Green isn’t just a trend anymore it’s a lifestyle and when adopted on a large scale, it can have impressive impacts on the effects of global conservation. While certainly not cheap or easy, here are some real leaders in the green space who are innovative in their sustainable design and tourism practices from the obvious to the surprising.
Japan is bursting at the seams with people so anything they can do to improve the quality of life is a plus on their claustrophobic island. While already extremely efficient with their public transportation systems, the newly remodeled Osaka Station is powered by solar power, wind energy and houses a public garden on the roof called "Tenku no Noen" translating to "Farm in the Sky." The concourse is air-conditioned with Dry Mist and the dome roof collects rainwater to recycle as a useable water supply. Literally every green option was taken into consideration in its construction and sets the tone for future city planning.
Touted as the most livable city in the world, Vancouver has ambitiously stated it will become the “greenest city in the world by 2020.” They already boast the lowest carbon emissions anywhere thanks to a stellar public transit system, bike lanes, and ride sharing, and over 90% of their power is generated from renewable sources.
With half of the city’s power coming from renewable sources, Portland consistently tops lists of greenest cities in America. In addition, they have 35+ buildings certified by the USGBC and are leading the way in sustainable public transportation options.
No other country has built more eco-projects than Germany. Known for being both a green and solar city, Breisgau is aiming for a 40% CO2 reduction by 2030. They also have an extensive pedestrian zone in the city center where no automobiles are allowed.
In 2007, a new suburb was built that included 15,000 new homes designed to meet the highest level of international green standards. The plans for Clonburris included countless innovations such energy efficient heating and cooling, mandatory renewable energy for electricity, the use of recycled and sustainable building materials, the ability to grow their own food, and even the banning of tumble driers to minimize environmental effects.
While the Windy City isn’t utilizing its namesake for energy just yet, in 2000, Mayor Daley installed the first rooftop garden in City Hall as an experiment in the economic and environmental viability of green roofs. Since then, there are over 7 million square feet of green roofs completed or underway throughout Chicago, more than all other U.S. cities combined. Urban farming, anyone?
You always heard that Iceland was green and Greenland was ice-covered, but you can think of green in terms of both the ridiculous landscapes and their sustainability practices. The city is almost completely powered by geothermal and hydropower and public transportation revolves around the use of hydrogen buses.
Reveled for having the world’s best bus system, Curitiba, a mid-sized city in central Brazil is a model public transportation mecca many other urban centers would do well exemplifying. With buses more frequent, reliable and comfortable than most urban subway systems, Curitiba is an extremely livable city. And for kicks, they have a herd of 30 sheep that naturally trim the grass in their vast outdoor park space.
With the world’s largest offshore windmill park, more than 5,600 windmills produce about 10 percent of Denmark’s electricity, winning them a European Environmental Award for long-term holistic city planning. The political ambition is to make Copenhagen the world's leading bicycle city by 2015, giving visitors the opportunity to explore on two wheels for free.
Bahía de Caráquez, Ecuador
After two devastating natural disasters (including El Niño) almost removed them from the map, Bahía had to completely reconstruct itself and it did so the right way. Declared an “eco city” in 1999, this coastal paradise features the world's first certified-organic shrimp farm so don’t feel bad about indulging on their delicious seafood offerings.