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Top Sustainable Cities around The World

Actually, not only we can, but we have to, for the sake of our future

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Sustainable, Cities, World
However, in light of looming global crisis, more and more cities are demonstrating that we can, in fact, coexist with nature in harmony without even having to make any tremendous sacrifices. Pixabay

Sustainability is usually defined as a fine balance between a city’s economy, quality of life, and how those two factors affect the environment. We’re already seeing the consequences of leaving the environment out of the equation – the quality of life actually plummets, as no amount of money and commodities could possibly make up for the kind of air pollution that equals smoking 21 cigarettes per day, which is Beijing’s status quo. Sustainable.

However, in light of looming global crisis, more and more cities are demonstrating that we can, in fact, coexist with nature in harmony without even having to make any tremendous sacrifices to our lifestyles. Actually, not only we can, but we have to, for the sake of our future. 

In that spirit, besides objective reviews of Just Energy, Texas Electricity Ratings brings you a look on some of the most sustainable cities whose blueprints will hopefully be followed by other towns in the future.  

Copenhagen, Denmark: Most Sustainable City in Europe

Sustainable, Cities, World
Sustainability is usually defined as a fine balance between a city’s economy, quality of life, and how those two factors affect the environment. Pixabay

Copenhagen has firmly established itself as “Europe’s Green Capital,” and it continuously pushes the envelope on all sustainability fronts.

What instantly stands out is its ambitious agenda to become the first carbon-neutral city by 2025. The plan to this involves a heavy reliance on bicycles, which already surpassed cars in numbers, with less than a third of the households owning a car. In fact, many hotels even have bicycles in stock for guests. 

Furthermore, by the end of this year, all public transport buses will run with electric engines. Green roofs have been becoming the norm in infrastructure, while rigid quality assurance tests keep the tap water clean. 

Amsterdam, Netherlands: Cycling Wonderland 

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Bicycles are clearly a common theme in sustainability, and Amsterdam is a world-known symbol of cycling culture. Even beyond cycling, transport is becoming increasingly green as electric vehicles are starting to overtake regular ones. 

Sustainability efforts continue in the residents’ homes, with solar panels becoming more and more common on the roofs over their heads. 

Amsterdam also encourages organic farming, with many farmers’ markets popping up constantly across the city.  

Overall, while the first thing that may spring to many people’s mind when thinking about the Dutch capital is its lenient drug policies, this beautiful town is so much more than a party place. 

Sustainable, Cities, World
We’re already seeing the consequences of leaving the environment out of the equation – the quality of life actually plummets. Pixabay

Stockholm, Sweden: Putting Waste to Good Use

A testament to Stockholm’s sustainability is its innovative approach to harnessing waste, whether it comes in the form of waste heat or sewage waste. The Swedish capital employs biofuel conversion plants to turn sewage waste into biofuel for vehicles, whereas the waste heat, coming from stadiums, data centers, and shops, should be channeled into the heating of its residents, if all goes according to plan. 

On top of that, the city plans to be fossil fuel-free by 2040. 

Vancouver, Canada: Lowest Greenhouse Gas Emissions in North America

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What’s admirable about Vancouver is that it didn’t always used to be a sustainable city, but realizing its environmental footprint and the urgent need to reduce it, it made a sharp turn and now serves as a prime example of well-needed change. 

It’s currently the major city with the lowest carbon emissions in North America, encouraging cycling to work and/or the use of electric vehicles, promoting local, healthy food through farmers’ markets, and implementing innovative waste management projects. 

Singapore: Greenest City in Asia 

Singapore is famous for being the greenest city in Asia, and soon, that title might become shorter – “Greenest City. Period.”

Singapore has become the object of many people’s wanderlust, particularly because of the spectacular way modern architecture is interlaced with nature, while technological innovations help maintain a fine balance between the two worlds. 

Singapore feels like a hopeful glimpse into the future. 

San Francisco, California: Ban of Plastic Water Bottles and Bags 

Besides being named the Greenest City in North America for 2011, San Francisco has another undisputable milestone in its sustainability resume – the ban of plastic bags and water bottles. 

Furthermore, being the technological and start-up hub that it is, San Francisco undertakes innovative approaches to waste management, having moved 80% of its waste disposal away from landfills and planning to make this number absolute by next year. 

