The Future Greenest City in the World

Photo: Brendan Hunter
Vancouver, British Columbia: Creating a Green Vision for their Future

I believe that if you want to know the future, create it. This is exactly what Vancouver, British Columbia is doing. With a bold future oriented vision to become the greenest city in the world by 2020, the city is already well on the way to accomplishing its goal. According to the city website, Vancouver currently has “the smallest carbon footprint of any major city in North America and we’re a leader in green building, planning and technology.” Impressive.

With a comprehensive ten step plan, the city has looked at all the important areas of concern to accomplish its goal. From extensive plans to develop a green economy with green buildings and green transportation, to achieving climate leadership with clean air and access to nature — everything that is important to creating a totally sustainable and progressive eco conscious city is being put into action.

One of the terms the city frequently uses in describing the way to achieve their goal, is the creation of “green collar jobs”. Vancouver's intention is to double the number of green jobs in the city by 2020 (compared to 2010 numbers). This could mean the creation of as many as 20,000 new jobs. Vancouver currently has about 12,000 green jobs in eight sectors. These account for three per cent of Vancouver’s jobs, in industries ranging from clean technology and education, to green building and materials recovery; from local food and urban agriculture, to transportation and infrastructure. Vancouver also has ambitious plans to become a leader in urban food systems, implementing zero waste practices through the reduction of total solid waste going to landfill or incinerator by 50 per cent from 2008 levels. This is a practical and realistic plan that should continue to attract both new business and new residents to the city.

In fact, among 27 cities examined by the Economist Intelligence Unit, a study sponsored by Siemens, only San Francisco rated better overall as the greenest city in North America. Vancouver is already the greenest city in Canada. The only other Canadian city to challenge Vancouver in the study, is Toronto, which came in at number nine. Seems like we all have our own work to do in this area of greening our cities.

Personally having visited Vancouver, I recognize its unique attraction. Surrounded by natural beauty, the attitude is laid back and West Coast relaxed. Stanley Park, a 1,000-acre rain forest just north of downtown, is ringed by the Pacific Ocean on three sides. It is a living and breathing Canadian rain forest — I admit that this is something I just discovered. The perimeter of the park is lined by two paths, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists and in-line skaters.

There's also an abundance of other opportunities for cycling, sailing and skiing close by, making year-round communing with nature a real possibility. In fact, Vancouver is unsurpassed in not only its natural terrain, offering seemingly unlimited activities to choose from, but is steeped in cultural and historic possibilities to explore as well.

The climate is vacation friendly year round, although some would refer to the fact that it rains a lot in Vancouver. It does, but on a clear day...well, it almost seems like you can see forever. The moderating onshore breezes help make the air among the cleanest air to breathe of any major world city.

Having had my own experience of Vancouver, I fully understand its attraction and charm. Its plan to become the greenest city in the world by 2020 might seem ambitious to some. For me, it’s the fact that the plans put in place by the city are supported by everyone. These are plans created by a forward thinking government. The plans are for the people and in many ways, by the people — a co-operative and socially conscious effort for change. I look forward to seeing how Vancouver achieves its goals and leads the way for all of us, showing us what is possible for our future.

We want to hear from you. Tell us about a green city that inspires you. Email us at: