Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Score: 76.8
Colombia’s reputation has not always been that of a “green” nation, as rampant deforestation for palm oil plantations and illegal coca production have marred the country’s environmental standing. But the country has bounced back, reducing deforestation, establishing numerous national parks to preserve medicinal plant species, and transitioning to bamboo from steel for structural building design.
EPI Score: 78.1
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, communist Cuba faced a massive fossil fuel import shortage. Commercial farms failed due to the inability to fuel equipment, and petroleum-derived fertilizers were unavailable. Cuba bounced back from this time of food scarcity by developing organic gardens throughout cities and rural communities alike. The country has also, since 2008, embraced hydroelectric power for energy.
EPI Score: 78.1
Being “green” seems to be engrained in Austria’s citizens—from the working class to the aristocracy—environmental preservation of their motherland is just common sense and has been instilled through their lineage of farmers, hunters and forest men. The country uses 70 percent renewable energy and roughly 60 percent of all waste is recycled.
EPI Score: 78.2
France generates more nuclear energy per capita than any other country in the world—approximately 80 percent. Whether or not nuclear fission energy is truly “green” is certainly up for debate. Emissions are certainly low, but where do you store all that pesky radioactive waste? France is also implementing renewable energy standards, and organic farming practices are on the rise.
EPI Score: 80.6
Not many people know of this small island nation off of the African mainland east of Madagascar. Mauritius is investing highly in wind energy and sugarcane for ethanol fuel production. Since the island has few natural resources, it is seeking to reduce waste and localize energy production.
EPI Score: 81.1
Norway is in a tough position. It is on track to be carbon neutral by 2030, but is currently reliant on its domestic oil production. The country plans to offset carbon emissions through the purchase of carbon credits while reducing its actual emissions by 40 percent. Norway is expanding its railroad and public transportation system, plus reducing deforestation.
EPI Score: 86.0
Following the oil shock in the 1980s, Sweden made a bold vow to free itself from dependence on fossil fuels by 2020. The country thus far utilizes 28 percent renewable and clean energy, focusing on hydro, wind, and nuclear power. Sawdust from the country’s lumber industry is formed into pellets and sold to homeowners for heat. Many vehicles in Sweden run off methane collected from processing butchered cow entrails.
3. Costa Rica
EPI Score: 86.4
With its mountainous terrain and abundant rainfall throughout the year, Costa Rica is ideally suited for hydroelectric power, using it for about 86 percent of its energy generation. Consistent temperatures between 71-80˚F (21-26˚ C) year round means Costa Ricans do not use energy to heat homes. Once deforested heavily for its ideal agricultural growing conditions, the country has been reforesting the land in the last few years, planting millions of trees.
EPI Score: 89.1
Switzerland is simply breathtaking, and the country has taken drastic steps to ensure it maintains its natural beauty. Environmental taxes are in place to promote personal responsibility, plus waste is reduced through a countrywide initiative that charges citizens 1 Euro per trash bag collected. The country is bike-friendly, and certain cities do not permit cars, although trains connect nearly every city.
EPI Score: 93.5
Iceland boasts one of the most diverse landscapes in the world for being such a small island nation. From volcanoes to glaciers, waterfalls to rolling mountains and valleys, Iceland truly is a marvel.
Prior to the deregulation of Iceland’s banks, which crippled the country’s economy, Iceland was already self-sufficient in terms of both agriculture and energy. Humble lifestyles saw most citizens living relatively comfortably while treading lightly on the land.
Geothermal energy has recently been introduced to Iceland, and although some claim the power plants and pipelines intrude on the landscape’s natural beauty, the fact is, the country is now one of the leading producers of renewable geothermal energy. Iceland sits atop a geothermal hotspot in the north Atlantic Ocean, making it ideal for geothermal plants.
Iceland has also emphasized the use of hydrogen for heat, electricity and transportation fuel.