Lonely Planet Writer

Why Zurich has been voted the most sustainable city on the planet

Zurich should pop the Champagne – and then recycle the bottle – after it was named as the world’s most sustainable metropolis in a new city index.

Zurich, Switzerland.
Zurich, Switzerland. Image by SnippyHolloW / CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing off competition from the likes of Singapore, Seoul and Sydney, Switzerland’s largest city topped a list of 100 major places which were ranked across what the index compilers call the “three dimensions of sustainability”: people, planet and profit. The survey was carried out by Dutch building consultants Arcadis who used 32 indicators to compile the list. These ranged from life expectancy, education and income inequality to energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and green space within cities.

The report highlighted a number of Zurich’s sustainable achievements, including investment efficient and renewable energies, a sustainable public transport system and a willingness to increase public awareness of environmental issues. Singapore, Stockholm, Vienna and London all came in the top five, while Manila, Delhi, Nairobi, Cairo and Kolkata propped up the other end of the sustainability scale. In the foreword to the report, John Batten the Global Director of Water and Cities at Arcadis, wrote, “the purpose of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index is not to create a hierarchy of elite cities, but to indicate areas of opportunity. All cities continue to make progress on their missions to become more sustainable economically, environmentally and for the good of their inhabitants. As the world continues to become more reliant on its urban centers [sic], it is our hope that city leaders and industry find this a valuable tool in assessing their priorities and pathways to urban sustainability for the good of all.”

Another of the sustainability indicators was the amount of green space given up to citizens in each city. Zurich has a number of excellent gardens including the leafy lakeside park of Zürichhorn and the wonderful Platzspitz, which was a favourite of James Joyce.