No matter what country you live in, we only have one planet. Therefore, sustainability and the state of our earth’s environment is a global conversation. In the last few decades, many nations and communities are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet. Take a look at how the world’s most sustainable countries are working for a brighter future.
What Is Meant by Sustainability
The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is the most widespread definition and is usually based on three components: economic growth, social progress, and environmental protection.
With a concept so broad, how can we determine where we are at in achieving sustainability? It’s true that in order to effect change, we need to have some way to measure where we started and where we want to be. This is the purpose of the Environmental Performance Index (EPI).
Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
A ranking system used to compare the efforts of countries to preserve and protect the earth’s environment, the Environmental Performance Index has scored 180 countries around the world (as of 2018). It looks at current data as well as data from the past decade, and measures how close each country is to meeting their established environmental policy objectives.
Each country’s scores are translated into rankings. The countries that rank the highest in the EPI show the world what nations can do with a unified focus and clear objectives.
The World’s Most Sustainable Countries
This beautiful European country abounds with natural lakes, forests, and mountains. They are determined to protect their natural wonders and serve as an example of clean energy. Hydroelectric power provides most of the country’s energy, with the rest obtained through nuclear power plants. This results in a very low carbon footprint. The Swiss are also leaders in recycling, with a rate of 53%.
France comes in at number two on the 2018 EPI, which is impressive considering the country’s industrial past. They have achieved such a high rank with rigorous effort and government policies. About 30% of the country’s energy is provided by renewable sources, and the French government actively supports clean technology through subsidies.
France has also been named the world’s most food sustainable country in the world. They are seeking to eliminate food waste in a variety of ways, such as making it a requirement for grocery stores to give leftover food to charities instead of throwing it away.
In addition to promoting clean energy and water conservation, Denmark is focusing on the environmental impacts of container shipping. The world’s largest container shipping company is located in Denmark, and is adding greener container ships to their fleets, which will reduce emissions by 35% per shipping container.
The Danes have also put a strong focus on creating more energy-efficient buildings. The country has a strong cycling culture, and almost 40% of the population of Copenhagen travels by bicycle. Denmark has also made a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Malta is a small island country whose government adopted the Sustainable Development Act in 2012. They offer incentives to citizens who purchase energy-efficient appliances, and are building new infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion that contributes to air pollution. In 2017, Malta switched from fuel oil to natural gas as its primary source of energy (70%), with the remaining obtained from renewable sources.
Sweden has made sustainability a priority for many years. In the 1990s, Sweden switched from oil to district heating (similar to central heating in your home, only applied to whole towns or cities), which has drastically reduced their contribution to the emission of greenhouse gasses. The use of “passive houses” has also reduced energy consumption. Passive houses use heat energy from human activities, electric appliances, and sunlight to generate power.
Citizens of Sweden are highly engaged and motivated to contribute individually to a greener country and a more sustainable planet. Sweden has achieved an impressive 88% recycling rate for aluminum cans and PET plastic bottles, almost reaching its goal of a 90% recycle rate.
What We Can Learn
While there are universal approaches to increase sustainability, like renewable energy, recycling, and reducing emissions, what we learn from the most sustainable countries in the world is to also look at what you can do locally, because it may have ripple effects across the world. Even the smallest efforts at the beginning can result in large strides down the road.
Sustainability and a brighter future starts with each of us. Contact Spring Power and Gas today and find out how you can offset your carbon footprint and contribute to a cleaner environment.