These cities have figured out how to grow sustainably

European cities are living up to their reputation for being greener and more pleasant than cities in the US and the rest of the world. That’s according to a top-10 list of sustainable cities released by the design and engineering consultancy firm Arcadis in a recent report (pdf).

Arcadis looked at a selection of 50 cities around the world, using a definition of sustainability that goes beyond the environment, wrapping in economic viability and a sustainable quality of life for its citizens.

The report, compiled by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), looked at 50 cities’ sustainability levels by culling data from a range of sources, including the Siemens Green City Index and the World Bank’s World Development Indicators.

The study’s 50 cities were selected by CEBR to reflect a wide geographical coverage and range of levels of economic development, according to Colin Edwards, a senior economist at CEBR. Arcadis asked CEBR to look at cities that were urbanized, growing, and facing major challenges to sustainability, such as rapid urbanization and population growth.

To measure a city’s sustainability, Arcadis looked at quality of life based on transportation infrastructure, education, and income inequality. It quantified environmental sustainability by tallying measures of recycling rates and air pollution, among others. And for financial stability, the firm took commute times, property and living costs, and a city’s energy-consumption-to-GDP ratio into account.

Here are some notable takeaways:

  • Frankfurt, the top-ranked city, has set aside more than half its urban space for recreation and green initiatives. It is also home to the European Central Bank, which helps boost its financial standing.
  • Among the top 10 sustainable cities, seven were in Europe and the other three were in Asia. None were in North or South America.
  • Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, and Paris scored lower because of high property prices, with the latter three not even making it into the top 10.
Rank City Region
1 Frankfurt Europe
2 London Europe
3 Copenhagen Europe
4 Amsterdam Europe
5 Rotterdam Europe
6 Berlin Europe
7 Seoul Asia-Pacific
8 Hong Kong Asia-Pacific
9 Madrid Europe
10 Singapore Asia-Pacific
11 Sydney Asia-Pacific
12 Toronto North America
13 Brussels Europe
14 Manchester Europe
15 Boston North America
16 Paris Europe
17 Melbourne Asia-Pacific
18 Birmingham Europe
19 Chicago North America
20 New York North America
21 Houston North America
22 Philadelphia North America
23 Tokyo Asia-Pacific
24 Rome Europe
25 Washington North America
26 Kuala Lumpur Asia-Pacific
27 San Francisco North America
28 Los Angeles North America
29 Dallas North America
30 Santiago Central & South America
31 São Paulo Central & South America
32 Mexico City Central & South America
33 Dubai Middle East
34 Abu Dhabi Middle East
35 Shanghai Asia-Pacific
36 Istanbul Europe
37 Johannesburg Africa
38 Buenos Aires Central & South America
39 Beijing Asia-Pacific
40 Rio de Janeiro Central & South America
41 Doha Middle East
42 Moscow Europe
43 Jeddah Middle East
44 Riyadh Middle East
45 Jakarta Asia-Pacific
46 Manila Asia-Pacific
47 Mumbai Asia-Pacific
48 Wuhan Asia-Pacific
49 New Delhi Asia-Pacific
50 Nairobi Africa
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