10 of Sustainable City Around the World That Will Make You Happy to Live

Sustainable City

10 of Sustainable City Around the World That Will Make You Happy to Live

What Is Sustainable City?

Sustainable City
Sustainable city illustration

Sustainable city is related to SDGs Goal No. 11: According to United Nations, more than half of us  live in cities. By 2050, two-thirds of all humanity—6.5 billion people—will be urban. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without significantly transforming the way we build and manage our urban spaces.

The rapid growth of cities—a result of rising populations and increasing migration—has led to a boom in mega-cities, especially in the developing world, and slums are becoming a more significant feature of urban life.

Making sustainable city means creating career and business opportunities, safe and affordable housing, and building resilient societies and economies. It involves investment in public transport, creating green public spaces, and improving urban planning and management in participatory and inclusive ways.

The Sustainable City criteria claims to be using the United Nations definition of sustainability: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In applying this to cities it has looked at:

  1. transport systems that enable people to navigate quickly and affordably;
  2. clean and safe water supplies;
  3. strong social structures and institutions;
  4. a healthy and well educated workforce;
  5. an environment conducive to strong economic performance;
  6. performance on waste management;
  7. performance on air and water pollution;
  8. greenhouse class emissions;
  9. resilience to extreme natural events.


Abu Dhabi
Sustainable city: Abu Dhabi

Masdar City, located in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s most sustainable city urban communities, a low-carbon development made up of a rapidly growing clean-tech cluster, business free zone and residential neighborhood with restaurants, shops and public green spaces.

Masdar City, which covers an area of six square kilometres in the United Arab Emirates, was created with the desire to achieve this and become home to between 45,000 and 50,000 people. Although it lies in the middle of a desert, it enjoys a strategic location, being five minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport, 20 minutes from downtown Abu Dhabi and 40 minutes from Dubai. It is intended to house 1,500 companies and 60,000 workers who would commute to Masdar every day.

The project, announced in 2006 and designed by Foster and Partners, has been financed by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Masdar, a renewable energy company in Abu Dhabi. Since then, it has attracted more than 400 foreign companies and firms such as General Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Schneider Electric and Siemens.

In fact, the latter company has built one of the most intelligent buildings on the planet there —its headquarters— whose design was conceived as a box within another box. The inner part has an airtight façade designed to reduce thermal conductivity. The external structure features aluminium cladding that minimizes the effects of the sun and a system of blades that rise and fall to adapt to the direction of the solar rays. In addition, the building achieves a 63% savings in energy consumption and a 52% reduction in water consumption compared to a standard office building.

Masdar’s philosophy of urban development is based on the three pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability. Masdar City is a ‘greenprint’ for the sustainable development of cities through the application of real-world solutions in energy and water efficiency, mobility and the reduction of waste.
Masdar City is open to the public and welcomes tourists, residents, students, academics, entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors to its collaborative environment, which encourages people to live, work and play sustainably


Sustainable city: Brisbane

Brisbane has for many years received recognition for its sustainable urban living, innovative ideas, as well as proper litter management processes. Brisbane City Council has a vision that will see the waterways restored and wildlife protected by 2031, which will in return attract business. The question of how to make Brisbane a sustainable city is what the authorities work on answering each day.

There is a lot to learn from the efforts Brisbane has put into enhancing eco-friendly disposal of rubbish and creation of a habitable environment for the residents which can be used by other cities in Australia and also globally.

The residents of Brisbane have acknowledged that protecting our environment is a collective goal. It can, therefore, be observed that households have adopted renewable energy sources to replace the non-renewable ones that are harmful to the environment.

Each resident is also wary of how they dispose of litter. More food waste is used as compost manure while the recyclable items are taken into recycling plants. It is evident that the initiative has led to a reduction in debris at the landfills.

Most importantly, people have taken it upon themselves to educate the masses on environmental sustainability through art, music, schools, and other learning mediums. All the efforts are aimed at ensuring the city remains green and clean for future generations.

Many non-profit organizations have taken up the role of educating masses on garbage reuse. Some also take some of the discarded items and sell them at lower costs to the people. Most of the waste that would have otherwise found itself in the landfills is diverted.

Brisbane’s CityCycle has been initiated by a Brisbane City Council. The project aims at encouraging people to cycle into the city rather than using cars which emit fumes that are not good for the environment. The council has availed the bikes to all residents and visitors. Ideally, you can pick a bike at any bus stop leading to the city. The people have gladly taken up the idea, and it is evident from the number of people who cycle to work every morning.

