The top five green cities in the world

    Posted: October 1, 2021

    Original photo:  Architecture ” by Pexels is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    If you’ve been keeping up with global news over the last few years, you should be familiar with the critical need for expanding environmental awareness around the world. 

    But what does environmental awareness actually look like in our day-to-day habits and lifestyles? Let’s talk about what it means to be environmentally friendly, and find out about the top five cities in the world that are making positive moves for the environment. 

    What does it mean to be environmentally friendly?

    Being environmentally friendly simply means that you keep a lifestyle that is not harmful to the environment.

    It might involve “green living”, where you live with an awareness of the environment and its well-being. But it doesn’t stop there. Green living isn’t just living with awareness, but putting it into practice too.

    You can practice green living by replacing everyday items with environmentally-friendly items like paper bags instead of single-use plastic bags. You can also take part in environmentally-friendly activities like recycling, reducing your waste and joining local beach or public park cleanups.


    What makes a city green?

    As we all know, along with cities come factors like traffic, masses of people, and, invariably, pollution. But green cities encourage sustainable lifestyles for their populations, and provide resources to make sustainable living possible. Green cities are designed to take an active approach towards addressing climate change and being environmentally friendly.

    Green cities often implement recycling programs, bike lanes, and community parks; and they have strict water quality standards.


    Original photo: City Skyline” by Free-Photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


    We’ve listed the top five green cities in the world.

    1) Vienna, Austria


    2) Munich, Germany


    • Munich is known as one of the world’s most walkable cities. 
    • Rapid-transit systems are set to significantly reduce car ownership in the city in the future.
    • It’s known to have some of the healthiest air in an urban area anywhere in the world.

    3) Berlin, Germany

    Original photo: Garden Landscaping” by MALCOLUMBUS is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


    4) Madrid, Spain


    • Madrid is one of the world’s greenest capitals, since the city made large investments in infrastructure that allowed for the mingling of architectural attractions and plant life.
    • Most of Madrid’s leisure activities take an environmentally-friendly spin – like solar-powered tour boats, and walking and biking tours.
    • There are plans to upgrade 100% of Madrid’s street lights to become more energy efficient. This will add up to an energy saving of more than 40%.
    • Since 1 January 2018, all of the taxis running in Madrid were required to be eco-friendly.

    5) São Paulo, Brazil

    Original photo: “São Paulo, Brazil” by L. Centomo is licensed under CC0 1.0


    • São Paulo is a megacity with more than 20 million inhabitants, yet it’s one of the world’s biggest users of renewable energy. 
    • There are almost 200 farmers’ markets around the city that help to reduce the carbon emissions that come from agricultural transport. 
    • The city launched its Strategic Master Plan in 2014, which stepped up its people-oriented development, and improved public and non-motorised transport.


    This image was taken pre-COVID-19. 


    Although you might be green with envy after seeing how much these cities have accomplished, you could follow in their footsteps and implement some of their green strategies in your local community. 

    And who knows, your city might show up on the “green list” in the near future too!

    Find out more about GVI’s international, award-winning volunteer programs and internships. Choose from conservation projects worldwide, and add to the greening of the global community.