Green credentials make Amsterdam great

Amsterdam has been named the second-best city in the world by Time Out thanks to its efforts to increase sustainability.

The world renowned city guides publication asked 27,000 urbanites about food, culture, community and future-looking initiatives. The poll found 47% of Amsterdammers said the city was ‘green’ and 27% described it as sustainable – among the highest scores in the poll. Overall, the scores from each city were combined to create the ranking, which includes insights from Time Out editors and experts worldwide.

“During last year’s lockdowns, the city aimed to cement its status as a modern, environmentally aware metropolis. Seemingly, the strategy has worked,” Time Out reported.

In Amsterdam, climate conscious public and private initiatives come from all sectors, from food and fashion, to finance and farming. Here are our top six super sustainable initiatives that make the city great:

1. The Amsterdam City Doughnut

Picture of doughnuts to illustrate Amsterdam doughnut economic model, via Unsplash

Amsterdam is the first city in the world to adopt the doughnut model. Despite what the picture suggests, it's less about sprinkles and more about sustainability. Cooked up by Kate Raworth at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, it provides a guide for how businesses and communities can contribute to economic development while respecting the limits of the planet and citizens.

The inner ring of the doughnut sets out the minimum to lead a good life, for example food, clean water, a political voice. Anyone who falls below the minimum is in the doughnut’s hole. The outer ring represents the boundaries set out by climate scientists. Breaching those would damage the planet. That means the goal of economic activity in Amsterdam, from house-building to importing consumer products, should be about meeting the core needs of all but within the means of the planet (so we all thrive in the delicious doughnut dough).

2. Climate policies on point

Urban agriculture Amsterdam Sander van der Torren

Schroders European Sustainable Cities Index found Amsterdam’s environmental policies are the best in Europe. The city has stringent policies to cut carbon emissions, switch to green energy and improve air quality. “The index is important because it ranks the European cities that will provide their inhabitants with a high quality of life, whilst minimising environmental impact,” Hugo Machin, who compiled the index, said.

3. Eco-friendly fashion

Amsterdam is home to the world’s first museum and startup accelerator dedicated to sustainable fashion. Fashion for Good is raising the bar for designers, brands, retailers and consumers to adopt more climate conscious processes. Amsterdam is also home to countless startups and initiatives striving to decarbonise supply chains or embrace slow fashion, including The Fabricant’s digital apparel, Lena Library’s rental platform, and sustainable denim from MUD Jeans, Kuyichi and G Star Raw.

4. Emission-free transport

Two riders on a felyx e-scooter in Amsterdam

Emitting practically zero carbon dioxide with every bike ride, Amsterdam’s cycling city-dwellers are easily earning points for eco-friendliness. Yet even faster ways of getting around are built with the planet in mind. Amsterdam is the founding home of several smart mobility alternatives to gas guzzling cars, including Felyx e-scooters, ViaVan car sharing and VanMoof, now the world’s leading e-bike brand. And if you prefer four wheels, Amsterdam also boasts the highest concentration of electric vehicle charging points in the world. 

5. Low-waste food

Not only do Amsterdammers dress and move around sustainably, they can eat and drink sustainably, too. Amsterdam’s food scene includes two restaurants with Michelin green stars for their plant-to-plate approach to fine dining. Other low-waste dining options include: food surplus turned into delicious dishes at Instock; closed-loop cocktails at Bluespoon; and the cleantech compound at Cafe de Ceuvel. And, grocery shopping is made more eco-friendly with Amsterdam-based app NoFoodWasted.

6. Sustainable buildings

ING Cedar Cumulus Park

Amsterdam is home to an increasing number of homes, offices and venues meeting the highest environmental ratings.

The Goede Doelen Loterijen building is covered in 900 solar panels that produce roughly 300 megawatt hours of energy annually. And the roof, which is supported by massive beams resembling trees, collects rainwater used in the building’s plumbing system. At the solar panelled ING offices in Zuidas, single-use plastics are banned from on-site cafes and restaurants. Called the “smartest building in the world”, The Edge, also in Zuidas, consumes 70% less electricity than average office buildings. The Johan Cruijff ArenA, the home of Amsterdam’s football club Ajax, has a 4,200 solar panelled retractable roof that also collects rain to water the football field.

Read more business news from around Amsterdam.