Lance Hosey | Huffington Post

Boston Public Garden (Rick Harris, Creative Commons)
Boston Public Garden (Rick Harris, Creative Commons)

You’ve seen the statistics: Today, for the first time in human history, more people live in cities than don’t. According to the United Nations, by mid-century two thirds of the global population — an additional 2.5 billion — are expected to dwell in urban areas. The future is cities.

Given this, which cities provide the best models for growth? This is the critical question addressed by the first Sustainable Cities Index, released this week by ARCADIS, the global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm. The research studies 50 cities from 31 countries and ranks them according to their social, economic and environmental sustainability, or people, profit and planet. The point is not necessarily to hold these places up as ideals: “No utopian city exists,” the report emphasizes. Instead, the idea is to figure out what is working well now so that other cities can chart a manageable path for the future.

In the Index, the “people” category rates quality of life indicators such as health, education, work-life balance, income inequality, transportation and availability of green space. The “profit” index considers cost of living, property values, GDP per capita, the ease of doing business, the city’s standing in global economic networks, etc. And the “planet” index examines energy consumption, recycling rates, greenhouse gas emissions, sanitation, air pollution and other resource-related factors.

By these measures, which city comes out on top? Frankfurt, Germany. It ranks first in the world for both “profit” and “planet” and ninth for “people.” Its clean air and progressive waste management are world-class models of environmentally responsible development. Rotterdam tops the “people” list, due to its high literacy and excellent work-life balance. Read more