Leading Sustainable Nations

Countries Adopting the Most Sustainable Practices

These are the nations reaching toward our highest potential in areas of renewable energy, waste and plastic reduction, pay equity, organic farming, access to free healthcare, education and water, land restoration, and more! Plus an infographic at the bottom of the page for sharing the great news.

What a beautiful world It would be if we all joined them!

What if all nations...

Like Costa Rica, ran on almost 100% renewable energy

Costa Rica has been able to run on 100% renewable energy for substantial periods, mainly using hydroelectric power, wind, geothermal, and solar energy. The country aims for complete carbon neutrality. Here are some of the countries that are either close to or have achieved this milestone:

  1. Iceland: Known for its vast geothermal resources, Iceland generates almost all of its electricity and heating from renewable energy sources, particularly geothermal and hydroelectric power.
  2. Norway: Norway heavily relies on hydroelectric power, which accounts for around 98% of its electricity production. It also invests in wind and solar energy solutions.
  3. Albania: Albania is another country that primarily uses hydroelectric power due to its abundant water resources, often achieving near 100% renewable electricity production.
  4. Paraguay: Paraguay is powered almost entirely by hydroelectric power, with a significant surplus from the Itaipu Dam, which it shares with Brazil. Most of its excess energy is exported.
  5. Bhutan: This country generates its electricity through hydroelectric power and is not only 100% renewable but also a net energy exporter.
  6. Uruguay: Uruguay has invested heavily in wind and solar power, alongside its existing hydropower capabilities, achieving close to 100% renewable energy on many days.
  7. Australia: Known for being a global leader in rooftop solar PV - nearly one out of every three Australian homes has solar panels on top.

These countries showcase various approaches to integrating renewable energy into national grids, often facilitated by their unique geographic and natural resources. Their successes provide valuable insights and models for other nations aiming for similar goals.

Like France, banned grocery stores from tossing edible foods

Besides France, Italy also has laws in place aimed at reducing food waste by encouraging grocery stores to donate unsold but still edible food. In 2016, Italy passed legislation that simplified the donation process for food and pharmaceuticals, providing incentives for businesses to give unsold products to charities instead of discarding them. This law includes reducing garbage tax for businesses that participate in food donation programs and allowing companies to record donations in a simple form on a yearly basis.

Similarly, other countries have implemented or are considering similar policies to discourage food waste and promote food donation, including Spain and Denmark. These initiatives are part of a growing trend across Europe and other parts of the world to tackle food waste at the retail level, driven by both environmental concerns and social welfare considerations.

Like Germany, offered free college tuition

Several countries offer free college tuition to their citizens and, in some cases, even to international students. Here's a list of countries known for their free or virtually free tuition policies:

  1. Norway: Public universities in Norway do not charge tuition fees, even for international students. However, living expenses in Norway can be high.

  2. Sweden: Tuition is free for EU/EEA and Swiss students. Sweden also offers a number of scholarships for non-EU international students.

  3. Finland: Universities in Finland do not charge tuition fees for EU/EEA students. Starting in 2017, non-EU/EEA students are required to pay tuition fees, but many scholarships are available.

  4. Denmark: Like other Nordic countries, Denmark offers free tuition to students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. It also offers scholarships and financial aid options for non-EU students.

  5. Austria: Austrian public universities provide free tuition for EU/EEA students, with a very low fee for students who exceed the standard period of study by more than two semesters. Non-EU students are required to pay a modest tuition fee.

  6. Czech Republic: Tuition is free for all students studying in Czech at public and state institutions. Fees apply only for those who wish to study in another language.

  7. Slovenia: Like many European countries, Slovenia offers free tuition for EU students and reasonable rates for non-EU students.

These countries' policies aim to make higher education accessible to as many students as possible, regardless of their financial situation.

Like Liechtenstein, grew organic produce on over 35% of farmland

Several countries have significantly embraced organic farming, dedicating a large portion of their agricultural land to organic production. Countries like Liechtenstein, which has a high percentage of its agricultural land under organic management, are part of a global movement towards sustainable agriculture. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Austria: Austria has one of the highest shares of organic farmland in Europe, with over 20% of its agricultural land being managed organically.

  2. Estonia: Estonia has also made significant strides in organic farming, with a substantial portion of its agricultural land dedicated to organic practices.

  3. Sweden: Sweden has been increasing its organic farmland significantly, with a commitment to sustainable agriculture practices.

