You need a break? We thought it could be a great way to relax to give you a list of great green destinations. Top 10 green countries in the world!

On the eve of Christmas, we thought that the GreenPick could put together for you a list of the greenest and most eco-friendly countries in the world; the top 10 green countries in the world!

We know how Christmas can be stressful and we thought of giving you some ideas on how to relax after the family time. It’s time to treat yourself by choosing a very beautiful country which has an active eco-friendly approach.

The top 10 green countries in the world

What kind of holidays would you choose? Beaching? Skying? In this top 10 green countries, you have choices for everyone’s tastes. The GreenPick has done its homework to help you choose the best green destination! So where will you go in 2016?

Due to the fact that we can find dozens of rankings on the internet, all more or less different, The GreenPick will provide you with the criteria that we took into account for this list:

  • the CO2 emitted level in relation to GDP (in kg CO2 per GDP)
  • the greenhouse gas emissions per capita (in tCO2 per capita)
  • the policies in place to protect the environment (water, waste, energy…)
  • the actions for reconstruction and restoration
  • the indirect actions such as the sale of oil or coal, or sending waste to other countries.

We have removed islands from this ranking as it seemed less fair knowing that their industries revolve mainly only around tourism. Another article will touch upon the greenest islands, but for now here are the 10 greenest countries. There is one important point to underline. The majority of the countries below do not own or own very little heavy industry. We must therefore mitigate the results since this industry accounts on its own for 17.6% of CO2 emissions in a country like France for example. Therefore you can imagine what it represents in a country where the secondary industry is the main one.

For beaching advocates
madagascar top 10 green countries in the world

Madagascar: the voluntary country

  • CO2 emission per capita: 0.091 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected zones: 4.72% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 58.2% of the energy mix

Madagascar has a particular positioning. Between island and country, its industries are mainly tourism and agriculture. Numerous initiatives have been set up by the government in order to prevent deforestation (approximately 95% of the country’s forest has already been burnt to plant sugar cane). Knowing that 80% of the animal species in Madagascar can only be found in Madagascar, tourism is a very important source for the country so the government invests in its protection. With the help of UNDP, Madagascar seeks to restore forests and mangroves in order to improve the natural habitats of animals and people by rehabilitating marine and coastal resources. When the surface of the earth is limited as it is in Madagascar, food resources are pivotal and due to deforestation and intensive agriculture the country is depleting its resources. Nowadays the government is acting to prevent more damage and repair the damage already done.

guatemala top 10 green countries in the world

Guatemala; palm oil is a problem to solve
  • CO2 emission per capita: 0.727 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 29.8% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 66.9% of the energetic mix

In Guatemala, the main issue is the deforestation that allows the cultivation of palm oil. The trend is not decreasing but the country is finally starting to restrain this process that destroys the territory. Guatemala has a fantastic biodiversity, both natural as well as cultural. The Guatemalans are now conscious of the richness of their country and wish to preserve it as well as possible although the cultivation of palm remains a major economical resource.

This country is strongly subjected to climatic disasters and in 2013 The US has launched the program CNCG (Climate, Nature and Communities in Guatemala) in order to be able to restore the local ecological resources and to educate the population on the negative effects that climate change will have over their agriculture and their lives. Since indeed the first suffering from environmental damages are the poorest populations. Therefore numerous NGOs help the Guatemalan populations to clean up, protect and restore the fragile ecosystems. In this country it is the local populations more than the government, who are doing everything to curb environmental issues.

belize top 10 green countries in the world

Belize, an isolated paradise that could disappear
  • CO2 emission per capita: 1,269 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 26.4% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 92.3% of the energy mix

Belize is an isolated and preserved location. There are few towns and modest infrastructures. Belize also has the 2nd largest coral reef in the world and it is a well-known spot to divers for its Blue Hole. Belize has an extraordinary biodiversity, more than 60% of its territory is covered by forests and more than 500 bird species find shelter here and we also encounter in this location the only jaguar reserve in the world. Unfortunately, deforestation due to cultivating bananas and sugarcane is a major concern.

Approximately 2.3% of forests disappear each year, which means that forests could completely vanish in 40 years from now in Belize. The Forest Department is an environmental preservation agency belonging to the government that is tasked to fight against deforestation.  NGOs also intervene to educate the people and to try to preserve the unique landscape of this country. They put pressure in order to make the country stop deforestation and renew the moratorium against the destruction of mangroves. Numerous initiatives are set in place by NGOs which oblige the government to act to create greener and more ecological development policies.

This country deserves a visit as although small, it has great diversity and on top of that if you are divers, you should definitely take this destination into account in order to help local populations understand the challenges of sustainable development. And then if DiCaprio has decided to purchase an island that he will transform into a 100% ecological project, it means that there is probably a bit of paradise in this country.

