While American cities generally lag behind their European and Canadian counterparts when it comes to sustainability, there is one city that can hold its own green weight globally. The Big Apple is the greenest city in the US, according to the Sustainable Cities Index recently published by global design and consultancy firm Arcadis. Despite its eco-clout, NYC was still no contender for other global cities, and ranked 26th overall and second in North America behind Vancouver. The top city for sustainability in the world was Zurich.
The index took into account what Arcadis calls the “three pillars of sustainability.” They are People (social), Planet (environmental) and Profit (economic). American cities like New York perform well in the Profit sub-index, but poorly in the People and Planet categories. NYC falls to 15th place in the North America rankings and 77th worldwide in the People category primarily due to the high cost of housing and a high consumer price index. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio is acknowledged for his efforts at raising the minimum wage, building more affordable housing and implementing early childhood education.
For the Planet category, NYC is given credit for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality, ranking 33rd globally and 3rd in North America behind Vancouver and Montreal. The environmental category takes into account renewable energy, green spaces, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, waste management and drinking water and sanitation.
“As the index indicates, most of North America’s iconic cities produce strong economies with relatively low unemployment, which provides them a path toward sustainability, but environmental risks, rapid urbanization, less focus on green space and lack of work-life balance prevent most US cities from ranking in the top 10 most sustainable cities when compared to other developed nations,” said Joachim Ebert, CEO of Arcadis North America. “However, as our index shows, all cities face unique challenges and none of the cities can claim to have earned the title of being completely sustainable. This index should serve as a guide to city authorities for comparing their competitiveness to similar cities and to learn by example the measures necessary in becoming more sustainable.”