  4. Switzerland: Known for its strict environmental standards, Switzerland has a high percentage of its agricultural land under organic management.

  5. Denmark: Denmark is a leader in organic food consumption and production, with a significant portion of its farmland dedicated to organic agriculture.

These countries are committed to organic farming due to its benefits for biodiversity, soil health, and reducing chemical inputs. Their policies and consumer demand for organic products support the growth of organic agriculture.

Like Kenya, completely banned plastic bags

Several countries have implemented complete bans on plastic bags to combat pollution and environmental damage. Kenya enacted one of the world's strictest bans on plastic bags in 2017. Here are other countries that have imposed similar prohibitions:

  1. Rwanda: Known for its strict environmental policies, Rwanda implemented a complete ban on plastic bags in 2008 and is often cited as one of the cleanest nations worldwide.

  2. Bangladesh: In 2002, Bangladesh became one of the first countries to ban plastic bags to prevent drainage system blockages and reduce environmental pollution.

  3. Morocco: Once one of the largest consumers of plastic bags, Morocco banned the production, sale, and distribution of plastic bags in 2016.

  4. Tanzania: In 2019, Tanzania enforced a strict ban on the manufacturing, sale, and use of plastic bags to tackle severe plastic pollution.

  5. Chile: In 2019, Chile became the first South American country to enact a nationwide ban on plastic bags at retail businesses.

These countries have recognized the severe environmental threats posed by plastic pollution and have taken legislative steps to reduce or eliminate the use of plastic bags. This movement is growing globally as more nations acknowledge the need to preserve natural resources and reduce waste.

Like New Zealand, banned microbeads in personal care & cleaning products

Several countries have taken steps to ban microbeads in personal care and cleaning products due to their harmful environmental impact, particularly in polluting waterways and harming aquatic life. New Zealand's ban took effect in 2018. Here are other countries that have implemented similar prohibitions:

  1. United States: The U.S. was one of the first to ban microbeads with the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which prohibits the manufacturing and sale of personal care products containing microbeads. However, the Act limits the ban solely to "rinse-off" cosmetic products that perform an exfoliating function, such as toothpaste or face wash. Some states have passed stricter bans.

  2. United Kingdom: The UK banned microbeads in personal care products in 2018 to combat marine pollution.

  3. Canada: Canada declared microbeads as a toxic substance and banned them from personal care products in 2018.

  4. Australia: Australia also implemented a ban on microbeads in personal care products, which took effect in 2018, following a voluntary phase-out by manufacturers.

  5. France: France banned the sale of products containing microbeads as of 2018, as part of a broader commitment to reducing environmental pollution.

  6. Sweden: Sweden banned the sale of rinse-off cosmetic products containing microbeads as of 2018, enhancing its environmental protection measures.

These countries' bans on microbeads are part of a broader global trend towards eliminating microplastics in products that can end up in oceans and other water bodies, posing a significant threat to marine ecosystems and wildlife.

Like Slovenia, made access to clean drinking water a constitutional right

Several countries have recognized access to clean drinking water as a constitutional right, reflecting a growing global emphasis on safeguarding natural resources and ensuring public health. Slovenia amended its constitution in 2016 to include such a right. Here are other nations that have taken similar legislative steps:

  1. South Africa: South Africa was one of the pioneers in this regard, with its constitution explicitly recognizing the right to access sufficient water since its adoption in 1996.

  2. Uruguay: In 2004, Uruguay amended its constitution to recognize water as a fundamental human right and prioritize domestic water use over commercial or industrial uses.

  3. Ecuador: Ecuador's 2008 constitution not only recognizes the right to water but also grants rights to nature itself, ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of water resources.

  4. Bolivia: Following a series of conflicts over water rights in the early 2000s, Bolivia's 2009 constitution now recognizes access to water and sanitation as fundamental human rights.

These amendments reflect a growing consensus that access to clean water is a fundamental and inalienable right, crucial for health, well-being, and sustainable development. Countries enshrining such rights in their constitutions aim to secure a legal foundation to improve water management and protection efforts, ensuring that all citizens can access safe and clean water.

Like Norway, offered free, high-quality healthcare

Norway is known for its high-quality, publicly funded healthcare system that is largely free at the point of use, supported by general taxation. Several other countries also offer free or nearly free healthcare, aiming to provide universal coverage to all residents. Here are some notable examples:

  1. United Kingdom: The National Health Service (NHS) provides comprehensive healthcare to all residents, funded through taxation. Most services, including doctor's visits, hospital stays, and emergency treatment, are free at the point of use.

