By: Guest Contributor, Christopher Beck
Going green is trendy these days. Everyone has reusable water bottles, canvas grocery bags and recycling bins. Hybrid vehicles are on the rise, and companies from Verizon to Ikea are working to make their products more environmentally friendly.
But sustainability isn’t just a trend. It’s a global issue – literally. Countries around the world are trying to become more environmentally sustainable, and some have been more successful than others. Here are 4 surprising countries that are going green –and doing it right.
You probably haven’t heard of Tokelau – it’s an independent territory of New Zealand made up of three tiny islands. But it’s making waves in global sustainability.
Tokelau, like many other communities in the South Pacific, previously relied heavily on diesel fuel for energy. But now, Tokelau is the first nation to become entirely dependent on solar power. The country uses solar panels that produce 150% of its energy needs. At nighttime and on cloudy days? Tokelau uses coconut oil as a power source.
According to Yale’s Environmental Performance Index, Latvia is the world’s second-greenest country. The Baltic nation has had environmental legislation in place since the 16th century.
Latvia reduces greenhouse gas emissions through a process called CO2 sequestration – the country’s 35,000 square kilometers of forest and peat bogs naturally convert CO2 into biomass. Riga, the nation’s capital, is one of the cleanest cities in Europe. And Latvia’s sustainability initiatives have allowed many wildlife species that are disappearing throughout the rest of Europe to thrive.
Asia isn’t particularly known for sustainability – China and Japan rank third and fifth, respectively, among countries with the worst environmental impact. But Singapore is an exception to that rule.
The 682-square kilometer nation makes environmental laws a high priority, and they strictly control city development. The country’s “master plan” includes initiatives to improve air quality, water management and energy efficiency. Singapore provides citizens with electric vehicle charging stations and alternate fuel public transportation. The country also recycles and conserves almost all rainfall and waste water.
Sweden earned the top spot on Robecosam’s 2013 sustainability report for its exceptional commitment to the environment.
Robecosam judged countries on various factors, including environmental policy, emissions, energy use, energy sources, and exposure to environmental risks. Sweden boasts heavily regulated carbon emissions and fossil fuel output. And many Swedish cities have been pioneers of alternative energy sources – Malmo, a city of nearly 300,000, runs entirely on biofuels and uses solar, wind and water power.
Earth image via Shutterstock.
Christopher Beck is a sustainability consultant. Originally from Asheville, NC, he graduated with a degree from the University of South Carolina and is now pursuing a career trying to make the world a better, cleaner place.