When you visualize a thriving metropolis-some place big and bustling like New York City-what’s the first thing that comes to mind? I s it the gleaming skyscrapers, the exciting cultural events, and the fun nightlife? Or are those vivid images overshadowed by the grimy sidewalks, dirty roads, and streets littered with chewed gum and cigarette butts? When so many people live in close proximity to each other, keeping the city clean becomes a major challenge.
However, many of the world’s cleanest cities, from Kobe to Calgary, have come up with creative solutions to the difficulties of dirty city living. Below, we’ve listed a few of the cleanest cities in the world, along with the methods they use to stay that way. After reading, yo u might look at your own city’s strategies in a new light, or get inspired to create a few solutions of your own.
Located in Southwest Germany, Freiburg has a population of around 230,000. The city’s founding dates back to 1120 C.E. The city has belonged alternately to Germany, Austria, France, Spain, and Sweden during its long and turbulent history. It’s also survived the Thirty Years’ War, WWII bombing, and post-war French occupation.
How does a city with this much history stay clean? Primarily by privileging eco-friendliness. The city’s government works hard to provide clean transportation, use clean energy, manage waste properly, and conserve land. Together, these strategies reduce waste and pollution, keeping the streets cleaner and the air purer.
Singapore’s Local Laws
Singapore isn’t a city; it’s actually a sovereign city-state in Southeast Asia. In 2014, over 5 million people lived in Singapore, making it the third-most densely populated country in the world. With so many people living in such close proximity, how does Singapore consistently land on world’s cleanest cities lists?
For one thing, the only gum you’re allowed to chew in Singapore is that prescribed by a doctor. That means no sticky city streets or gooey shoes. Smoking is banned in most public places, including restaurants, movie theaters, and parks. Finally, littering is strictly prohibited, with stiff fines imposed for litterers.
Oslo’s Waste Management
Oslo has one of the highest populations in Europe, but there’s virtually no litter on the streets. Oddly enough, you won’t see any trash cans either. Where does the waste go, then? To an automatic underground waste disposal system run by the city. Many houses are c sh cans either. Where does the waste go, then? To an automatic underground waste disposal system run by the city. Many houses are connected to the system, which carries the trash underground. The waste is then burned by incinerators and used to fuel and heat the cit y, which reduces both pollution and waste in one blow.
Oslo also relies on citizens’ actions to keep the city clean. Through the Rusken campaign, Oslo residents gather to sweep streets, clean up beaches, tidy individual neighborhoods, and more. The Rusken campaign mascot drives around in a bright yellow electric car, encouraging citizens to join together as a community and participate in the event. All in all, around 200,000 people take part in the Rusken campaign each year.
Ifrane’s Low Emissions
Ifrane is located in Morocco and consistently ranks as one of the cleanest cities in the world. Because of its French colonial roots, Ifrane looks more like a Swiss ski village than a Moroccan city. It’s also high in the Middle Atlas Mountains, where it acts as a ski resort in the winter.
Although Ifrane is home to a university and has a population of 40,000 people, it doesn’t have a single carbon-emitting industry. The air and water stay clean, which means Ifrane citizens’ quality of life stays high.
Kobe’s Trash Collection
With 1.5 million people, Kobe is Japan’s sixth-largest city. It’s even older than Freiburg, dating back to 201 C.E. In spite of several devastating earthquakes, including the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, Kobe continues to function as a key port city.
Kobe’s government takes several steps to retain its clean reputation. For instance, the city offers different waste collection days for different types of waste, such as non-combustible waste, recyclables, and typical household waste. If you fail to place your waste in a designated trash bag, the city suspends your trash collection privileges.
Calgary’s Street Sweepers
Calgary is often listed as the world’s cleanest city. What’s the secret to their success? Their central wastewater site purifies up to 100 million liters of water every day. The city also focuses on purifying both their air and drinking water.
One thing that really sets Calgary apart, though, is their annual Spring Clean-up program. Each year, street sweepers scour over 86,000 miles (14,000 total kilometers) of Calgary’s roads. In 2014, street sweepers removed 65,000 cubic yards (50,000 cubic meters) of debris. As you can imagine, at the end of the process, the roads are pristine and beautiful.
Keep Your City Clean
Now that you know a little more about how major cities stay clean, you might have some ideas of your own to implement in your city. For instance, you could take a little more care to sort through your waste and pull out recyclables, like people in Kobe. You could drive less and reduce your overall emissions, like the city of Ifrane. You could even limit the amount of gum you chew like people in Singapore to clean up your sidewalks.
And the next time you see your local street sweepers cleaning up the road, give them a wave and a nod. They’re working along with you to make your city a cleaner, happier place to live.