Sustainable Superstars: Ranking the 'Greenest' cities on Earth
Welcome to the 2nd edition of abillion’s annual Cities of the Future report - a ranking of metropolitan cities, delivering on the promise of moving towards greater sustainability for their residents. It is part of abillion’s mission: to catalyze millions of people and businesses to do what’s right for themselves, the animals around them, and the planet we live in. abillion’s worldwide community writes reviews of plant-based food and products to help others in this community on our app.
abillion’s team of data scientists then analyze these consumer reviews along multiple dimensions. They also track publicly available information about policy commitments towards the UN sustainable development goals (UN SDGs), greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste management. Cities are then placed in a scoring framework ranging from 1.0 for the best rating through 5.0, for the worst, in each category. A final score is computed to determine the order of the cities.
This year, São Paulo emerged at the top, scoring particularly high in two areas: its embrace of plant-based living and its strong policy commitments towards UN SDGs. Besides São Paulo, four other cities on this list are from the Americas: Toronto (#3), Los Angeles (#6), Mexico City (#7) and New York (#8). Europe has four entries in this list: Madrid (#2), Barcelona (#4), London (#9) and Berlin (#10) while Singapore(#5) is the lone Asian entrant.
Here’s how each city ranks:
As the most populous city in the Southern Hemisphere, São Paulo, or Sampa as it is also known, has a lot going for it. Paulistanos can be proud of achieving #1 on abillion’s Cities of the Future ranking. São Paulo has scored high along Policy (1) and Plant-based living (1.8) dimensions.
As a major urban center, São Paulo faces a range of environmental challenges, including air and water pollution, waste management, and climate change. To address these challenges, the city has implemented a number of policies and programs related to environmental protection and sustainability.
It is generally acknowledged that São Paulo has made progress in improving its sustainability and addressing environmental challenges, but as with everywhere else, significant challenges remain.
São Paulo’s Cota Ambiental is one of its most well-known environmental policies and has been credited with reducing air pollution by encouraging the use of cleaner and more efficient vehicles. It has also implemented other policies and programs related to environmental protection and sustainability, such as a solid waste recycling program and a program to promote the use of public transportation.
The Sustainable Mobility Plan and the Climate Change Policy are more recent initiatives that aim to address a range of sustainability challenges in the city, including improving public transportation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and promoting sustainable land use. These policies are still in the process of being implemented.
abillion’s members from São Paulo reviewed over 20k plant-based CPG products and ~3k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~2/3rds of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly.
Check out abillion ambassador Larissa Maluf’s vegan guide to São Paulo for a paulistano-curated list of the best restaurants. If you are based in São Paulo, make sure you attend the annual VegFest organized by Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira to partake in all that is on offer. You can also try out our own curated list of restaurants.
“Madrid is a city of art, and the art of living” as Ernest Hemingway once stated. Madrileños have adopted plant-based living in a big way and the city has also responded to this trend. Madrid makes its way into our list this year driven mainly by the breadth of plant-based options available with a score for Plant-based living of 1.4.
Madrid has a number of initiatives in place to support people who follow a plant-based lifestyle. The city has a number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as a number of vegan-friendly markets and grocery stores. In addition, the city has implemented a number of initiatives to promote plant-based eating, including hosting vegan food festivals and working with local schools to offer more plant-based options in their cafeterias.
abillion’s growing community of Madrid-based members reviewed over 13k plant-based CPG products and ~3k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~2/3rds of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants to see the best of the vegan fare that Madrid has to offer..
Madrid has also implemented initiatives to reduce its carbon emissions, such as promoting the use of public transportation, encouraging the use of electric vehicles, and implementing a car-free day on the first Sunday of every month. Madrid has also made efforts to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings and to promote the use of renewable energy sources.
Toronto improved its overall score from 2.3 last year to 2.1, moving up four places to #3 on the back of improving their policy commitment score from 2.0 to 1.0.
The Vegandale festival, which originally started in 2017 in Toronto, is a festival focused on plant-based cuisine and aims to promote veganism and animal rights. It has since expanded to other cities, including New York, Chicago and Houston.