  2. Canada: Canada's healthcare system, funded by taxes, provides access to universal healthcare for all citizens and permanent residents, with most services being free at the point of delivery. Each province and territory manages its own health insurance plan.

  3. Sweden: Sweden offers a publicly funded healthcare system where most healthcare services are provided free or at a very low cost. The system is financed through taxation.

  4. Denmark: The Danish healthcare system provides free medical treatment to all residents, funded through high taxes. This includes hospital stays, medical consultations, and treatments.

  5. Germany: Germany's healthcare system is a combination of statutory and private health insurance, known as a "sickness fund" system. It is funded through mandatory health insurance premiums, but the system ensures comprehensive coverage and access to a wide range of medical services for virtually all residents.

  6. Australia: Australia provides a significant amount of healthcare services for free or at a reduced cost through its Medicare system, funded by taxes. Medicare covers all citizens and permanent residents, providing them with access to hospital treatments and subsidized medicines.

These systems exemplify different approaches to achieving universal healthcare, ensuring that residents have access to necessary medical services without significant direct payments, thus alleviating the financial burden of healthcare costs on individuals.

Like Bhutan, prioritized a Gross National Happiness Index over GDP

Bhutan is renowned for pioneering the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an alternative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the progress and well-being of its citizens, emphasizing factors like psychological well-being, environmental sustainability, cultural preservation, and good governance. Inspired by Bhutan, a few other countries and regions have developed similar initiatives to prioritize well-being over traditional economic measures like GDP. Here are a few examples:

  1. New Zealand: In 2019, New Zealand introduced a "Wellbeing Budget" aimed at addressing broader well-being measures for its citizens, rather than focusing solely on economic growth. The budget aims to tackle the most pressing social issues like mental health, child poverty, and domestic violence.

  2. United Arab Emirates: The UAE appointed a Minister of State for Happiness in 2016 to oversee programs designed to improve the well-being of its citizens. The role involves aligning and driving government policy to create social good and satisfaction.

  3. Scotland, Iceland, and New Zealand: These countries are part of a well-being economy alliance called the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) partnership. The initiative focuses on building an economy that delivers human and ecological well-being.

  4. Finland: Known for topping the World Happiness Report multiple times, Finland focuses on policies that improve the quality of life, well-being, and happiness of its residents, although it does not have a formal index like GNH.

These efforts reflect a growing global recognition of the limitations of GDP as a sole indicator of a country's health and the importance of incorporating well-being and happiness into national policies.

Like Iceland, actively enforced equal pay for equal work

Iceland has been a leader in enforcing equal pay for equal work, having implemented stringent laws that require companies to obtain equal pay certification. Several other countries have also taken significant steps toward enforcing or promoting gender pay equality. Here are some examples:

  1. Norway: Norway has strong gender equality legislation, including laws that promote equal pay for work of equal value. It also has active policies for transparency in wages and strict enforcement against discrimination.

  2. United Kingdom: In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 provides a legal framework for pay equality. Additionally, as of 2017, companies with more than 250 employees are required to publish gender pay gap reports annually.

  3. Germany: Germany introduced the Transparency in Wage Structures Act in 2017, which allows employees in companies with more than 200 employees to request information on pay structures to uncover potential gender-based discrepancies.

  4. Australia: The Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 requires non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees to submit an annual report that includes information on gender equality indicators, including equal pay.

  5. Sweden: Sweden has comprehensive gender equality policies, and employers are required to actively pursue equal pay for equal work through regular pay audits and action plans.

  6. Finland: Finland has also implemented laws that require companies to provide equal pay for equal work and conduct regular salary reviews to ensure compliance.

These countries, among others, are committed to reducing the gender pay gap through a combination of legislation, mandatory reporting, and active enforcement policies.

Like Austria, created strong animal welfare laws

Austria is known for its comprehensive and stringent animal welfare laws. Many other countries have also established robust legal frameworks to protect animal welfare, reflecting a global shift towards recognizing and ensuring the rights and well-being of animals. Here are some notable examples:

  1. Switzerland: Switzerland has very strict animal welfare laws, which include regulations on how animals should be kept, transported, and slaughtered. It was one of the first countries to recognize animals in their constitution as beings and not things.