Other than reducing the emission of gases from vehicles, riding bikes also reduces traffic congestion which is a win-win situation for the masses. They get to work on time and at the same time conserves their environment.

While in Brisbane, you can be sure of quality foods and vegetables fresh from the garden. The most exciting thing is that the food is grown organically making it healthy for consumption. A food connect collects healthy foods direct from farmers who are found about five hours from the city. The fresh produce is then distributed to collection points within the city center for the residents to purchase. Growing of crops organically is beneficial to the environment because chemicals kill water life.

The city council spearheads the project, and it aims at conserving natural habitat. The plan works by pooling together members of the community to create a sustainable, clean, and green city. The volunteers identify any indigenous plants as well as reporting any wildlife they spot. The project also helps remove rubbish from parks and other vital Brisbane green spaces such as the City Botanical Gardens so that they remain attractive to visitors. Trees are good for the environment because they not only offer homes to animals such as squirrels owls, and other birds but they also attract rain.

Brisbane households use about 169 units of water monthly which is the lowest in the whole of Australia. It, therefore, implies that the residents have taken it upon themselves to ensure that their city is sustainable for future generations. The city council has also started water catchment programs which aim at safeguarding the water in the rivers of Brisbane. Besides, the council also takes keen measures to monitor the safety of the water used by the residents by carrying out a treatment process. The authorities in Brisbane have also established water treatment plants that aim at reusing water so that it is enough for the people.

But what could brisbane do to improve its eco-friendliness? The improvement can only be seen if people work together with the city council and the volunteer groups to keep on improving their living space. Living in Brisbane in the future will be a dream come true for most people if everyone works towards the achievement of the city’s goals towards a greener and a cleaner environment for all.


Sustainable city: Canberra

Australian capital city Canberra has topped a new study of the world’s most sustainable city.

The study, conducted by UK price comparison site Uswitch, calculated an index score based on seven sustainability factors which were: energy; transportation infrastructure; affordability; pollution; air quality; CO2 emissions; and percentage of green space available.

Canberra was found to have excellent public transport service; it offers 48% of its energy in sustainable ways, while scoring one of the lowest scores (13.89) on the pollution index.

Spanish capital city Madrid occupied second position, scoring highly for energy (77%) and transport (82%), with Queensland capital Brisbane completing the top three – scoring low on pollution rates (22%) and high for transport infrastructure (75%).

The study noted Australian cities in general perform well, with ‘excellent’ solar power bidding farewell to energy options of the past. In addition, Australia is often regarded as a leader in sustainable development as it recognizes the role it plays in the wellbeing of its people and nation.


Sustainable City: Copenhagen

Copenhagen is on a mission to become the first carbon-emission-free city by 2025. This eco friendly city and the capital of Denmark, more than half of its population uses bicycles as a daily of transportation. Not only that, Copenhagen also has more than 2,220 hectares of green area with public access. If you are on vacation here, don’t be surprised if there are many cyclists passing by on the city streets.

The city of Copenhagen is one of the most sustainable and energy efficient cities in the world. According to its Carbon Neutral by 2025 Plan, it has the ambition of becoming the first carbon neutral capital by 2025. Some initiatives that have helped support this goal include Copenhagen’s environment friendly modes of transport, sensitivity to climate change, sustainable urban redevelopment, and efficient energy use tactics.

Throughout its efforts in encouraging a healthy sustainable lifestyle among its people, its planning process plays a more significant role than simply altering people’s values. A 2006 survey found that 54% of Copenhagen cyclists ride because of its convenience, while only 1% ride for environmental reasons.

 Therefore the sustainable, energy-efficient city did not come only from citizens’ desires to be environmentally conscious. Rather, it is the city’s job to provide accessibility towards sustainable options. Copenhagen’s success is then attributed to how accessible and livable its planned projects are for its everyday citizens. 

Make sure during your vacation to Copenhagen you take the time to stop by Tivoli Park, the icon of the city of Copenhagen that has existed since the 19th century!


Sustainable city: Dubai


Sustainable city: Frankfurt

Frankfurt is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth largest city in Germany, with a 2011 population of 664,838. The city is at the center of the larger Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region which is Germany’s second-largest metropolitan region.

