The Cleanest Cities in the World

The Cleanest Cities in the World


The Cleanest Cities in the World


Decades after the Clean Air Act, people are breathing easier in some places. Many non-profit organizations have annual reports analyzing the air quality in different cities all over the world. While rankings vary because of dissimilar criteria used for the comparisons, some places, such as the ones on the following list, make these sorts of lists year after year. Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management have shown to reduce key sources of urban pollution.

Zurich, Switzerland


Zurich is Switzerland’s most famous city but not only for its banks. It has also managed to develop a very efficient and clean public transportation system. Trains, trams, boats, buses, and even streetcars are widely available so people are discouraged from driving their own cars burning a lot more gas than necessary, causing fuels to be released into the air when this could easily be avoided.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo, the capital of Norway, often makes the lists of the world’s cleanest cities because of the many ways the city finds to make itself greener. Six years ago the local administration launched buses that run on the fuels taken from human waste. Officials don’t spare expenses when it comes to educating people on the merits of keeping the environment unpolluted. The waste management system produces both fuel and electricity.

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary was named the world’s cleanest city in 2013. It has lived up to its reputation, and still ranked among the cleanest. The city has made huge improvements in sanitation and eco-initiatives, which are reflected in its glowing aqua rivers and litter-free streets. The Green Calgary  offers locals advice on how to compost and even how to pack a litterless lunch. Also, Calgarians face big fines for littering. The “Too Good to Waste” program was launched in 2007; it aims to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

Adelaide, Australia


This city in southern Australia had banned cars that give out smoke. Combine that with Adelaide’s natural “fence” of vast mountain ranges, and why the air there is so clean makes a lot of sense. Parks are just a few miles apart. Litter has been outlawed as well. About 85 percent of the waste in the city is recycled.

Honolulu, Hawaii


The American Public Transportation Association has emphasized Honolulu’s transit system, which includes dedicated bus lanes because they have helped reduce traffic and exhausts fumes. Moreover, Hawaii’s capital has some of the lowest ozone and PM 2.5 particulates levels in the country due to its location in the Pacific Ocean.

Kobe, Japan


The city on Osaka Bay in central Japan is known for being the cleanest in the entire country. Kobe prides itself in having one of the most efficient waste disposal systems, possibly in the world. Locals strive to maintain its environmentally-friendly reputation as they always keep the streets clean, despite its  population of more than 1.5 million residents. The storm drainage system in Kobe is completely separate than the sewage system, so heavy rainfall doesn’t affect waste treatment.

Copenhagen, Denmark


Copenhagen has a goal to be carbon-neutral by 2025, and they have been working hard to improve their chances of completing the objective. A district heating network generates warmth from some of the world's most efficient electricity plants, keeping 97 percent of Copenhagen toasty. People prefer bikes – there are about 250 miles of designated lanes – than cars or motorcycles.

Wellington, New Zealand

More than a third of local residents use the bus to go to work and come home. This is a huge help toward reducing air pollution. It helps that Wellington is a very windy city, which ensures that any exhaust fumes from cars or from fire places are blown away fast. Strict environmental policies in the country help keep the majority of cities clean and pollution-free.

Helsinki, Finland

Locals prefer to take the bus or ride a bike to work, keeping the city as clean as possible. Industry emissions have decreased thanks to government efforts towards a clean and sustainable future. The public transport system consists of trams, commuter rail, subways, bus lines, two ferry lines and on-demand minibuses. The capital currently has two schemes that regulate the access of high emitters to the city center. The PM10 annual mean values decreased from 30.0 µg/m³ in 2006 to 21.3 µg/m³ in 2012.

Freiburg, Germany


Freiburg, one of the most adorable small European towns, is known as the “Flower City” because it’s full of trees and hills covered with flowers. Residents are aware of the town’s reputation and put in a lot of effort to keep it clean. Grass gardens, parks and other green projects are visible all over the city. Eco-housing and car-free streets contribute to keeping the city’s air fresh and clean.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam has often been referred to as the “cycling capital” of Europe. There are more than 600,000 rentable bikes in the city; it’s hard not to get on one and ride to your destination, considering how beautiful the surroundings are. Due to a large percentage of the local population riding bikes, the city has remained very clean. In 2012, Amsterdam was ranked the second best city to live in by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Portland, Oregon


The “City of Roses” is super bike-friendly. Portland is very environmentally aware and has been turned into a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. On top of the bike culture and trails available, hikers, swimmers, paddlers, climbers, skateboarders, snowboarders, and skiers can also find their niche. The city is split by the Willamette River, which is perfect for urban kayaking. The expansive network of public transportation and over 10,000 acres of public parks helps it stay clean.  Electricity supply uses 33 percent renewable energy.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

The city is known for their very high standard of living, but also for its many green spaces, preserved castles and forests. Luxembourg City is very often listed among the cleanest cities in the world, and certainly in Europe. It hosts around 200 eco-companies, working in renewable energy, waste management, water treatment. Officially called “The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg,” it is also on the list of places where people live the longest.

Vienna, Austria

The beautiful capital of Austria regularly makes the top ranks of the cleanest cities in the world. Its big investment into waste disposal systems has paid off. People in the city in general want to keep their environment clean and tidy, and they act like it. Local officials have initiated many green projects that keep air pollution at bay. Public transportation is also ranked high in terms of efficiency.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Numbers don’t lie; the capital of Iceland has virtually no pollution, drinking water pollution and inaccessibility is very low, and so is dissatisfaction with green areas and parks in the city. Reykjavik plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2040 by reversing urban sprawl and promoting walking, cycling and public transport. In fact, Iceland became one of the first countries to ratify the Paris climate deal with a unilateral parliamentary vote.

Stockholm, Sweden


Stockholm was named the 2010 European Green Capital, Europe’s first. It has a large and very efficient public transportation system and few industries in the city. People actually want to get on the bus instead of in their cars to go to work because it’s much easier. As a result, fuel consumption is not high and the air is cleaner. Stockholm has a very well managed waste system as well – garbage is collected from homes and transported through an underground network of tunnels. The city generates 60 percent of its energy from hydroelectric sources.