4 Sustainable Cities to Visit in 2019
Guest Blog Post by Abby Golder
So excited to feature another sustainability blog post by Abby on Bruce’s Roots.
Abby is a content writer with a passion for sustainability, travel, and adventure. She recently graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism where she mastered her writing and videography skills. She has produced short-form documentaries on locally-sourced food in and around the Phoenix area. Originally from Colorado, you can still find Abby enjoying the mountains while hiking or skiing. Learn more about her work at Edit Masters Media.
Traveling is important for a lot of reasons. It gives you time to explore, relax, and engage in some self-care so you return to your everyday life a better person. When you’re interested in living green, though, travel takes on a new component.
Traveling tends to leave a large footprint on the environment. You want to give your dollars to cities that engage in sustainable practices and that are actively working to make the planet a better place. Luckily, there are many sustainable cities to visit. Add these four sustainable cities to your 2019 travel list:
New York City, NY
New York might not be the first place that jumps to mind when you think of sustainable, but it's making huge strides. The city's 2013 plan, “A Strong, More Resilient New York” focused on rebuilding in a more environmentally friendly way after Hurricane Sandy. These efforts made it the winner of the Adaptation and Resilience category of the Siemens and Cities Climate Leadership Group awards.
Each year, the city has reduced its greenhouse emissions, going from over 50 million tons in 2015 to a projected 12 tons by 2050. It has done this by integrating climate change mapping in its city planning, retrofitting city trucks with clean air systems, retrofitting public housing with more efficient energy systems, protecting its coastlines, and much more.
New York’s plans have directly affected tourism, with more money being invested in mass transit, creation of new parks, growing bike lanes, investment in local business and the arts. You can help while there by using the mass public transit, taking a bike tour instead of a bus, eating at locally-owned restaurants, and shopping at locally-owned businesses.
Tokyo, Japan aims to be the world’s most sustainable megacity and has taken similar steps as New York in its city planning, rolling out programs like promoting eco-friendly transport, preserving greenery and lowering city temperature by covering buildings with planters and using water-retentive pavement among other things.
This means that simply by using public transport or taking a Prius taxi, you will be helping the city reach sustainability goals. In Tokyo, try staying in independent ryokans, which are traditional inns. Choose to eat meals that are locally sourced and avoid sushi that uses scarce species, such as eel, bluefin tuna, shark and whale. This will minimize your footprint while traveling, while still helping to sustain the local economy.
Austin, Texas has a thriving arts scene and an ambitious plan to build sustainability into many areas of governing. The city’s goal is to reduce net greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050.
The city is also focused on the creation of a local food system that zeroes in on job creation, equitable access to healthy and local grown food, and the benefit of community gardens. Austin knows when people can eat nutritious food, it will improve overall public health and benefit everyone.
In addition, the city has created “Ecodistricts”, which address sustainability strategies on a micro level in individual communities. This allows for effective customization based on specific populations and needs, instead of a general plan that might not be right for everyone. Residents in Austin make it a point to use nearby services like responsible, local trash pickup and home maintenance services.
When in Austin, make sure to partake in the local businesses. Texas is a state in which most land is privately held, so they’ve been promoting eco-tourism on private property. You can participate in eco tourism and help the local economy by visiting a ranch that provides a unique experience. There are also other tourism opportunities on many public lands like bat or bird watching, tracking, paddling, or gardening.
Stockholm, Sweden has the distinction of being the cleanest city in the world and the first European Green Capital. With ambitious ways to overhaul how things work despite rapid population growth, Stockholm’s working to be completely fossil-fuel free by 2040.
Stockholm is home to Hammarby sjöstad (Hammarby Lake City), a development that’s considered to be the most cutting-edge sustainable community in the world. In fact, it’s the most often copied sustainable concept. It consists of a former industrial area that’s been transformed into an eco-city for 26,000 residents. To conserve resources, the city uses energy conservation that reduces the average usage by 50%. It does this by utilizing an aggressive storm and waste-water recycling systems.
To make travel as eco-conscious and quiet as possible, there’s a tram-line as the main mode of transportation, along with pedestrian and bike lanes. Vehicle traffic has been carefully planned and routed to not be next to walking paths or residences, allowing for a more relaxing atmosphere. Rooftop gardens and common-area courtyards provide plenty of opportunity for planting vegetables or flower patches.
You can visit and partake of its sights yourself. One experience they offer to all visitors is a special home visit with a couple who will cook a locally-sourced dinner for you as you enjoy a lake view. The villa, Studio Sjövillan, was built as a common-use experimental building about twenty years ago and is now used as a meeting or retreat site. You can also arrange to learn more about the city and how to implement it in other areas.
While in Stockholm, use public transportation like buses, which are all wheelchair accessible. For a low-cost yet stylish visit, look into staying at Skeppsholmen Hostel. This is actually a boat that is anchored on the water with a view of the city.
Other Stockholm tips:
Look for groceries marked “KRAV,” which means they’ve been organically, sustainably, and ethically produced.
Sweden prides itself on water quality, so bring a reusable bottle.
When touring, look for companies with the “Nature’s Best” certification. This means the operators have been trained to provide the best tour that will affect the environment the least.
Any of these cities will provide a world-class experience and support efforts in creating long-term sustainability for an urban population. No matter where you travel, try to use reusable products that are good for the environment. Use public transportation as much as possible; and frequent small local stores and hotels. Happy travels!
Comment below with the city you’d love to go to.