Frankfurt demonstrates a commitment to energy performance via long-term development of energy production efficiency, the continuous development of co-generation plants, the implementation of the Energy Act coupled with municipal and private investments in energy conservation. All new buildings in Frankfurt must be passive, i.e. meet strict standards for energy use. The city is implementing an ambitious Green Public Procurement policy, especially in the building sector. Frankfurt banned the use of tropical timber in 1999 and the use of PVC is also forbidden. A guideline document for cost-effective construction is used in the industry.

In working towards a sustainable city Frankfurt has achieved a great deal. Total volumes of waste have been decreasing for years. The city has invested heavily in modern waste sorting, processing and recycling equipment within the city area, cutting down on transport costs. Environmental campaigns in areas like water and electricity have led to reductions in water and electricity consumption beyond the national average. Schemes like the 100% metering and quality checking of water consumed by business and private users and the very low water leakages form the pipe network (3.3%) show Frankfurt’s commitment to sensible water usage.

As part of the “Frankfurt e-mobility 2025” strategy, a large number of individual projects will be promoting the use of electric cars and the requisite charging infrastructure, other electrically powered vehicles and the interlinking of different transport means (“travel chains”) until 2025.


Sustainable city: Hamburg

The second most populous city in Germany is becoming the first green city and sustainable city of Europe: the cycle-paths, electric mobility, waste reduction, redevelopment of neighborhoods are some of the positive practices put in place by the city, which every day shows how to develop economically while respecting the environment.  In a long line of a far-sighted policy of sustainable development for a sustainable city that in recent years has radically changed the face of Hamburg. Not so long ago, the city had a very high rate of pollution because of the heavy industry and low quality of life.

The emblem of this incredible change is definitely the former landfill in the Wilhelmsburg neighborhood that proved highly toxic in 1983, having also polluted the water tables with dioxins released from waste. Precisely in that same area was born the Energy Hill project, a 40 meters hill where there are a wind power station and a photovoltaic system capable of meeting the energy needs of 4,000 families.

In the city, there are a lot of green building and entire neighborhoods have changed, with new green areas, parks and large fields that represent areas of relaxation for citizens and at the same time help to reduce air pollution through the trees that absorb CO2.

The harbor of Hamburg is the third in Europe by extension and commercial importance but the entire port area in recent years has been the subject of a profound work of redevelopment, becoming a residential area where industrial elements are combined with the latest eco-friendly technologies.

For the next target of Hamburg is by 2034 it will say goodbye to cars thanks to a huge network of cycle paths that will connect the entire city.


Sustainable city: Madrid

In recent years, an increasing number of Spanish cities recognize the need for bold steps to confront an emerging urban crisis.

Since the concept of a green economy was forged in the 1990s, the ideas and strategies for green cities have evolved into a variety of urban development policies, smart city solutions and sustainability measures to protect the environment, enable economic development and ensure high quality of life.

However, the well-intentioned aim to secure a global commitment to sustainable cities has proven a complex challenge for governments at all levels. Sustainability development problems “occur massively in fast-growing cities and their surroundings as well as in urban regions because political, economic and civil society institutions can only gradually adapt to the challenges of urbanization. These problems include overstrained infrastructure systems as well as ecological risks.”

Growth in Spanish cities has been accompanied by increased air pollution and traffic congestion. The transport sector generates an estimated 35 percent of total CO2 emissions in Spain, and cars account for 11 percent of the total. The Spanish newspaper El Pais reports “at least 15 million Spaniards are breathing air the EU considers polluted, and more than half of Spain is wreathed in air containing excessive levels of particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.” The percentage of Spain’s population subjected to an unfavorable air quality index “presents inadmissible and dangerous realities.”

Climate change also poses a significant threat in Spain. According to the Observatory of Sustainability, the average maximum temperature is predicted to increase by 3 to 5°C by the end of this century. Decreased precipitation rates have already been recorded in the Iberian Peninsula, […] and “the duration of dry periods tend to be longer.” As reported by CityLab, an Arup study predicts a 25 percent drop in Madrid’s accumulated rainfall by 2050, accompanied by torrential storms and severe flooding.

On a national level, Spain is already “one of the driest countries in Europe, a situation that will worsen with climate change,” explains Judit Urquijo, Environmental Technician and Community Manager, “and we are one of the countries with the largest water footprint of approximately 2450 m3 per inhabitant per year. An estimated 80% of water goes to agriculture. Spain registers a large percentage of losses during the supply process, losing 25% of the volume, according to a report from PwC. We also have serious problems with water purification. In 2018, the European Court sentenced Spain’s government to pay a penalty of 10.9 million euros for each six-month delay and 12 million euros for a delay in meeting wastewater treatment obligations.”

