Top Environmentally Conscious Cities in Europe
Updated: Jun 25
The world’s population has now reached 8 billion and is projected to peak before the end of the century at 10.4 billion people in 2086. The expected rise in greenhouse gas emissions and consumption will intensify climate change and make living in dense cities difficult. However, some cities have managed to keep eco-friendliness in mind and implement legislation that the rest of the world can learn from going forward.
Amsterdam is a close runner-up in sustainability and environmental consciousness. Known for its beautiful canals and vibrant architecture, this picturesque city has a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 55 percent in 2030 and 95 percent in 2050. Like Copenhagen, the primary mode of transport in Amsterdam is cycling. Automobile transport is somewhat rare and other than cycling, most residents walk to all of their destinations. Fifty-eight percent of the city’s residents get to their offices by either foot or bike.
Copenhagen aims to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025. In the middle of the fairytale cityscape is CopenHill, where citizens can enjoy Denmark’s first ski slope that also happens to be the cleanest waste-to-energy plant in the world. CopenHill is able to take in as much as 600,000 tonnes of municipal waste annually, which it burns to deliver energy and heat. This heat is pumped into a district heating system that can serve nearly 150,000 households, meeting a quarter of the city’s demands for heat. Renewables are responsible for 30 percent of the city’s energy, largely due to biofuels and waste management.
Helsinki is known as a pioneer of sustainable urban development in Europe. This capital city is located on the peninsula on the Gulf of Finland. A big part of its economy is tourism, which has led to more eco-friendly accommodation from the city. Seventy-five percent of hotel rooms in the city have been certified as environmentally friendly, and the rest have taken steps towards that by addressing food and water to waste management and energy consumption. Viikki is a green neighborhood within the city of Helsinki. It is a residential area that has many environmentally friendly practices in place, including the use of solar and wind energy systems. In fact, the first apartment building to use solar in Finland was this district.
Stockholm has set ambitious environmental policies aiming to be fossil fuel free and climate positive by 2040 and to set a maximum of 19 million tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions between 2020-2040. To reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Stockholm uses district heating. District heating is an underground infrastructure where heat is provided to multiple buildings from central energy plants. The heating plants are fired with climate neutral fuels like biofuel and household waste. Stockholm is also a very walkable city with a metro system, reducing the amount of pollution from cars.
Switzerland’s largest city is ranked one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world. Zurich invests in renewable energy, public transport, and public awareness of environmental issues. Eighty percent of their electricity is sourced from renewable energy sources, 40 percent of the city's waste gets recycled, and 70 percent of their hotels are certified as sustainable. Like Copenhagen and Amsterdam, bikes are available throughout the city free of charge.