#10. Kampala, Uganda
Who would’ve thought that Uganda’s largest city would be a model for environmental policy and urban farming? Instead of fighting urban agriculture, the city embraced it, passing a set of bylaws that prompted the entire country to follow suit. The city is also looking into congestion fees and urban transit.
#9 Bogotá, Colombia
Nearly a decade ago, former mayor Enrique Peñalosa transformed Bogotá into a pedestrian-friendly city, revitalizing the bus transportation system, augmenting the sidewalks and creating over 180 miles of bike paths. Perhaps most ambitious was his plan to eliminate personal vehicles during rush hour by 2015.
#8 Sydney, Australia
The first place to switch to energy efficient light bulbs has its eyes set on carbon neutrality. It has earned accolades for its food-waste disposal program, initiated after studies showed that Sydney households tossed over $600 million in fresh produce each year. Zero Waste SA looks to reduce food waste and divert waste into rich compost.
#7 San Francisco, California
One of the first cities to Rise Above Plastics and ban non-recyclable plastic bags, San Francisco is also a leader in green building, requiring that all government buildings meet LEED Silver standards and all building owners to report their annual energy consumption.
#6 Copenhagen, Denmark
The cyclist’s dream city, Copenhagen is at the forefront of green, which is no surprise given that the Danes pioneered national-scale environmental policies. Copenhagen has won awards for its long-term environmental planning strategies. No wonder it’s also one of the world’s most livable cities.
#5 Vancouver, Canada
With over 90 percent of the city powered by renewable energy, Vancouver is a leader in innovative sustainable and energy efficient technologies—from wind to solar to hydroelectricity. With over 200 parks, it’s easy to forget that you’re in one of Canada’s largest cities.
#4 Malmö, Sweden
While developers build eco-cities around the world from scratch, Malmö is revitalizing itself to become one. Copenhagen’s fellow green neighbor across the Oresund strait, Malmö has become a leader in truly sustainable development. While its parks steal most of the attention, Malmö’s urban neighborhoods sets the bar for green urban development.
#3 Portland, Oregon
Portland and ‘Smart Growth” are synonymous. One of the first cities to institute a green belt around the urban boundary, Portland adopted an innovative transit-based approach to development. When they’re not cycling on one of the city’s many bike paths, residents and visitors take advantage of the light rail system.
#2 Curitiba, Brazil
Brazil’s best kept green secret, Curitiba is home to one of the world’s best rapid transit systems. No wonder the majority of its residents leave their cars at home. In addition to super happy residents, Curitiba is home to a flock of 30 sheep who maintain the municipal parks.
#1 Reykjavik, Iceland
The cleanest city in Europe, Reykjavik is a global leader in sustainable development and green technology. Its bus system is fueled by hydrogen. The city’s heat and electricity is derived from renewable geothermal and hydropower sources. With all of this innovation, the city is on track to reach its goal as a fossil-free city by 2050. “It will of course be costly, but we believe that if these ten green steps work, we will save money in the long run,” head of the Reykjavík City Environmental Health and Protection Committee Gísli Marteinn Baldursson said in a statement in 2007.
Although it’s much smaller in size than many of the aforementioned cities, its green impact is huge. As part of its Green Steps in Reykjavik program, the city offers free parking to eco-friendly vehicles and has widened footpaths to encourage walking.