The World’s Top Cities for Eco-Friendly Travel
When most people think of city life and urban culture, they imagine car horns blaring, smog-filled air, and a frantic pace. And for a good reason.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to tolerate air pollution, traffic congestion, and the effects of climate change that come with so many emissions just to live in a city. Many cities have already made significant strides toward reducing their carbon footprint through sustainable transit options; all we need do is follow their example (and maybe visit them to see how they’ve done it).
In this episode, we will take a quick trip around the world’s top cities for sustainable travel! These cities make it easier to work, travel and live more sustainably. Supporting their residents to reduce their footprint, keep up eco-friendly habits, build community and safety, allowing travelers to tour without making a significant impact.
P.S This list is by no means comprehensive, but I wanted to highlight some of my favorites for eco-friendly transit
To kick things off, let’s visit one of the happiest cities in the world – Copenhagen, Denmark!
Copenhagen, Denmark, has been voted the most eco-friendly city in the world several times over because of its commitment to developing green ways of living. This Danish capital, also known for its canals, beautiful views, and excellent food, has a population of 1.3 million people in and around the city. Still, in the city proper, it boasts an impressive population density of 18,000 people per square mile!
Copenhagen has been praised for its sustainable transit options for years; visitors can choose from ferries (built using wind power), a fleet of zero-emission buses (with the goal of all-electric buses by 2025), bikes, or even walking if they so choose!
In fact, Copenhagen ranks as one of the world’s best cities for cycling. VisitCopenhagen.com says this is due to its simple, connected, safe biking infrastructure. They report four basic ways they do this: traffic-calmed streets, painted bike lanes, separated cycle tracks, and green routes that get you where you need to go. AND shared roadways on quieter streets instead of giving bikers a single lane. It’s no wonder that more than 60 percent of people in Copenhagen commute to work or school by bike!
Another cool thing for travelers, according to the Sustainable Living Guide, is that “two-thirds of their hotels are eco-certified, indicating they follow the highest standards for sustainable energy, food, and design.”
Next up on this list is Curitiba, Brazil. Curitiba is a city of 1.9 million people in the southern state of Paraná. What once was a crowded, polluted metropolis is now known as the greenest city in Brazil and has many eco-friendly practices that make it a model for other cities to follow.
The Curitiba Metropolitan Transport Company (CMT) was created in 1974 in response to an ever-growing population that needed reliable transportation services. The CMT pioneered new forms of public transit, including a bus rapid transit system (BRT) that provided bus stops on dedicated express lanes and bike lanes separated from traffic. This helped lower emissions and provided a cheap public transport option for its citizens.
The city also has a unique green space throughout the urban area, with 1.5 million trees planted and 28 public parks built since the 70s. They’ve been at the front of sustainable urban development, and thanks to the Free Environmental University housed there, all of Curitiba’s residents are encouraged to learn about sustainability and conservation.
Grenoble has been named the European Green Capital for 2022 because it was one of the first French local authorities to adopt a Climate Plan. The European Commission says, “After applying a 30km speed limit throughout the city, the Grenoble metropole became France’s largest low emission zone.” That’s about 18 miles per hour for those who are paying attention!
The European Commission also says that Grenoble is France’s top city for bicycle commuting due partly to cycling incentives and reimbursements. These efforts equated to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 to 2016, and they are working towards a 50% reduction by 2030!
It may come as a surprise that one of the largest cities in the world is on its way to the most sustainable. But unfortunately, rising temperatures due to climate change have forced Japan not only to implement measures for sustainability’s sake but for survival.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) launched a city decarbonization effort to achieve zero emissions in Tokyo by 2050. Part of their comprehensive zero-emission plan is in the transport sector. Tokyo is a city of over 13 million people, and more than 8 million commute by public transit daily. The city has an extensive network of trains, subways, and buses that connect in a way that makes it possible for residents to get around without needing a car. But for those who drive cars, the goal is to create infrastructure to support zero-emission vehicles or ZEVs “Using next-generation technologies (battery technologies, contactless chargers, high-efficiency hydrogen supply system, etc.),” that can be used to power homes in case of power outage emergencies.
And like many other cities worldwide, Tokyo offers a bike-share system at locations all across the city.
You may not instantly think of London as an eco-friendly destination, but the city is taking several steps to reduce its carbon footprint. They hope to improve air quality by banning diesel cars from London by 2040.
London has the highest number of electric buses in Europe. There are more than 650 electric buses, over 2,600 diesel-electric hybrid buses, and even hydrogen fuel cell buses on London roads – with more in the works! They say that by 2037 at the latest, all 9,200 buses across London will be zero-emission, making London a leader in adopting greener modes of transport.
London also has over 3,000 green spaces and parks, which make up 40% of the city. So whether you’re traveling from another country or commuting within the city – there are plenty of beautiful places to enjoy the fresh air.
To round out our list is Ljubljana, Slovenia. You might not have had Ljubljana on your bucket list – but maybe you should reconsider! According to Forbes, “The capital of Slovenia has not only been ranked the #1 European Green capital, but it has also been the only capital in Europe to be included six times on the Sustainable Destination Top 100 list.”
Ljubljana has been car-free since 2008 and instead focuses on pedestrians! For locals and visitor pedestrians, they’ve provided access to a bike-share system for up to an hour of free ride.
They have more than 542 square meters, about 5800 square feet, of green spaces, bike trails, and even a Bee Trail to teach the importance of bees in biodiversity!
If you haven’t noticed, many cities promoting sustainable transport have bike infrastructure in place. I love this quote about bikes from Slovenia’s website that reads, “The only pollution is your deep breath, there is hardly any noise, except for the bell ringing, you can park (nearly) anywhere, not to mention the positive effect of outdoor exercise on our body and mind.” – Slovenia. And we learned that in our nature episodes.
So whether you’re traveling to Slovenia or your neighborhood, biking is the best way to adopt eco-friendly travel!
Something to grow on
I hope this list shows you that cities have what it takes to become more eco-friendly for their commuters and visitors. In all of these cases, it required a concentrated effort from government officials, business owners, and residents alike to succeed. But I am confident that if we do this together, anything is possible – and it starts with adopting the habit of eco-friendly travel in your daily life!
For this week’s something to grow on, I want to remind you that whether you’re traveling to get to work, see the world, connect with your family and other cultures, or even find yourself – you can do it responsibly. Keep in mind to protect nature, empower communities, and leave as little footprint as possible.
If you haven’t already – I challenge you to look up public transit in your city and see how you can take advantage of it, text a work friend and plan a carpool system, or if you have a trip planned, take a little bit of extra time to look up eco-friendly options in the area. If we look after this earth, it will look after us too.
Until next time, thanks for joining me, and safe travels, neighbors.
For more information on sustainable travel: visit https://sustainabletravel.org/
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