  2. Germany: Germany has strong animal welfare legislation, which includes bans on practices like fur farming and requirements for humane slaughter. The country amended its constitution to include animal protection as a state goal.

  3. Sweden: Sweden is known for its high standards of animal welfare. The country has stringent regulations regarding the care and conditions of livestock and pets, including specific rules about the space animals must have and their right to natural behaviors.

  4. United Kingdom: The UK has comprehensive animal welfare standards, including the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which sets out the duty of care to animals and includes penalties for neglect and cruelty. The UK has also introduced CCTV in slaughterhouses to ensure compliance with humane slaughter practices.

  5. Netherlands: The Netherlands has progressive animal welfare laws, including strict regulations on factory farming, pet ownership, and the use of animals in circuses.

  6. New Zealand: New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act 1999 provides for the welfare of animals and the prevention of their maltreatment, reflecting the country’s high standards in animal welfare.

These countries demonstrate a commitment to advancing animal welfare through detailed legislative measures that not only prevent cruelty and neglect but also promote humane treatment and care in various aspects of animal handling and management.

Like Venezuela, protected over 50% of total land area

Several countries have made significant commitments to conserving their natural landscapes and biodiversity by protecting a substantial portion of their land area. Here are some countries that, like Venezuela, have protected over 50% of their total land area:

  1. Seychelles: Through aggressive conservation efforts, Seychelles has set aside a large percentage of its land and marine territories for protection, aiming to conserve its unique biodiversity and marine life.

  2. Bhutan: Bhutan is known for its commitment to environmental conservation. More than half of its territory is designated as national parks, nature reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries, all protected under its constitution.

  3. Slovenia: Slovenia has also protected a significant portion of its land through national parks, reserves, and Natura 2000 sites (a network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union), aimed at preserving its rich natural heritage.

  4. Costa Rica: Known globally for its biodiversity, Costa Rica has dedicated over half of its land to national parks and other protected areas, playing a critical role in preserving its extensive variety of flora and fauna.

  5. Panama: Panama has made extensive efforts to protect its diverse ecosystems, with a large percentage of its territory designated as protected areas, including national parks and wildlife refuges.

These countries exemplify global efforts to prioritize land and environmental conservation, playing crucial roles in biodiversity preservation, combating climate change, and promoting ecological sustainability.

Like Sweden, sent only 1% of household waste to landfills

Several countries have achieved remarkable success in minimizing the amount of household waste sent to landfills, focusing heavily on recycling and waste-to-energy programs. Like Sweden, which sends only about 1% of its household waste to landfills due to extensive recycling and energy recovery practices, other nations have also made significant strides:

  1. Germany: Known for its rigorous waste management policies, Germany has one of the highest recycling rates in the world, significantly reducing the volume of waste sent to landfills.

  2. Denmark: Denmark, like Sweden, has invested heavily in waste-to-energy technologies, which convert waste into heat and electricity, drastically reducing landfill use.

  3. Switzerland: Switzerland's waste management system heavily penalizes the disposal of recyclable waste in landfills and promotes recycling through a system of trash bag fees—higher fees encourage less landfilling.

  4. Austria: Austria has one of the lowest landfill rates in Europe, thanks to its comprehensive recycling systems and waste management policies.

  5. Netherlands: The Netherlands has effectively minimized landfilling by implementing strict regulations on waste processing and encouraging recycling and incineration for energy recovery.

These countries have demonstrated strong commitment and effective strategies in waste management, focusing on reducing landfill use through recycling, composting, and converting waste to energy. This approach not only helps in managing waste more sustainably but also reduces environmental impact, conserves natural resources, and supports energy generation.

Like France, banned plastic cups, plates, cutlery, and bags

Following France's pioneering move to ban single-use plastic items like cups, plates, cutlery, and bags—a part of its broader efforts to combat plastic pollution and transition to more sustainable materials—several other countries have implemented similar bans or restrictions on single-use plastics. Here are some of them:

  1. India: India announced a ban on single-use plastic items including straws, cutlery, plates, and small polythene bags starting in 2022, aiming to significantly reduce plastic waste across the nation.

  2. Italy: Italy has implemented bans on single-use plastic bags and, following the European Union directive, has plans to phase out single-use plastic products that have readily available alternatives.