For mountains and culture fansnepal top 10 green countries in the world

Nepal; A country at a crossroads
  • CO2 emission per capita: 0.153 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 16.4% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 99.2% of the energy mix

Nepal has long been isolated from the rest of the world due to its geographical position. Therefore the environment has been preserved for many years and Nepal is home to around 3% of endemic species and has more than 1200 species of animals. However after several decades of deforestation and poaching, Nepal is impoverished and its water resources are dwindling. Out of a sudden, the government is forced to follow a more sustainable and responsible path for the development of the country. A substantial investment has been made for the development of renewable energies such as solar or biogas. The UNDP and UNEP support these initiatives by ensuring the development of self-sufficient farms and the preservation of ecosystems by creating national parks for the protection of rhinos and tigers.

laos top 10 green countries in the world

Laos, an ambition for sustainable development
  • CO2 emission per capita: 2,020 tones of CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 16.7% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 92.3% of the energy mix

Laos is on the verge of adopting the way of sustainable development. This country that has half of its territory covered in forests has suffered in recent decades a very significant environmental degradation, soil erosion, water pollution and deforestation. Laos has long attempted to develop its economy at the expense of the environment, but these past years have marked a shift in people’s minds with the development of ecotourism and green energy in poor rural communities. Only 48% of the population had access to national electricity due to infrastructure issues and prices too high.

The government has recognized this issue: communities were dependent on resources such as wood and oil in order to have energy. By developing green energy, Laos provides a model of sustainable development that allows communities to be autonomous and support each other.  Today there are 1800 domestic solar energy systems and numerous solar lamps are lent to Laotian families in remote villages. This project has won the Sasakawa award of the Program of the United Nations for the Environment. There are still many challenges that Laos will have to overcome, but if tourists choose this destination for a greener tourism, then they will support the local economy develop in this direction! Therefore go to Vientiane to try out the laap and the lao-lao in the middle of a magnificent environment and a very welcoming people! 

For shopaholic and big cities fanssingapore top 10 green countries in the world

Singapore: the green metropolis ahead of its time
  • CO2 emission per capita: 3,234 tones of CO2 / capita
  • Protected zones: 3.39% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 1.29% of the energy mix

It is surprising that Singapore is mentioned in this ranking as this country is above all a huge urban area. It has very few forests and protected areas and yet the CO2 emissions per capita are far from being the worst. The country is very active in sustainable development due to the fact that nature is not really present (no big forests or ‘green lungs’) and pollution can rapidly become unbearable (for example we can think about the Chinese mega cities). It must be mentioned that being green is a part of the city’s DNA since the 60s. There is even a national day for planting trees, the ‘Tree planting Day’ every 16th of June.

For the COP21, Singapore has committed to reducing its emissions by 36% by 2030 compared to 2005 and to stabilize its CO2 emissions achieving an emissions peak by 2030. A recent project that made headlines is the famous Ecopark located on a landfill of waste and aimed at making the city greener and becoming a sanctuary for hundreds of floral species. ‘Singapore is an excellent example of how the combination of land-use planning, urban design and transport can contribute to create a sustainable city for the 21st century’ declares Lol Ah Tuan – the director of the Division of Policy and Environmental Management which is part of the Environment Ministry of Singapore. 

For adventures seekerscosta rica top 10 green countries in the world

Costa - Rica: a country where environmental rhymes with profit
  • CO2 emission per capita: 1,619 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 22.6% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 93.3% of the energy mix

We know Costa-Rica for its jungles and lush vegetation as well as for the incredible biodiversity that the country has. With only 0.03% of the earth’s surface, the country has 6% of the global biodiversity. The government has understood for some years now that it’s through optimizing this fantastic ecological diversity that it will be able to develop economically. Currently there are 123 private reserves in Costa-Rica and 28 national parks. The legislation has defined nine management categories of protected natural areas under the leadership of a national protection system. So green tourism is very developed since Costa-Rica has fully understood that by promoting its biodiversity it will be able to attract tourists longing for greenery and therefore it has made of its fauna and flora a ‘green gold’.

The green conscience of the majority of ecotourism promoters and local politicians is in fact more closely linked to the green dollar than to the concern for the biodiversity preservation in the long term. Therefore, although the country is relatively advanced in terms of ecotourism, there are still some downsides. Deforestation, intensive utilization of pesticides and the constant human presence are becoming an issue in Costa-Rica since there isn’t a true collective consciousness yet.

Costa-Rica has become green due to economical interest for tourism but its agricultural economy is far from being green. Sustainable development can’t be used solely as a marketing tool for ecotourism. It has to provide to local communities a part of the resources and ensure an improvement of life conditions because they are also protagonists of the propositions of local development and not just an affordable workforce. So it is up to us tourists to go out there and continue to push local communities to engage in environmental protection. Costa-Rica is green for now as this represents a great revenue source for the country but for how long? The country also spoke about its desire to become the first ‘carbon neutral’ nation by 2021, so it remains to be seen.