Toronto also has a diverse population with a strong vegan community, which has helped to drive its demand for plant-based options. Many non-vegan restaurants in Toronto offer vegan options on their menus. Check out the vegan guide to Toronto written by Torontoan Sarah Patterson to get a sense of the options.
abillion’s Toronto community reviewed over 4k plant-based CPG products and ~1.2k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~2/3rds of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
Toronto is home to a number of startups working on sustainability-related issues, such as developing clean energy technologies and improving waste management practices. The city rolled out the Toronto Green Standard Version 4 in 2022 and have demonstrated their commitment by voting to accelerate the implementation of Versions 5/6 aiming for a 75% decrease of GHG emission intensity, targeting Net Zero by 2040.
As early as 2018, the city council of Barcelona announced that it would introduce vegan menus in all public schools in the city to provide healthy and sustainable meal options for students, as well as to reduce the environmental impact of the city's food system.
Barcelona has a strong vegan community, and is also home to a number of vegan restaurants, vegan-friendly markets and grocery stores while many non-vegan restaurants in Barcelona offer vegan options on their menus. Barcelona also hosts the largest outdoor vegan festival in Europe.
Barcelona scored 1.0 for Policy, 2.0 for GHG emissions and 2.6 for Plant-based living. Our members reviewed ~7k plant-based CPG products and ~3k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~60% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
The Catalan city is accelerating the shift to sustainable urban mobility, with an update to its Urban Mobility Plan 2024, aiming for a modal split of 80% sustainable modes by 2024. The plan works to provide universal access throughout the city, making use of healthy and sustainable transport modes like walking, public transport, cycling and other personal mobility vehicles.
It’s against this climate backdrop that some of the world’s most innovative plant-based companies have taken root, backed by a supportive community that has contributed over 8,000 product reviews on our app. Plant-based chicken company Heura, as well as Grin Grin, are well-loved by our members for its vegan cheese.
Singapore has a rich and diverse food culture, influenced by the country's multi-cultural population and its history as a major trading hub. There has been an increasing demand for plant-based options in Singapore in recent years, and many restaurants and food outlets including the city-state’s unique hawker centers now offer vegetarian and vegan options.
Singapore maintained its #5 rating from last year, continuing to scoring highly for Policy commitment at 1.0 for Policy while it scored 3.1 for the Plant-based living parameter.
The Lion City was the first off the blocks in granting regulatory approval for cultivated meat products and has supported the development of the plant-based industry through initiatives such as the Plant-Based Foods Grant.
The Singaporean abillion community reviewed ~12k plant-based CPG products and ~13k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~40% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 aims to galvanize a whole-of-nation movement to advance sustainable development. It includes a plan for ‘30 by 30’ to build up the capacity to produce 30% of the city’s nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030.
Los Angeles is a beautiful city with a lot to offer, including great weather, beautiful beaches, stunning mountain ranges, and a vibrant culture. The city of Angels achieved a total score of 2.3 based on a policy score of 1.0 and plant-based living score of 2.6 while it rated 4.0 on both greenhouse gas emissions and waste.
Check out abillion’s member and angeleno, Asher Brown’s vegan guide to Los Angeles to get a sense of the best options available. The abillion community in LA reviewed ~3k plant-based CPG products and ~1k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~75% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
Los Angeles is taking steps to become a more sustainable city, and is working towards reducing its carbon emissions, improving air quality, and conserving natural resources
LA has set a goal to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. The city has also implemented a number of initiatives to promote the use of renewable energy, such as solar panel installations and the development of a network of electric vehicle charging stations.
While the Zero Waste LA program which aims to divert all waste from landfills by 2025 has made significant progress towards its goal, it is still ongoing.
"Mexico City is a city of color and life, a city that pulsates with energy and vitality. It is a city that is always changing, always evolving, always growing." claimed the Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. Mexico City makes its entry into our list of the cities of the future based on a strong performance in the plant-based living component (1.3)
Given its rich culinary tradition that is based on plant-based ingredients, such as beans, corn, chilies, and a variety of vegetables, it is easy to find vegan dishes in Mexico City, even in traditional restaurants. In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of vegan-specific restaurants in Ciudad de México, which offer a wide range of plant-based dishes. These restaurants often feature innovative, gourmet-style dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.
The abillion community in CDMX reviewed ~6k plant-based CPG products and ~4k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~75% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
This city that grew out of the ruins of Tenochtitlán has implemented a number of initiatives to encourage sustainable transportation such as car-free days, bike lanes, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and also working to achieve zero emissions transportation with a goal of transitioning all vehicles in the city to zero-emission technologies by 2050. However, Mexico doesn’t have a net zero target that would enable targeted efforts.
The Big Apple lands at #8 on our list with a score of 2.7. Its influence extends far beyond its borders, and it has played a major role in shaping many aspects of modern society and culture.
