The world has never been more focused on Climate change
Demonstrated in the UK elections, there was a world first where candidates held a debate solely on climate change & environmental issues. Alongside the traditional issues of immigration, public spending and the NHS, there is now a demand for robust policies that tackle climate change. When it comes to developing a sustainable vision, isn’t it best to draw inspiration from those that are already succeeding? We decided to take a look at the top performing eco-friendly countries to get a grasp on the solutions nations are taking to preserve our planet.
The environmental performance index (EPI) is tool developed by the university of Yale. It ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 issue categories that cover environmental health and ecosystem vitality. This allows us to compare on a national scale how well countries are performing on environmental policy goals and provides insight on best practises and guidance for countries that want to improve. The latest results are from the 2018 EPI, the next one shall be released in 2020. Of the factors covered by Environmental health- the EPI examined Air quality, Water sanitation & Heavy metal pollution. Under ecosystem vitality, factors such as biodiversity & habitat, climate & energy and agriculture were considered.
So here’s to the results…
The World's number 1 sustainable country.
Switzerland’s top ranking reflects strong performance across most issues, especially Climate & Energy and Air Pollution. Within Environmental Health, Switzerland also stands out in Water & Sanitation. While Switzerland’s Biodiversity & Habitat score is 84.20, 62nd in the world, its protected areas have the top score on the representativeness index. So what are they doing to achieve this?
Switzerland has ramped up their waste recycling game, with rates of up to 50%. Ensuring recycling bins are located EVERYWHERE, by adding tax to household waste and stricter separation rules at their collection points has helped them to achieve this target.
The country has also seen a wave of innovation in developing environmental protection techniques, with 32,000 patents created in 2017. 1 in 60 of the population use car pooling centres where users can share journeys and they are Europe’s most regular rail users.
Switzerland is winning when it comes to using clean energy sources. With hydroelectric power being the most popular and a 70% increase in the use of Biofuels. 1 million people live in buildings with the Minergie label, which is one of the most demanding labels awarded in sustainable construction.
The number 2 eco-friendly country is France.
Natural habitats have witnessed considerable declines in biodiversity in recent decades. Today, many species are, however, at risk of extinction. The Biodiversity & Habitat issue category seeks to evaluate a country’s performance in habitat conservation and species protection. France scored no 1 in the marine & biome aspects of biodiversity and habitat. It also scored very highly in ecosystem and vitality.
France has also been classed as the worlds most food sustainable country. Aggressive measures to tackle food waste, promote healthy lifestyles and adopt eco-farming techniques has helped it achieve this title. It is now pressing ahead with an agroecology policy which includes practices such as rotating crops to improve soil fertility and cutting reliance on chemical fertilisers. The country even introduced legislation in 2016 requiring supermarkets to redistribute leftover food to charities.
France has been the leading issuer of green bonds with $15.3 billion (around €13.4 billion), meaning it has regained its world champion title in green financing. The green bond market consists of loans issued on the markets to finance projects that are exclusively ‘green’. These projects will have a positive impact on the climate and/or environment (renewable energies, reduction of CO2 emissions, etc.), and are accompanied by monitoring and reporting requirements.
Denmark ranks number 3 in our top 5 eco-friendly countries.
Denmark ranked number one in many aspects of biodiversity & habitat and number one when it comes to particulate exposure matter. Particulate matter exposure is associated with significant adverse health effects and recent research suggests that around five million people die prematurely every year due to air pollution.
Nine out of ten Danes own a bicycle and 37% of the population in Copenhagen commute to work or school by bike. Especially in cities, bicycles are the preferred means of transportation. On average every Dane cycles 1.6 kilometres per day.
In 2012 Danish electricity production was roughly consisting of the following sources: 1/3 Wind Power, 1/3 Coal, 1/6 Bio Energy and 1/6 Natural Gas. It is the Danish government's ambition to have 50 % of the electricity consumption in 2020 be covered by wind power and to phase out coal by 2030. In the period 2009-2014 the Sino-Danish Renewable Energy Development program has worked to enhance the national capacity to develop the renewable energy sector in China.
Recycling is taken seriously in this city, with vending-style machines returning a deposit when you insert a can or plastic cup. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit – held in mid-May this year – is recognised as a global leader in promoting the industry’s sustainability, putting the focus on climate change and managing scarce resources.
Our number 4 sustainable country is Malta.
Malta scores no1 in the world when it comes to water sanitation and water resources. Minimising the health risks posed from unsafe sanitation and drinking water is a vital step in evaluating a country’s ability to maintain clean water systems and minimise contact with dangerous bacteria and viruses.
The government has been working on a number of afforestation projects and will have planted 45,000 trees and shrubs this year alone in an attempt to repopulate abandoned areas with indigenous species.
Owners of electric cars are set to receiver lower rates of electricity in the new year. Other plans for the new year include a ban on single use plastics and a “green corner” initiative, where corner shops will receive grants to offer a service where customers can buy products by their weight or volume without excessive packaging.
Malta is working hard to create a circular economy by investing in waste removal trucks that will help recycle and dispose of more hazardous waste items such as light bulbs and cooking oil correctly. It is also encouraging better waste separation to ensure better recycling.
The worlds 5th greenest country is Sweden.
No. 5- Sweden, performed best on heavy metal exposure. Heavy metals are responsible for countless deaths and diseases. It is therefore extremely important that each country is managing their populations exposure.
Sweden ranks first in the EU in consumption of organic foods, leads the way in recycling drinks cans and bottles, and gets the highest share of its energy from renewable sources. What’s more, Swedish fashion retailer H&M is a world leader in using organic cotton and the Government has allocated SEK 400 million for research and development of environment technology.
Sweden is renowned for its recycling capabilities; it is required by law and there’s a recycling station within 100ft of every residential area. In fact, they’re so hot on recycling, they have run out of their own garbage to use as fuel in their waste-to-energy plants.
Sweden is home of PU:REST, a beer that is made from recycled water. The governments food waste target for 2020 is to use 50% of food waste as natural fertiliser with another 40% being used to generate electricity.
So there we have it, was it what you were expecting? We certainly expected to see Costa Rica ranking higher in the report, given the media attention that it receives in being eco-friendly. We’re delighted that the UK doesn’t fall too far behind, in at an impressive No.6. Here in the UK we’ve seeing a strong plastic-free uk movement with most towns having their own community groups supporting refill/ reusable shops. Single use plastics will be given the boot as of April 2020 and UK markets have responded with bamboo cotton buds, bamboo toothbrushes and wheat straws. Plastic bags are being switched for biodegradable and reusable alternatives and organic cotton has seen a huge surge in interest. Go UK!