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uruguay top 10 green countries in the world

Uruguay: the unloved yet in phase of energy full autonomy
  • CO2 emission per capita: 1,968 t CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 2.6% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 89% of the energy mix

Uruguay is a small country that comprises varied and relatively fragile ecosystems. The main source of revenue remains the agriculture and therefore this can constitute a problem for the fragile ecosystems particularly through the utilization of pesticides or deforestation. The government is aware of the necessity for sustainable development but it doesn’t always act, it doesn’t monitor closely the international companies that pollute water or mine the soils and destroy the forests.

Uruguay is a small country, dependant on its neighbors Brazil and Argentina and has a hard time developing economically on its own. However, since 2015, the country has started using green energy (wind) and hopes to attain energy independence by 2030. A huge project that deserves our attention to be focused a bit closer on this country a tad overlooked in the tourist world and that provides a great diversity both natural and cultural.

For ski amateurs and snow loverssweden top 10 green countries in the world

Sweden: the leading country of green economy
  • CO2 emission per capita: 4,715 tons of CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 13.9% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 55.3% of the energy mix

Sweden is probably the most advanced country in the domain of innovations for sustainable development. The Swedish have recognized the absolute need to change their lifestyle and have commenced their energy and ecological transition some years ago. The greenest city in Europe is in Sweden; Växjö. Everyone in Sweden acts to diminish their carbon footprint and consume better. 40% of Swedes purchase eco labeled products! Today Sweden is the champion in both recycling and vintage fashion. I knew that Swedes had a reputation of being pragmatic, quite good looking people, and not being afraid of the cold, I knew Krisprolls and Ikea but I wasn’t aware that they were also the ambassadors of green development, with projects such as the green cities of the future with the ambition of 0 carbon.

They have developed the Symbiocity program advocating urban sustainable development and promoting the utilization of alternative energies such as the transformation of waste into energy. Moreover, even children are educated so as to respect the environment; the small character Skogsmulle intended to give children the urge to become co-responsible is a perfect example.  Looking at the number of actions that they take to fight global warming or the deterioration of fauna and flora, I would easily place it on the first spot in the ranking. Having said that, they still have some work to do on their emissions and their energy transition is not yet complete. I am however aware that Sweden is the country the most voluntary and active in terms of green development from the whole list. Sweden does a lot of good for the whole humanity.

switzerland top 10 green countries in the world

Switzerland ; a strong collective conscience but not enough actions underway
  • CO2 emission per capita: 4,985 tons of CO2 / capita
  • Protected areas: 26.3% of the territory
  • Renewable energy: 21.7% of the energy mix

Switzerland reaches the top of the ranking. Amongst the 1009 Swiss respondents, more that 2 thirds (69%) consider the climate changes as one of the major environmental issues. Consciences are therefore awakened. However the energy transition will take some time, as for the moment Switzerland uses mainly nuclear energy purchased in France. So, even though in general the population supports all the state measures for the protection of the environment mentioned in the survey, particularly those aimed at saving energy and protecting the soil, it will be necessary for the government to be more active in order to set up the transition towards a greener development. Nevertheless, Switzerland has a great local advantage in this domain.

Well preserved mountains, clean lakes and rivers linked to a reliable public transport system. Also, do not get caught if you throw something carelessly, you would risk a penalty of 20,000 Swiss francs. Now Switzerland penalizes polluters, which is nice to read even though it won’t guarantee a cleaner Switzerland, it has the merit of announcing the color – green in this case. In the Strategy for Sustainable Development 2012-2015 (SSD), several measures are mentioned. Reduction of greenhouse emissions by 20% by 2020, energy transition, improvement of land usage (transport and landscape as Switzerland is currently in the process of destroying its biodiversity due to the urban sprawl of its territory), consumption modification to develop the ‘cleantech’ and purchase greener products and finally a better management of natural resources.

All of the above position Switzerland as a green country having a true desire and determination for sustainable development but Switzerland will also have to slow down the import of precious metals and other luxury items whose production is anything but green.

This list does not claim to be sealed and the discussion is open. During my research The GreenPick has focused on several factors. Obviously, it is very difficult to compare countries such as Belize and Sweden, but we had to point out the efforts that developing countries make in comparison with developed countries that do, proportionally speaking, very little.

The ecological will of a country, the collective conscience of a green development is intrinsically connected to the national level of economical development. Thus a poorer country will often tend to focus on the classic economical development rather than on being green for the simple reason that it is more complex to set up sustainable development.

This wouldn’t necessarily cost more but it will demand more time and that a lot of local populations do not have unfortunately. This ranking aims to show you the countries that are in the process of initiating a real sustainable development and the countries already well aware of the challenges of an eco-economy. It is up to you now to choose your next destination knowing that it will be your actions that will guide the development of a country, for example it is green tourism that saved Costa-Rica from massive deforestation.

top 10 green countries in the world the greenpick

Cet article est disponible en Français (French)