Researchers predict that by the year 2050, around 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities. The figures are alarming in terms of the possible effects on our carbon footprint, yet they are also an inspiration to employ new strategies and technologies that will enable us to live more sustainably.

‘It ain’t easy being green,’ sang Kermit, yet what if the old croaker was wrong and change is, in fact, just around the corner?

We should begin, perhaps, by defining the characteristics of a truly green or eco-friendly city. Scientists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California recently published a new method to assess the eco cities in China, through 33 indicators.

These include:
-The percentage of total energy purchased by a city hailing from renewable sources
-The total CO2 emissions per capita
-The amount of municipal water consumption per capita
-The percentage of water sourced from recycled sources
-The proportion of days that air quality meets the standard ‘blue sky’ threshold
-The percentage of public transportation trips taken in all trips
-The percentage of total agricultural land area certified as organic
-The amount of green space per capita
-The percentage of total housing designated as affordable
-The number of health care practitioners per 1,000 persons

Clearly, there is much more to being green than filling a city with parks, building more bike lanes or constructing high-profile green buildings. True greenness involves investment and commitment to specific categories, which include energy, water, air, waste, transport, economic health, land use and social health.

Some of these may be surprising – for instance, social health; research indicates, however, that it is impossible for a city to meet sustainability goals, if its citizens are suffering on a social or economic level. Most importantly, it is important to comprehend that greenness is an evolving concept whose components will change in line with environmental and climatic changes.

The following cities have already made big movements in the way they think, feel, and most importantly, behave. We introduce you to the world’s greenest cities:

Currently, the definitive list of the world’s greenest cities is the Global Green Economy Index, based on a study of 50 cities. The most recently published list (2015) has once again placed Copenhagen on the top spot, with a score of 99.98 out of 100…

Words Marisa Cutillas

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