Skip to main content

You are here

5 lesser-known cities taking sustainability seriously

Zurich has just been announced as the world's most sustainable city based on a number of environmental, social and financial considerations, while Ljubljana, with its impressive public transport infrastructure and noble waste objectives, is the current European Green Capital.


But which are the cities trailblazing in their own way towards a greener future, without any accolades to date? Here's a handful.

San Diego

San Diego, USA

The States' eighth largest city has taken the unique step of setting itself legally-binding – and ambitious – climate targets. These include cutting carbon emissions by 50 per cent, and also creating a cultural shift to see half of the city's commuters doing so on foot, by bike or on public transport by 2035. This is a city used to suburban sprawl and driving, so the coming years should mark an interesting transition. 



Amsterdam, Netherlands

It may be better know for its tulips and cheap-flight tourism, but as part of the Zero Emissions Cities (ZEC) initiative, some innovative ideas are in the planning stage that could see Amsterdam becoming one of Europe's smartest cities. These include a local renewable energy body that sees customers pay no energy bill, instead investing in their own district generating capacity. 


Masdar City

Masdar City, UAE

How could a commuter town in an oil-rich Gulf nation be green? Well, Masdar City is giving it a good go. A new settlement built from the ground up in 2006, it features highly energy-efficient buildings, abundant use of renewable energy, and great public transport. Plus, there are no manual taps or light switches – everything operates by sensor, with the city's designers choosing to 'design out' the human behavioural element of energy efficiency. 



Paving the road to smart cities 

Can low-carbon investment drive a northern renaissance?

Morocco aiming to become big solar power player


Broken Hill Australia

Broken Hill, Australia

Another less likely candidate for a sustainability list, Outback city Broken Hill is most famous for being home of what was the world's largest mining operation. But as the minerals wane, the sun rises. The city is home to a 346-acre, 678,000-panel solar farm, with its creators suggesting it’s the beginning of the large-scale solar industry in Australia. Previously the country has led in rooftop solar PV installations but lagged behind on filling its arid open spaces with green energy capacity – but the scale-up may well be on

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes, UK

Arguably Britain's most famous 'New Town', Milton Keynes is now one of its fastest growing urban areas. Its MK:Smart project, designed to manage local resources as efficiently as possible, is winning awards – as well as some international attention. The Open University is analysing data on energy, transport, pollution and water use from satellites, sensors and other sources, and this can in turn be accessed by third parties to create apps to help local people get involved. Although the project is in its infancy, it certainly has promise. 




Learn more about SiCEDS, the Stakeholder Interactive City Energy Demand Simulator, which will allow stakeholders to see their city like never before, giving unprecedented insight into the potential for energy interventions at the touch of a button.

Is your city an unheralded green trailblazer? Let us know - leave a comment below or tweet us @EnergySvgTrust.

Gary Hartley's picture
Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

Post a comment