Whether you are a big believer in global warming or not, we all need to do our bit to preserve the planet. It's a fact that there is a limited supply of fossil fuels left available and that many believe our priorities should be finding renewable solutions for when this finally does come to an end. Whilst London has its congestion charge to try and put people off driving into the city centre, and the government has launched the Green Deal to try and improve energy consumption in homes up and down the country, other European cities are going much further.
Whilst emissions will inevitably be created as you travel to these destinations, you can offset some of them by taking advantage of the green initiatives during your time there. If you are conscious about environmental issues then these city breaks could provide the perfect responsible getaway.
Copenhagen was designated as the European Green Capital for 2014, an honour bestowed upon our very own Bristol in 2015, and so it will come as no surprise to see the city on this list. The Danish capital is also a city with great ambition as it aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2025. Helping it on its way are initiatives such as the one which will hopefully inspire half of the city's population to cycle to work by the end of this year.
As well as aiming to be the city with the highest number of regular cyclists in the world, there is a massive renovation project happening. Your Copenhagen city break will give you the chance to see how work is going in the North Harbour district where renewable energy sources are being built. This project will also include a 'green laboratory' where new ideas can be developed, as well as giving people of all social backgrounds the chance to live by the water.
Växjö may not be on many people's radar, but it is definitely a city that is going above and beyond to look after the environment. Found in the south of Sweden and surrounded by beautiful lakes, Växjö started to take action decades ago in order to clean up its act. It was these very same lakes that provided the perfect opportunity for regeneration as they were, one by one, cleaned of the pollution that was created by the linen industry two centuries earlier.
Starting early, at the same time as implementing initiatives that encouraged residents to limit their paper consumption and cycle more often, has meant that the city now emits just half the CO2 it did in 1993. It is home to 60,000 people of which 90% receive their heating and hot water from a biomass plant on the outskirts of town. This coupled with a fleet of buses that run on potato skins has led many to say that Växjö is Europe's greenest city. The locals even receive tax breaks for recycling food waste.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A city littered with cycle paths and canals is always going to be a great advocate for environmentalism, and this really is a place in which you are encouraged to forgo the tour bus and opt for a pedal-powered boat. The city also has plenty of stations where residents can charge electronic cars and is famous for the fact that cycling is the chief mode of transport. Whilst past initiatives included Greenpeace activists turning parts of the Red Light District into the Green Light District in order to encourage people to use energy-efficient lighting in their homes, more recent ideas are for more ingenious.
Among other schemes that you may be able to witness during your Amsterdam city break is the City-Zen project. Similar to Britain's Green Deal, this program is mainly aimed at the north-west area of the city and will help residents fuel their homes more responsibly. It also involves the creation of a smart energy grid which will limit power outages, keep costs from soaring, and even enable homeowners to feed the renewable energy they create through the use of things like solar panels back into the national system.
Whilst travellers are encouraged to tour Amsterdam on pedal boats, you may be motivated to conduct your Zurich city break via an electric scooter. This is just one of the ways that Switzerland's largest city invites residents and tourists to go green. The air here is noticeably cleaner thanks to a decision to limit individual levels of CO2 and a fleet of Nissan Leaf electric cars act as taxis for people getting from A to B. Zurich also has one of the best non-car transport networks in the world.
You can stay in one of many green hotels during your time in Zurich. The Mövenpick Hotel Zürich-Airport, for example, has initiatives in place to encourage guests to recycle, use less water during their stay, and be energy conscious. In 2014, the hotel also piloted a scheme that involved completely paperless check-in and check-out processes.
Reykjavik is aiming to be a fossil-fuel-free city by 2050, a program that is helped immensely by the geothermal energy that the city (and the country on the whole) has available. It's clear to see that not only is the Icelandic capital a vibrant, cosmopolitan destination; it also concerns itself with looking after the natural landscapes that act as such a big draw for tourists.
The hot springs that can be found at various spots around the city are not just used for relaxation and entertainment purposes. Since 1907, when a farmer ran a pipe from a hot spring on his land through his home, Reykjavik has been using the geothermal energy from the ground to heat residential properties. In fact, 100% of the city's energy used for heat, hot water and electricity is produced through renewable means. You can even make your way around using the hydrogen powered buses that operate in the city centre.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Europe's green cities but these examples are definitely leading the way when it comes to protecting the environment. If you would like to visit any of the places mentioned above, or any other destination in Europe, speak to the Fred Holidays team today.