Every year Yale publishes an Environmental Performance Index, also known as EPI. This report ranks countries all over the world from the most environmentally friendly to the least. Countries are compared to established international standards as well as each other and given a score out of 100. Yale’s EPI focuses on the protection of human health and ecosystems and divides these issues into numerous subcategories. According to the report, almost all countries have improved their EPI score over the last decade, but the latest report done in 2016 places these five countries above the rest.
Finland ranked the highest with a score of 90.68 out of 100. The report attributes this to Finland’s “societal commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society that does not exceed nature’s carrying capacity by 2050.” Finland already uses renewable energy to produce two-thirds of its electricity and has plans to improve even more by 2020. Finland gives travelers a great opportunity to enjoy some of the most pristine wilderness Europe has to offer. For example, Lakeland is Europe’s largest lake area with thousands of lakes and some of the cleanest waters in the world. These lakes offer opportunities to kayak, cruise or sail. Finland is also home to roughly 1,500 wild brown bears. Tours in Eastern Finland forests run through April and September and provide photographers and nature enthusiasts the opportunity to see these bears in their natural habitat.
2. Iceland Iceland came in second with a score of 90.51 and is a leader in renewable energy. According to the EPI, 87 percent of Iceland’s heating and hot water comes from geothermal energy, energy harnessed from heat below the Earth’s surface. The same geothermal heat is also used to heat Iceland’s natural hot springs and geothermal pools that can be found from luxury spas to quiet camping grounds. Many spas with geothermal pools also offer tours of Iceland’s glaciers, mountains and wilderness.
The third country on Yale’s list is Sweden, which received a score of 90.43. Sweden utilizes multiple methods of cleaner energy such as nuclear power, bio-energy, fuel cells, solar energy and wave power. Sweden is covered in 29 beautiful national parks reaching all the way up to the Arctic Circle. It is also the second country to implement a system of eco-tourism, a way to visit Sweden while conserving and respecting local wildlife and communities. These tours include activities like dogsledding, skiing, safaris, rafting and kayaking.
Aside from being named the happiest country in the world according to the UN’s World Happiness Report in 2016, Denmark is also the fourth most environmentally friendly country with an EPI score of 89.21. 20 percent of Denmark’s energy already comes from renewable sources and the government plans to end the use of fossil fuels completely by 2050. A big part of Denmark’s sustainable living is the bicycle culture. Many people use bikes to commute and visitors are encouraged to use bicycles as well. In Copenhagen alone there are over 240 miles of bike paths as well as bike rentals, tours and bridges. Copenhagen also has green rooftops, zoos, palaces, amusement parks and opportunities to swim in the harbor.
With a score of 88.98, Slovenia is fifth on the list. Approximately 60 percent of the country is covered with forests and wilderness rich in biodiversity. One-tenth of Slovenia is also protected under natural conservation laws giving it some of the most well preserved habitats in the world. This country is also home to 140 rare plant and animal species. Slovenia offers lakes, mountains, hills, caves, rivers and waterfalls to visit and enjoy its natural beauty.