The United Nations has set out Sustainable Development Goals, to "end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for everyone”. By 2030, each goal should have meet it’s specific target. But how are we doing so far? Some countries are stepping up to the challenge better than others and its worth taking a look at what they are doing differently and understanding their success.
Many countries such as Sweden, Costa Rica, France, and Singapore are moving towards a greener future. Major concerns such as pollution and wildlife conservation need global solutions more than ever. While no country is perfect, these four are on track to making changes we can all learn from and try to incorporate in our own countries.
As of May 2017, Sweden was ranked the most sustainable country in the world by RobecoSAM, a company focused exclusively on sustainability investing. Sweden’s rank was determined by taking into consideration governance, social, and environmental factors. The Swedish government discourages oil use by charging a carbon tax and hopes to eliminate fossil fuel usage by 2050.
Sweden is also top notch when it comes to waste management. Sweden’s households send less than one percent of their waste to landfills and the country’s program converts rubbish into useful energy with an efficient waste-to-energy program. Sweden’s waste management system is so effective that it imports waste from other Europeans countries. Swedes even build “passive houses” which reduce wasted energy by powering themselves with human body heat, electrical appliances and sunlight.
Costa Rica’s rainforest conservation program has made it one of the most sustainable countries in the world. The country set aside 25 percent of its land in an effort to protect against deforestation and is considered the most bio-diverse region in the world with hundreds of wildlife species calling it home. The country hopes to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by using low carbon technologies.
The United Nations has noted that Costa Rica derives more than 10 percent of their electricity by using geothermal energy. Even Costa Rican resorts such as The Cayuga Collection have implemented sustainability elements into their culture and offerings. With rain forest sustainability retreats called “Twigs, Pigs, and Garbage,” it’s clear this country is all in when it comes to teaching the world about the environment.
France is another country trying to make several environmental changes. Paris introduced a new law requiring vehicles to have stickers indicating the year of the vehicle's registration, its energy efficiency, and its emission quantity. Vehicles registered before 2000 are banned in an effort to reduce air pollution in the city. This incentive was created in response to smog spikes.
France is also focused on banning most plastic cups, plates and cutlery. The only disposable items allowed will be ones made from biodegradable substances. This ban was put in place to encourage more eco-friendly innovation and create a more sustainable country.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and residents of Singapore would most likely agree. With over 5 million people living in this small location, the country has had no choice but to find solutions to waste management. This city-state is known for its vertical green landscapes and more than 80 percent of people live within a 10-minute walk from a park.
With so much demand for high-rise homes, architects have made efforts to create more energy efficient buildings. The Sustainable Singapore Blueprint outlines national plans for Singaporeans to work together for a more sustainable future.
Mars, the candy giant, is looking to team up with others -- even competitors -- in an effort to thwart issues like deforestation and human rights abuse. This is in addition to the $1 billion they've spent on their own sustainability program.
After AT&T Park in San Francisco was awarded MLB's Green Glove for nine consecutive seasons, the Seattle Mariners and Safeco Field became the second franchise to receive it. They improved their recycling efforts by 90 percent with compostable waste and an urban garden.
To combat the use of billions of disposable cups, a German city has created a reusable cup system that lets customers pay a €1 deposit for a plastic cup that can be returned to 100 participating businesses.
Two supermarkets in the United Kingdom will be adding a bottle deposit return system, Iceland and Co-op. The retailers are helping to push a recommendation by Greenpeace to recycle plastics as their usage level continues to skyrocket.