Sustainable Cities: Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver. Home of the Canucks, the 2010 Winter Olympics, and one of the largest urban parks in North America; Stanley Park which is just over 1,000 acres (Twice the size of London’s Olympic Park!).

Found on the west coast of Canada, just north of the city of Seattle, USA, Vancouver is home to nearly 2.5 million people and is consistently named as a top city for livability and quality of life.



Stanley Park


When it comes to sustainability, Vancouver has a number of initiatives it is using to reduce its environmental impact including the ‘Greenest City Action Plan’, ‘Renewable City Strategy’, and ‘Zero Waste Vancouver’, all in the hope of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Greenest City

Vancouver’s Greenest City Action Plan targets the three key pillars of sustainability. The vision is to create plenty of opportunities for those living in the city today, whilst also creating a strong local economy, vibrant and inclusive neighbourhoods, and an internationally-recognised city that meets the needs of generations to come. Within that, there are 10 goals covering three overreaching focus areas: zero carbon, zero waste, and healthy ecosystems.



One of the many pedestrian and cycle paths in Stanley Park and around Vancouver


Approximately 40% of Vancouver’s carbon emissions originate from transport so reducing emissions in this sector is vital. Vancouver has redesigned itself to become a more bike-friendly city. Cities around the world have a long way to go to become more bike-friendly. Cars and similar urban transport dominate city streets and make it unattractive and dangerous for many to cycle. Redeveloping roadways to make them more attractive for old and new cyclists is just one way to change peoples perceptions on how they travel around the city.

Renewable City Strategy

Vancouver has a number of renewable energy and carbon emission targets spanning the century. The first is to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by 33% from 2007 levels. As of 2016, carbon emissions were down by 11% so there’s still a long way to go! By 2050, the city aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80% on 2007 levels.

Whilst the city population grew by 36% and the number of jobs increased by 32%, between 1990 and 2016 GHG emissions per-capita actually reduced by 35%. Those living in Vancouver are making important changes to reduce their carbon emissions even as the city grows socially and economically.

By 2050, Vancouver also aims to have its energy generated from renewable sources. As of 2007, 27% of the total energy supplied to the city was coming from renewable sources but that has increased to 30% in 2016. Whilst this level of growth in renewable energy is positive, there is much to do to reach the 2050 goal of all energy generated from renewable energy.

Zero Waste Vancouver

For me, this is one of the most interesting aspects of Vancouver’s plans to become a more sustainable city. Cities all over the world have to face the challenge of reducing plastics and other single-use items that are so regularly used. Some cities, like Seattle, are starting to enforce initiatives that will help reduce this, but Vancouver has the goal of becoming a zero waste city by 2040. Zero waste is essentially

Zero waste is reducing and, eventually, stop using products that are disposed of into landfill. The graphic below is taken from Zero Waste Vancouver and shows they plan to not only reduce the amount of waste the city produces, but stop disposable waste all together.


Screen Shot 2018-01-10 at 13.41.28

The Zero Waste Hierarchy is applicable all over the world, but this version from the City of Vancouver website shows how they plan to reduce, and eventually stop waste.


Since 2008, when the goal of zero waste was first announced as a target, the amount of waste sent to landfill by the city has reduced by 27% (as of 2015). The city has hoped for that to reach 50% by 2020, however, achieving a reduction of 27% in just 7 years is very impressive, and a continuing trend would put the city well on its way to zero waste by 2040.

Vancouver Moving Forward

Vancouver, like many cities around the world, clearly have a long way to go to achieve many of the goals they’ve set. Vancouver has made a positive start since the turn of the century in terms of reducing emissions and waste, and developing a much more sustainable city, all whist the population has continued to rise. Vancouver has set itself some very optimistic goals, and whilst they may not achieve each one by the given year, they are making some big changes towards sustainability and will very soon be leading the way as one of the greenest cities on the planet.


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