Portland, Oregon: Growing Population, Lowering Carbon Emissions

Despite of its ever-growing population, Portland demonstrated that with the right plans and frame of mind, sustainability doesn’t have to be restricted by a city’s size. 

25% of the workforce in Portland commutes by bike, public transport, or carpool, and bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for nearly 10% of the city’s residents. 

Also, besides one-third of Portland’s energy consumption coming from renewable sources, it has also banned plastic bags.

Those, as well as other cities around the world, lead by example and prove that sustainability isn’t some unattainable utopia, but a matter of joint efforts, thoughtful policies, and care about the future generations. 

 

Next Story

As Climate Change Brings Extreme Heat Waves around The World, Demand for Air Conditioners Soaring

“By the end of the century, global energy demand for cooling will be more than it is for heating,” said Radhika Khosla

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Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
FILE - People cool off by the Vistula River during a heatwave in Warsaw, Poland, June 30, 2019. VOA

As climate change brings more frequent and extreme heat waves around the world, demand for air conditioners is soaring, with 10 new units sold every second on average, but the poor may be left to swelter, said a University of Oxford researcher.

By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hot countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia, it is expected to grow five-fold, the World Bank has said.

“By the end of the century, global energy demand for cooling will be more than it is for heating,” said Radhika Khosla, who leads an Oxford Martin School program on future cooling.

But not everyone will be able to afford to beat the heat.

Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
As climate change brings more frequent and extreme heat waves around the world, demand for air conditioners is soaring, with 10 new units sold every second. Pixabay

“Traditionally, energy poverty has been defined as people not having heating. Now that is potentially going to shift, and we could have cooling poverty,” Khosla warned on the sidelines of a conference on efforts to slash planet-warming emissions.

Health risks of heat waves

Rising heat is having a huge impact on health — deaths and hospital admissions jump in heat waves — but also on productivity as workers struggle to cope, climate scientists say.

A 2018 report from Sustainable Energy for All, a U.N.-backed organization, said more than 1.1 billion people globally faced immediate risks from lack of access to cooling.

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On a warming planet, cooling is not a luxury but “essential for everyday life,” said the organization’s CEO Rachel Kyte.

Better buildings

But because air conditioners use 20 times as much power as running a fan, their growing popularity could fuel demand for fossil fuel-based electricity that exacerbates climate change.

Rather than relying entirely on air conditioning, buildings should be designed so they are easier to keep cool, which is still rare, said Khosla, who also directs research at the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development.

Climate Change, Heat Waves, World
By 2050, energy use for cooling is projected to triple, while in hot countries like India, China, Brazil and Indonesia, it is expected to grow five-fold, the World Bank has said. Pixabay

Her modern apartment has windows that open just a few inches, making it hard to keep cool on hot days, she said.

“Net zero” buildings, designed partly to stay cool without heavy use of air conditioning, are popping up around the world, from Southeast Asia to the United States and Europe, but remain the exception, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Khosla, who has herself lived in a range of hot cities from New Delhi to Chicago, predicted that in the future, housing that cannot be kept cool or have air conditioning installed could see a drop in value, even in relatively cool places such as Britain.

New technology

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In some developing nations with rising incomes, buying an air conditioner is also a status symbol, which could make any push for lower-energy alternatives challenging, she said.

Making less power-hungry, affordable air conditioners will be crucial, Khosla believes.

Most machines for sale now, the majority built in China, are half as energy-efficient as they could be, she said.

But researchers are working on more efficient cooling technologies that could hit the market in as little as two years, Khosla said.

Judges are now looking at entries for a $3 million global cooling prize, launched by the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Institute, aimed at developing an affordable window air conditioning unit that is at least five times more efficient than current models.

Amory Lovins, co-founder of the institute, said designing cheaper, greener air conditioning was “extremely important.”

Getting manufacturers to ramp up production fast, partly by putting in place policies that require greater energy efficiency, will also be key, Khosla said.

Greener cooling

Greener cooling is “one of the levers we have left” to hold the line on climate change, and using less energy for cooling would help avert power blackouts in cities on sizzling days, she said.

Cities face an “awful feedback loop” as air conditioners churn out hot exhaust, boosting temperatures further, she said.

All these risks mean smarter cooling must be figured out quickly, before the world gets even hotter and more families rush to appliance shops, she said.

“It’s a future we can’t afford to get wrong,” she warned. (VOA)