Five Cities for the Environment (and the People)

Solar cities for the environment 

Image from

I was reading a blog the other day on Mother Nature Network about the Top 10 Cleantech Countries and it got me thinking, what about some of the top cities?  What cities are considered being the best when it comes to being good for the environment and good for the people in them?   

That’s when I came across a website talking about cities for people.  What is a City for People?…”You would recognise a city for people quickly, because of the number of parks, cycle paths, and excellent public transport. You would not see unnecessary waste, too many cars, or lots of air pollution. You would probably see a move towards renewable energy, a great culture, and a strong economy.”

So, here are five cities for the people (and the environment):

1) Freiburg, Germany – Known for its use of solar, Frieburg prides itself on having over 13,000 of its residents living in sustainable districts.  Whole housing communities have been equipped with solar roofs and all new buildings must comply with the city’s low energy requirements.  Those who own houses equipped with solar panels can feed their surplus power into the public grid and get reimbursed for doing so.  

2) Malmo, Sweden – specifically the Western Harbour in Malmo.  A few years ago Western Harbour was apparently an old abandoned shipyard.  But the city decided it should be rejuvenated and now it is a major waterfront attraction powered by 100% local/renewable energy.  Buses in the area run on biogas (created from the waste of local residents), rainwater animates local water features and more. 

Portland Farmer's Market3) Portland, Oregon – Listed on SustainLane’s 2008 US City Rankings as the most sustainable U.S. city in 2008.  A lot of Portland’s sustainable actions are attributed to the forward thinking city planners that have apparently been thinking green for over 30 years now.  The city is known for its public transportation as well as being a bicycle-friendly city.  All of these things are above and beyond Portland’s natural beauty, its love of local growers and the city’s focus on green buildings and renewable energy. 

4) Copenhagen, Denmark – With the upcoming Climate Conference being held in Copenhagen this December, you’d assume the city would be at the top of its game.  Did you know that they hold a world record for consumption of organic products? (51% of food consumption in the city’s public institutions are organic and 23% in the private sector.)  They’ve apparently reduced their CO2 emissions by 25% since 1990, which they credit to their switch to natural gas heating.  They also offer more than 300kms of bike paths and plan to be the world’s leading bicycle city by 2015. 

Opera de Arame in Curitiba, Brazil5) Curitiba, Brazil – Sometimes referred to as the ecological capital of Brazil, Curitiba is well known for its urban planning.  The city reportedly has about 12 acres of parkland for every 1000 people and with 1.5 million people, that’s a lot of parkland.  It should also be noted that many of the parks near rivers and streams also serve as flood buffers between the water and the city.  And in terms of making the environment part of the city, even their Opera House is surrounded by the beauty of nature.   

I know there are many more cities for the environment (and the people), but these are just a few I thought were worth mentioning.  Do you have a city you feel is worth mentioning? 


  • Stephanie

    Hooray for Portland, OR! And I just have to say, I love that first image with all the solar roofs! Freiburg, Germany is definitely a leader (I’ve blogged about them in the past too). Great article and kudos to all these cities.

  • Tara

    Thanks Steph! I know, I thought that Freiburg one was great – if you click through on the Freiburg link, there is a great video about the solar roofs too! 😀

  • Bethe

    So glad to see an American city make the list!! Go, Portland! 🙂 Bethe @balmeras

  • solargroupies

    Wouldn’t it be nice if quality of life of these cities attract people who are committed to Earth stewardship and city planners and citizens rallied to replicate that in other places too?

  • Tara

    Bethe: I agree…Portland has really taken some great steps!

    solargroupies: Glenn, yes it really would! I would hope too that anyone who moved there would become committed after seeing the difference in quality of living.

  • Alison Kerr

    Thank you for sharing such inspiring stories of sustainable cities. This is the blog post I’ve thought of writing, until I got distracted again by nature. You’ve done a great job of it!

  • Tara

    Thank you Alison – very sweet of you! 🙂 (Always good to get distracted by nature now and again though, right?!)

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