Vancouver: the World’s Up-and-Coming Greenest City

Vancouver Skyline

Surrounded by a dramatic panorama of mountains and ocean, Vancouver draws nature buffs and outdoor enthusiasts from around the world. In fact, not only the city becoming known internationally as an environmental leader, but Mayor Gregor Robertson has pledged that Vancouver will be the greenest city in the world by 2020. They’re already making a strong start: Vancouver is already Canada’s greenest city and an industry-recognized frontrunner in green building, planning and technology. Drawing 90 percent of its power from renewable sources, Vancouver is a leader in hydroelectric power and is now charting a course to use wind, solar, wave and tidal energy to significantly reduce fossil-fuel use. Perhaps most importantly, residents can freely enjoy the city’s sprawling green space with 200 parks and more than 18 miles of waterfront. On their way to world eco-domination, they’ve reached significant milestones and created environmentally friendly alternatives for nearly every facet of residents’ lifestyles.

Greeted with Green: Sustainability at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) 

Visitors to Vancouver experience the city’s eco-initiatives right on arrival. Vancouver International Airport (YVR) features a number of green building techniques, including solar-powered hot water heating systems that have resulted in energy savings of $110,000 per year. The airport’s Energy Reduction Committee implements further energy-reducing initiatives, such as econo-mode settings on baggage conveyor belts and carbon dioxide sensors to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Since it was created in 1999, the committee has saved more than 24 gigawatt hours of electricity. YVR was Canada’s first airport to install a living wall, standing 18 meters high and home to more than 28,000 plants.  Finally, in 2004 the airport introduced a Taxi Incentive Program that licensed 100 hybrid and natural gas-operated taxis to pick up arriving passengers. Since its inception, the program has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 8,422 tonnes every year.

 Stay Green: Green Eco-Leaf Rated Hoteliers

A host of Vancouver hotels have been recognized by iStayGreen’s Green Eco-Leaf Rating  Program and also the Hotel Asscoiation of Canada’s Green Key Rating Program as exemplifying environmental stewardship. Only a few dozen hotels around the world have achieved the top-level Five Green Keys rating, with Vancouver’s contribution including the Fairmont Pacific Rim, Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver, Hyatt Regency Vancouver and The Fairmont Waterfront. In addition, 22 local hotels have been awarded Four Green Keys.

 Eat Green: Ocean Wise and Beyond

Stanley Park’s Vancouver Aquarium

Seafood is a local dining specialty, but not all aquatic dishes are created equally. Pioneered by Stanley Park’s Vancouver Aquarium and innovative chefs across the region, the Ocean Wise initiative supports sustainable fishing practices, ensuring that restaurant seafood has been raised, sourced and supplied in an environmentally sound manner. In addition, many Vancouver restaurants promote the use of fresh, local and seasonal ingredients; in fact, Raincity Grill pioneered the popular 100-Mile Menu movement.


Go Green: Transportation

Vancouver’s commitment to green transportation is exemplified by its growing mass transit system. The original SkyTrain rail line opened in 1985 and, in 2009 – just in time for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games – the Canada Line was added, linking the airport to downtown in a 25-minute trip. The next stage of this eco-minded transit network is the Evergreen Line, scheduled to open in 2016. Alternative modes of eco-transport include one of the world’s largest hybrid taxi fleets, newly expanded bike lanes and an easily walkable downtown core. Car drivers aren’t exempt: the city now requires electric vehicle charging stations for 20 percent of all parking stalls in new condo buildings.

 Learn Green: Eco-Events

Vancouver’s green initiatives extend to community participation, with several events aiming to inspire green discussion and encourage change. Two of the largest include the Projecting Change Film Festival (featuring films that promote discussion about social and environmental issues, with each production followed by a dynamic speaker and panel discussion); and the Ep!c Sustainable Living Expo (Western Canada’s largest lifestyle show for the eco-conscious consumer).

Build Green: Vancouver Architecture

Vancouver boasts an abundance of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings – among the highest number per capita in North America. The city is also a leader in the area of policies aimed at promoting energy efficiency in buildings. In 2008, Vancouver set a goal of making all new construction carbon neutral by 2030. As part of this goal, the Green Homes program requires that all new building permit applications for single-family homes meet a specific set of requirements, which will reduce energy consumption by 33 percent. In 2010, Vancouver required all newly rezoned buildings to meet LEED gold standard, the highest green building standard for rezoned buildings in North America. Notable green architecture includes the Olympic and Paralympic Village (certified the most energy efficient neighborhood in the world); the Vancouver Convention Centre (the first in the world to achieve LEED platinum certification) and Grouse Mountain’s Eye of the Wind, the world’s largest commercial wind turbine.

Shop Green: Vancouver’s Green Stores and Brands

Mountain Equipment Co-Op

Mountain Equipment Co-Op

Vancouver is home to a number of boutiques, grocers and other retailers and designers that produce and sell environmentally friendly wares. A sampling of well-known labels include Ethical Bean (sourcing only fair trade and organic coffee beans, the café was inspired by the owners’ interactions with Guatemalan coffee farmers); Happy Planet (the juice empire connects urban residents with organic farming techniques); John Fluevog (catering to celebrities, locals and visitors, designers produce and sell stylish shoes made of eco-friendly materials); and Mountain Equipment Co-op (designed to last, the company’s active wear is made from organically grown and recycled materials).

 Greenpeace: Made in Vancouver
Greenpeace is known across the globe for exposing environmental problems and brainstorming solutions to ensure a green future – and it was founded in Vancouver. Forty-one years after it began, Greenpeace now operates in more than 40 countries worldwide and has 2.9 million members. Among its many initiatives, the organization has continued its initial aims to protect biodiversity, prevent pollution, end nuclear threats and promote peace, and has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Vancouver is an incredibly beautiful city with a very credible drive to become the Greenest City in the World by 2020


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