To evaluate Spain’s sustainability progress, the Spanish Network for Sustainable Development (REDS), published The Sustainable Development Goals in 100 Spanish Cities. This ground-breaking study is intended to (a) support local governments in Spain in the implementation of sustainable development projects; and (b) raise awareness of SDGs among public entities, the private sector and universities.

Major sustainability and green city challenges in Spanish cities include preparing for climate change threats, strengthening water management, reversing the deterioration in air quality, improving waste management, managing urban biodiversity, and supporting alliances among smart cities and green city stakeholders.

Read also: Waste Recycling is Crucial, These are The 6 Best Countries for Recycling Waste


Sustainable city: Prague

The Czech Republic ranked 8th in the global Sustainable Development Goals 2020 Index, and as its capital city, Prague must take some of the reflected glory of that ranking—while shouldering much of the responsibility for ensuring it retains or improves it. Prague is already a very green and compact city, easy to walk around and with an enviable public transport system. But there are still plenty of issues for this capital city to tackle.

Prague’s Climate Commitment as well as the rest of the Czech Republic, has during the last decades been facing increasing frequency and intensity of some types of extreme weather events related to climate change. Last year, the Prague City Council approved a commitment for the city to reduce CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030 and eliminate them entirely by 2050 at the latest. To reach these goals, the City has developed strategies to tackle the issues that contribute to CO2 emissions and build on progress it’s already made.

The City recognizes that new planting is necessary to maintain the quality of existing wooded areas and reduce traffic noise in residential areas. It also recognizes the positive environmental effect of larger tree groupings, which can hold large amounts of water, effectively cooling the landscape, improving the microclimate and preventing soil erosion on slopes and riverbanks.

Prague is one of nearly 30 cities that have signed the European Circular Cities Declaration, which recognises the need to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe, and it’s developing its Circular Economy Strategy 2030. However, some measures are already agreed or in place.


Prague already has a high waste recycling rate, with less than 10% of waste ending up in the landfill. The City plans to further refine its waste management and, above all, reduce waste generation. It’s introduced city-wide biowaste collection and a pilot kitchen waste collection scheme, and it intends to reduce the total production of mixed municipal waste in the city by at least half by 2030. Pilot projects have also been established for collecting oils, fats, and bulky waste, and for the set-up of re-use points at collection yards.

 The City authorities no longer use single-use plastic packages and tableware at their own events, nor do they offer support to events that still use single-use plastic items.

Prague’s public transport system is already extensive and cheap to use (the City pays 80% of its operating costs), but while many Prague residents already use public transport, up to 80% of those commuting from suburban areas use private cars. The Tune Up Prague Project focuses on improving urban mobility in the capital as both resident and visitor numbers grow. As part of this project, the City has approved a Sustainable Mobility Plan that details the measures all involved parties will take to ensure more sustainable transport in the city up to 2030.




Sustainable city: Zurich

Zurich is known as a contemporary city that focuses on the environment as well as its focus on becoming a global financial institution.

Zurich seeks to become a pioneer as a 2,000-watt city society by 2050. The 2,000-watt society is an approach taken by the City Government to deal with climate change and the increasing scarcity of natural resources.

The goal is to make the people of Zurich use only 2,000 watts of energy per capita, corresponding to the amount of global sustainable energy use.
The commitments made to realize this program include investing and focusing on energy saving and renewable energy, and building sustainable buildings.
Then mobility for the future, and efforts to raise public awareness, including the annual environmental-themed event on the Zurich Multimobil Day of Action.

The next factor is public transportation whose model is very sustainable compared to other countries. The existence of trams, trains, buses, high-speed trains, and others is well coordinated so that public mobility becomes simpler and more affordable.

As a global economic hub, Zurich is not only an attractive place for business but also for people to be there. The good quality of life, attractive education, and high job opportunities are other factors that are other factors in Zurich’s high position in the list of sustainable cities.

A wide range of innovations and business industries from small to large form an important foundation in Zurich’s economic sector. In addition, the high levels of productivity and low labor costs in Zurich mean that production costs are lower than any other city in the world. For all of these factors, Zurich has become an attractive city to be a place to invest, live and work.

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