Based on Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index (EPI) for 2008, which measures factors such as a country’s environmental health, air pollution, water resources and productive natural resources, ten countries have once again made it to the top of the charts as the most eco-friendly nations in the world.
- 1. Switzerland: Thanks in major part to Switzerland’s tough legislation regarding pollution, they made it to number one on the world’s most eco-friendly nations. Their long-term plans target cooperation between organizations and individuals, shown by the strict waste management policies of companies like IKEA and Volvo. Individual awareness is also a factor, since Switzerland charges for their water and waste management services as well as establishing a sever environmental taxes, promoting personal responsibility. Prevention is a third key tenet, shown by the 2006 development of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), meant to sustain natural resources and develop safety measures for natural hazards.
- 3. Sweden: Sweden’s mandate for a country free of fossil fuels by 2020 puts it in third. A majority of the country’s power is either nuclear or hydroelectric already. Solutions for automobile and flight transport include ethanol and animal waste conversion. Furthermore, the power of waves is in the process of being harnessed as well. Thanks to development at the University of Uppsala, Sweden is developing “wave power” which converts waves into 4x as much energy as solar power in the same amount of time, with no waste and no emissions.
- 4. Finland: Finland is a country showing remarkable recovery from industrialization with its initiative to clean up water and air quality in industrial areas as well as land preservation. What’s more is that Finland’s forests are now growing at a greater rate than they are being deforested, showing an environmental gain even with the annual timber harvest. Finland can also be attributed with starting the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) Task Force for Sustainable Building and Construction, which looks not only at the sustainability of the building, but of the resources and process used to construct it.
- 5. Costa Rica: While there is a strong correlation between a country’s economic wealth and their environmental stewardship, Costa Rica still scores a five on the EPI scale. With 5% of the world’s biodiversity contained on one island, Costa Rica has always been on the forefront of environmental conservation. In fact, a full quarter of the island is devoted to park preservation. But other developments such as the used on hydroelectric power in 80% of the country and the 5% gas tax which funds environmental programs put Costa Rica in fifth.
- 6. Austria: Austria’s environmental conservation measures are enforced by all levels of government, from federal to municipal authorities. Waste disposal especially is a highly regulated department encompassing everything from individual waste to cooperate chemical, air and agricultural pesticide pollution. Water quality and forest preservation, however, is the highest priority. The quality level for Austria’s lakes and rivers is some of the highest in the world. The development of Austria’s National Protective Forest Plan has also helped in keeping the nations natural beauty pristine.
- 7. New Zealand: This nation’s relatively small population in relation to land mass has helped preserve this nation’s natural resources. While automotive emissions do prove a real threat, as well as industrial pollutants, New Zealand is working hard to develop restrictive legislation and alternative energy sources. The nation was also host to the 2008 World Environment Day, as well as developing the Environmental Risk Management Authority, which regulates the introduction of non-native species and environmental components to determine their threat to New Zealand’s pristine atmosphere.
- 8. Latvia: Latvia’s relatively small size is no indicator of their pride in their natural resources. By monitoring and reducing water pollution, their salmon and freshwater bodies are all in the range of “good.” Lativia has also begun dismantling unnecessary and pollutive farms to reduce fertilizer and insecticide chemicals and allow room for the return of natural forests. In fact, since 1990 Lativa has decreased stationary pollution by 46% and wastewater by 44%, devoting a major portion of environmental funds to water treatment and energy conservation techniques.
- 9. Columbia: Beating Costa Rica, Columbia is home to 10% of the world’s species, with a wealth of ecological diversity. While Columbia has had problems in the past concerning deforestation, the detrimental effects of the coca trade, and political strife involving their natural oil deposits, all these factors have helped to move Columbia towards energy conservation and new, less politically tumultuous resources. Columbia has also begun programs for the cultivation of natural parks that support the growth of native medicinal plants. The Orito Igni-Ande Medicinal Flora Sanctuary is a 10,626 hectare preserve that may just show that Columbia is on the right track.
- 10. France: The French government is very aware of the problem of climate change, and it is for this reason that France has made tenth of the list. Their strict environmental protection measures are incorporated into the national Constitution and reviewed every year with the eventual goal of 54 million tons of saved C02 by 2010, one of the few in the Kyoto agreement to cut such a large amount of emissions in so short a time. These laws are also comprehensive, covering every setup of production from supplier to producer to consumer, also helping to make them the number one producer of renewable energy sources in the EU, 78% of its energy being nuclear powered, which in turn has reduced nitrogen oxide and other hazardous emissions by 70%.
Perhaps these results will help the US in reducing both their enormous consumption of natural resources and in reliable initiatives to restore the environment.