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September 11, 2009 @ 12:09 pm
Europe’s Greenest City?

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I had heard of Sheffield (a city in north central England) before but haven’t been there and didn’t know much about it until I came across various authorities referring to it as the UK’s greenest city or Europe’s greenest city. So, of course I was curious and wanted to learn more by doing some research for this UK-focused post. Sheffield blog warns that, “Sheffielders are rightly proud of their city and are always happy to extol its virtues at any opportunity,” and we all know greenness is fairly subjective and difficult to measure.


However, Sheffield has some great statistics in its favor; particularly in terms of natural greenery. Creative Sheffield notes the following:

  • Despite its urban location almost three-quarters of the city is taken up by natural vegetation and waterways.
  • More than a third of the city is located in the Peak District National Park – no other city has a National Park within its boundary.
  • In addition you’ll find 150 woodlands and 50 public parks all within Sheffield and it is rumoured that there are 4 mature trees to every person living here!
  • Over 44 per cent of Sheffield residents live within a five minute walk of a wood and half the city’s population live within 15 minutes of the open countryside. Imagine that!

All of this is quite impressive for a city of over 500,000 people. The handy pie chart from the referenced site shows the details including the 72% of greenspace, woodland and water referred to in the first bullet point.


With several enormous parks and many smaller ones, my home, New York City, leads large U.S. cities with about 26% of land area devoted to park/open spaces. Indonesia, once known for dense rainforests, has lost greenspace rapidly – the capital, Jakarta, has only 10% greenspace (it was about 40% 50 years ago and over 25% as recently as 1985). A study of 386 European cities with over 100,000 residents found greenspace ranged from a low of 1.9% (in Reggio di Calabria, Italy) to a high of 46% (in Ferrol, Spain).

In addition to natural greenspace, Sheffield has a compact, walkable city center, ample tram and bus service, has been promoting green buildings and undertook a significant green roof initiative several years ago. The city won top prize from the Entente Florale in 2005, a European competition for cities that maximize green space. One highly visible and promotional project of Groundwork Sheffield (the organization leading Sheffield’s sustainability efforts) and Sheffield’s Green Roof Centre has been the greening of bus shelters. They are ideally located to filter pollution and particulates from vehicle exhaust and they have a whimsical look to boot. The photo below is from


Credit (Sheffield City Photo): Paolo Márgari via Flickr

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