what exactly makes this such a sustainable city? Let’s explore:

  • The city will be extremely walkable. Those living there or just visiting won’t have to take any form of transportation, it will be easy for them to walk to most places.
  • The city’s center will be entirely car-free. This will be made possible, in large part, by the city’s innate walkability.
  • OAC plans to use a host of boundary-pushing, green technologies. While not all tech has been specified yet, the city will use driverless cars, auto-lighting, “smart” waste tech, and security tech.
  • The city will only use only the renewable energy that it produces. This will cut down on fossil fuel use and the energy used to transport fuel and energy.
  • OAC will sell excess energy that it produces, and it will also use excess energy to de-ice planes – cutting down the airport’s fuel usage.
  • Only electric cars will be used inside of the city.
  • Public transportation will be extremely close, a cycling route, and a host of outdoor activities that don’t require electricity.