Chef Daniel Humm transformed his New York restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, into a vegan establishment during the pandemic. The move was met with criticism, but ultimately led to the restaurant becoming the first plant-based establishment to be awarded three stars by the Michelin guide. Humm's decision to switch to a vegan menu was recognized for its sustainability and the guide hoped it would encourage other chefs to embrace sustainability as well.
The abillion community in New York reviewed ~3k plant-based CPG products and ~1k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~60% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
New York scores high on policy commitment and implementation with the Green New Deal, PlaNYC etc.
NYC has committed to an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 and was the first city to align itself with the 1.5C target of the Paris Agreement. At the same time, NYC is investing over $20 billion to adapt its neighborhoods to climate change risks such as flooding, heat, and sea level rise.
With a score of 2.7, London ranks #9 in our cities of the future.
With a thriving and diverse food ecosystem, London makes it easier than most other cities for individuals to live a plant-based lifestyle. Community events such as the London Vegan Festival ensure that the vegan community is well-supported.
The abillion community in London reviewed ~9k plant-based CPG products and ~2k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~50% of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
London has emerged as a hub for companies that are developing and producing plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy, and other animal-derived products such as Love Raw, and Nomo.
London has an ambitious target to become a zero-carbon city by 2050. It also has a "Zero Waste to Landfill" program which targets diversion of all of the city's waste away from landfill by 2026.
As a vegan, one could very well say "Ich bin ein Berliner". Berlin is at times called the vegan capital of Europe and is indeed, a great city for plant-based living due to its large and vibrant vegan community, as well as the wide range of vegan options available at restaurants, cafes, and other food establishments. Veganism is widely accepted and supported and an increasing number of non-vegan establishments that offer plant-based options on their menus. With a score of 2.7, Berlin ranks #10 in our cities of the future.
The abillion community in Berlin reviewed ~4k plant-based CPG products and over 1k dishes at restaurants. In addition, ~2/3rds of the restaurants were rated as very vegan friendly. Try out our curated list of restaurants.
ProVeg, a Berlin-based organization formerly known as the Vegetarian Federation of Germany, has launched a new incubator to help these companies bring their products to market more quickly and effectively, and to support the growth of the plant-based food industry in Germany and beyond.
Berlin has set a goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city by 2050. It has developed a Climate Protection Plan that outlines a range of measures and targets to reduce emissions across different sectors, including energy, transportation, and buildings.
Methodology: How we rank the cities
The abillion Cities of The Future (COTF) ranking is based on 1.6 million authentic consumer reviews from 40,000 members of the abillion community spread over 3,182 cities in 173 countries. We combined our proprietary dataset with external data sources to compute a final score from four categories: plant-based living (40 % weight), the city’s policy commitment (40 % weight), greenhouse gas emissions (10 % weight) and waste generated (10 % weight). Compared to the inaugural edition of this report, we have increased the weightage to policy commitment and progress from 30% to 40% as the UN has indicated that achieving the UN’s SDGs requires an even stronger thrust towards Governments adopting and executing on their policies for sustainable development. We have also reduced the weightage of plant-based living from 50% to 40% to address the increased weightage given to policy commitments.
All scores are relative; quantiles are assigned across the distribution and cities are allocated a grade from 1 to 5, with 1 being the best. São Paulo for instance, was in the top quantile for policy commitment, but came in the last quantile for waste. This prevents outliers from skewing the final score, and allows us to pit cities against one another.
The plant-based living component which has a 40% weightage is derived from two sub-categories: The number of reviewed plant-based dishes and consumer packaged products, as well as the average vegan-friendly rating of F&B establishments from Jan 2021 through July 2022. policy commitment is evaluated in-house from policy papers, environmental progress reports, and city agency/council websites. Lastly, Greenhouse gas emissions and waste are derived from publicly available official sources (e.g., The World Bank, Our World in Data, Eurostat, US Environmental Protection Agency).
Out of the 3,182 cities considered from across the globe, only 60 cities made the initial cut. The rest did not meet our minimum criteria for the number of members and consumer reviews. For instance, only cities with more than 100 active reviewers were considered while cities with a population lower than 1,000,000 were excluded.
A limitation of the above methodology is that we prorated country-level greenhouse gas emissions and waste using city-country population ratios in the absence of city-level data. This assumes a linear relationship between population and emissions or waste, which while not precise is acceptable as an approximation.
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Download the full city report here.