Eco Friendly Destinations

The results of a poll of polls to find out which of the world’s cities are most regularly nominated as being the greenest.  ‘Wish you were here’ postcards often mention white sandy beaches and crystal blue seas – now travellers are just as likely to talk about the ‘green’ qualities of the city they are visiting.  Eco-friendly destinations which place an emphasis on things such as re-cycling and cycling can often attract plane loads of visitors (!)  keen to experience life in a modern sustainable urban settlement.

Tap the phrase ‘the world’s 10 greenest cities’ into an internet search engine and you will find many different lists containing the names of many different cities. Here’s a poll-of-polls revealing, in reverse order, the ten most commonly- nominated green cities.


On March 31st 2012, millions of offices and homes around the world will be plunged into darkness at 8:30pm. The initiative is part of Earth Hour – 60 minutes when the inhabitants of Planet Earth are urged to turn off non-essential lights in order to highlight the need to take action on climate change.

The idea began in Sydney in 2007 – the Australian city has long provided a shining example of how to live sustainably; it was one of the first cities to replace old light bulbs with eco-friendly ones and created an efficient food-waste disposal programme which is the envy of the world.

Newcastle, England

It is Newcastle, not the more fashionable London, which is currently thought of as the UK’s greenest city – topping the annual league table of sustainability for three years’ running.

Newcastle has achieved this because of initiative such as:

  • 20mph speed limits
  • ‘No-power hours’ at schools and in the city centre – where educational establishments try to forego electricity for 60-minute bursts
  • A bee repopulation programme!

Bogota, Colombia

The city of Bogota in Colombia is a fascinating place to visit on the first day of February each year. It’s the time when cars are banned from being used in the city.  This idea was the brainchild of Bogota’s former mayor Enrique Penalosa, who believed that city’s should be built and run with the aim of improving citizens’ happiness rather than with the goal of striving for economic prosperity.

To this end, Bogota’s Mayor built lakes and parks and planted 1.5 million trees along the city’s highways – beautiful foliage which cars drivers journey past every day during their commute to work.  Apart from on 1st February, of course.

Freiburg, Germany

Located in the south-west of Germany, Freiburg was flattened by Allied bombers in the Second World War. This tragic destruction did have one happy by-product; the city was rebuilt on energy-saving principles and now competes with Munster to be the most ecological place in Germany.

The tram-system is the backbone of the city, many of the streets are car-free, solar power thrives and young school children are often encouraged to play with sticks and leaves in the forests rather than own their own toys. It’s a lifestyle which is clearly not for everyone but what a fascinating way of life.

Malmo, Sweden

Malmo mums don’t overly worry if kids don’t eat up all the food on their plate – food waste is re-cycled; producing the bio-gas which provides 42 per cent of the power of the city’s buses. In fact, not that many people use the buses – an incredible 30 per cent of journeys in Malmo are by bicycle. Malmo is a living, breathing example of how practicality and prettiness can go hand in hand – the abundant and colourful plants in the city centre absorb much of the rainwater, so that the city’s drainage system never becomes over-loaded.

Vancouver, Canada

By 2020 every resident in Vancouver will live no more than five minutes’ walk away from a natural space. Tourists too can benefit from the Vancouver authorities’ determination to create, and maintain, superb air quality – there are currently over 200 parks in the city. An emphasis on harnessing wind, solar, wave and tidal energy has also reaped dividends – 90 per cent of Vancouver is powered by hydro-electricity.


Take a look at the Copenhagen skyline and you will see lots of colourful vegetation on the roofs – if roofs have a slope of less than 30 degrees they must be equipped with soil and vegetation. Down at street level, there are plenty of bicycles; 36 per cent of Copenhagen residents cycle to work.

Curitiba, Brazil

The name Jaime Lerner might not mean much to you or I but to the people of the city of Curitiba in Brazil, Lerner is a legend. As mayor of the city in the 1970s, Lerner decided to build parks instead of canals to reduce flooding. Other green measures soon followed; including giving people bus tokens in return for recycling waste. Lerner’s green drives have paid off – Curitiba’s average income-per-person has gone from less than the Brazilian average to 66 per cent greater than the average – no wonder he has been elected Mayor three times!

Portland, Oregon

America is generally not a place which is associated with environmental friendliness. However, two US cities – Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon – have won plaudits for their efforts. Portland should definitely be commended for swimming against the tide.

In the early 1980s when building projects were in full flow, Portland demolished a six-lane highway and put a riverside park in its place. With a light rail system connecting Portland’s city to its suburbs and many of its new buildings built from sustainable materials, this city is often referred to as the world’s greenest city. And with 119 trails for biking, hiking and running, it could also claim to be one of the most pleasant to get around.


The old school saying that ‘Greenland is icy and Iceland is green’ is still true today – and no Icelandic place is greener than Reykjavik. Every time you turn a light switch on, or use an electrical appliance, in this capital city you will be using renewable geothermal or hydropower sources to do so. Iceland’s volcanic activity provides Reykjavik with geothermal heating systems which power homes and industries; it is thought to heat roughly 90 per cent of all buildings in Iceland. Reykjavik really is the perfect example of how the earth’s inhabitants can live in harmony with nature – no wonder it tops most of the polls accessed to compile this list.



James Christie writes for Strenson Solar: provider of solar panels in Sussex and information about solar feed-in tariffs.