  3. Canada: Canada has moved to ban harmful single-use plastics, including grocery bags, cutlery, food service items made from hard-to-recycle plastics, and is working towards more extensive bans in coming years.

  4. United Kingdom: The UK has banned plastic straws, stirrers, and cotton buds, and is also looking to expand its restrictions on other single-use items as part of a broader environmental strategy.

  5. New Zealand: New Zealand has implemented a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags and announced further measures to phase out a wide range of single-use plastics, including cutlery and plates.

These bans are part of a global trend toward reducing the consumption of disposable plastics, which are a major source of pollution, especially in the world's oceans. Countries implementing these measures are not only aiming to reduce litter and landfill use but also to encourage the use of more sustainable and reusable alternatives.

Like Bangladesh, only ate 4kg of meat per person per year

Countries with low per capita meat consumption often have diets that are influenced by cultural, economic, or dietary preferences that emphasize plant-based foods. Bangladesh, where the average meat consumption per person per year is very low compared to global standards, is not alone in this regard. Other countries with similar dietary patterns include:

  1. India: In India, cultural and religious practices significantly influence dietary habits, leading to one of the lowest meat consumption rates in the world, with many people following vegetarian or vegan diets.

  2. Nepal: Similar to its neighbor India, Nepal has a low rate of meat consumption. Dietary habits are influenced by economic factors as well as religious beliefs, particularly among Hindu and Buddhist populations.

  3. Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka also reports low meat consumption, partly due to the prevalence of Buddhism and Hinduism, which often advocate for vegetarian diets.

  4. Ethiopia: In Ethiopia, fasting periods prescribed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church significantly reduce meat consumption, as many adhere to vegan diets during these times.

These countries' low meat consumption reflects a combination of religious, cultural, and economic influences that prioritize plant-based diets or necessitate reduced meat intake.

Like the Netherlands, made over 25% of all trips on bicycles

The Netherlands is renowned for its cycling culture, where over a quarter of all trips are made by bicycle, supported by extensive cycling infrastructure and flat terrain. Several other countries also have high rates of bicycle usage, particularly for commuting and short trips. Here are some examples:

  1. Denmark: Specifically, Copenhagen is famous for its cycling culture, with a significant portion of the population using bicycles for daily commuting. The city has extensive bike lanes and facilities catering to cyclists.

  2. Germany: Cities like Münster and Freiburg are known for their high bicycle usage rates, with a strong infrastructure and community support for cycling.

  3. Sweden: In cities like Uppsala and Stockholm, cycling is a popular mode of transport, supported by comprehensive cycling lanes and favorable urban planning.

  4. Belgium: Particularly in cities like Ghent and Bruges, a large percentage of the population uses bicycles for daily travel, encouraged by good cycling infrastructure and flat topography.

  5. China: While the rate varies significantly across the country, cities like Beijing have historically had high rates of bicycle usage, although this has faced challenges with increasing urbanization and car use.

These countries demonstrate strong commitments to promoting cycling through urban planning, infrastructure development, and cultural support, recognizing the environmental, health, and traffic congestion benefits that cycling can offer.

Like Algeria, banned the cultivation and import of GM foods

Several countries have implemented strict regulations or outright bans on the cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) foods, driven by concerns over environmental impact, food safety, and preserving agricultural biodiversity. Algeria, with its stringent stance on GM crops, is not alone in this regard. Here are some other countries that have similar policies:

  1. Russia: Russia has imposed a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and has strict regulations regarding the import of GM food products, focusing on promoting organic farming and protecting domestic agriculture.

  2. Peru: Peru has a moratorium in place that prohibits the importation, production, and use of GMOs on its soil, intended to safeguard its rich biodiversity and the integrity of its indigenous crops.

  3. Zambia: Zambia has regulations that restrict the importation and cultivation of GM foods, primarily due to health and environmental concerns, as well as food sovereignty issues.

  4. Venezuela: Venezuela has banned the cultivation of GM crops to protect its agricultural sector and maintain control over its food production.

  5. Bhutan: Bhutan aims to be the first country to be 100% organic, part of which involves a ban on the cultivation of GM crops in favor of preserving its natural agricultural practices.

These countries often cite the precautionary principle, public health concerns, and environmental conservation as reasons for their restrictive policies on genetically modified foods.

...What a beautiful world it would be!

Infographic of Leading Sustainable Nations: Countries Adopting the Most Sustainable Practices!