In the past decade, travelling has become a far more affordable, accessible and routine experience. It is desired by many and disregarded by few which has become far clearer as our ability to travel this last year decreased due to the pandemic.
Sustainability has increasingly become the centre of innovation for European countries, with the rise of wider cycling lanes, Instagram worthy farmers markets selling exotic fruits, and easy access to bikes and scooters through various apps. The comfort and satisfaction of travellers have never been a higher priority for tourism as it is now. But promoting sustainability isn’t purely a marketing method for the purposes of tourism. It also sets standards for other nations, proving that in the midst of a climate change crisis even the smallest changes can have a compounded impact in the long term.
It will not come as a surprise for many Europeans that Zürich is one of the frontrunners in implementing modern sustainable features. As Condé Nast Traveller highlights in their article: ’10 of the Most Sustainable Cities in the World’, the city makes headlines with their ability to set industrial and business sector parameters with regards to energy usage and waste-reduction. Back in 2014, when I was walking through the streets of Zürich, the city centre had almost completely cut off access to cars, putting small cafés in the centre of attention and hiding solar panels on the roofs, away from public eyes. Sustainable advancement won’t always be reflected through the cutting down of the most influential polluters in the city, instead what Zürich has done is implement more simple and cost effective solutions, such as increasing the amount of vegetation and trees in the most populated areas of the city.
Europe’s success in offering more eco-friendly solutions often comes from cities with lower populations, where it is easier to implement influential changes. But cities like Vienna, Stockholm and Copenhagen do not just aim to set standards with their sustainable innovations but also hope to inspire other nations whose capitals are densely populated and where these changes can have a more influential impact. For example, Estonia has become one of the leading nations in setting standards on how to tackle the climate crisis by implementing smaller changes into cities. Estonian cities have introduced the Tartu Smart Bike Share which allows the public to easily rent electric bikes at low costs, implemented public transport that runs on sustainable fuel, while still providing seasonal activities for the public with low maintenance costs. In Tartu, the city council this winter has placed an ice rink outside the town-hall, creating a ‘winter wonderland’ experience for future travellers. Personally being able to experience these small but environmentally profitable innovations first-hand helps revalidate my belief that Europe is the best place to live in 2021.
Besides its world renowned cuisines, variety of languages and timeless history, the continent can now add another title to its vastly growing collection: Europe’s capitals are now some of the leaders of sustainability around the world.