World's best 10 eco-conscious cities

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

The first European Green Capital (in 2010) gladdens the heart of eco-conscious visitors. Hotels have Earth-friendly housekeeping and energy conservation programs while a number of restaurants grow their own herbs and run courses on organic cultivation. Stockholm's recycling plants are beginning to run out of rubbish. Embedded in the city are parks and nature reserves (Ekoparken, or Royal National City Park, has some of Europe's densest oak forest) and it is surrounded by lakes, ocean and islands. See visitstockholm.com

SINGAPORE

Singapore has had a green plan for more than 25 years to address energy efficiency and the quality of its water and air. It aims to have zero landfill waste by 2050. The city was one of the first to introduce a traffic congestion toll and has famously good public transport. Despite the island-state's compact size, it still creates new parks and green corridors and has four nature reserves. See visitsingapore.com

VANCOUVER, CANADA

Despite a growing population, Vancouver is one of the world's cleanest cities, especially for air quality. It promotes green energy, serious recycling, bicycle networks and agreeable inner-city living rather than urban sprawl. It also claims 200 parks – peninsular Stanley Park has stands of old forest – and a fabulous waterfront setting. At its aquarium, you can hear whales communicating as they pass underwater microphones placed just offshore. See tourismvancouver.com

SAN FRANCISCO, US

Progressive San Francisco leads the way in green-and-clean initiatives, such as one of the world's highest rates of composting and recycling (77 per cent of all waste) and a ban on plastic bags. Restaurants prefer local and organic and farmers' markets are terrific. The city is bicycle friendly, too. Pedal the waterfront for fabulous views, or enjoy the huge sprawl of green oasis that is Golden Gate Park. See sftravel.com

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA

Australia's greenest city has pledged to tackle climate change by introducing everything from electric-run public transport to energy-efficient street lighting. The city council wants to make Adelaide carbon neutral by 2025 and allocates 1 per cent of its rates to a climate change fund. The state government contributes to residents' costs of installing solar panels and other energy-efficient devices and energy storage systems. Even Adelaide airport infrastructure has green credentials. See southaustralia.com

HELSINKI, FINLAND

The Finnish capital launched a sustainability action plan 25 years ago, which it has been determinedly implementing ever since. It now tops the European Green City Index and wants to be carbon neutral in the next 25 years. The city is energy efficient, bicycle-friendly and low in pollution, and nearly 40 per cent of its land area is covered in parks and nature reserves. See myhelsinki.fi

LONDON, BRITAIN

Megacities are never going to match small-scale Scandinavian capitals, but the British capital has put considerable effort into reducing greenhouse gases and relieving traffic congestion. It has an excellent public bike system, with 10,000 bicycles available at 700 docking stations across the city. More green spaces have also been created alongside an already significant number of parks. An impressive 47 per cent of the city is now green or blue space. See visitlondon.com

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

South Africa's second-largest city is backed by rugged peaks and Table Mountain, fringed by beautiful beaches and nature reserves and enjoys the bracing Cape Doctor wind. Environmental consciousness is growing, with more energy sourced from renewable resources, more efficient waste management systems and the rolling out of cycling routes in neighbourhoods such as Greenpoint and Seapoint. It's now among Africa's most eco-conscious cities. See capetown.travel

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

Advanced environmental policies, excellent public transportation and extremely low carbon-dioxide emissions have created a waterside city that has all the big-city assets yet leaves a small-town imprint on the environment. Half the population cycles daily, using 390 kilometres of bicycle lanes. The city has abundant green spaces, such as flower-filled King's Park, botanical gardens and sprawling Faelledparken. Half the hotels have environmental water planning and organic stores abound. See visitcopenhagen.com

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PORTLAND, US

Oregon's largest city regularly tops lists of America's greenest cities, with residents proving keen to eat local, shop in street markets, recycle, use renewable energy and abandon plastic bags. The city is also one of the world's most cycle friendly, with more than 500 kilometres of cycle paths, and plans to add 1000 kilometres more by 2030. Green businesses carry city certification useful for the eco-conscious traveller. See travelportland.com

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