Global Green Part 1: World’s Most Eco-Friendly Countries

Posted by Nancy Sabatelli on Nov.05, 2009

ⓒ iStockPhoto - bkindler

ⓒ iStockPhoto - bkindler

Americans tend to think of ourselves as an eco-friendly, environmentally-conscious society, doing our part for the planet. But which countries are among the most eco-friendly in the world? How are they ranked? What criteria are involved in grading them? And how does the U.S. stack up against them?

Different surveys or studies have different rankings and results. In general, however, many European and South American countries are some of the world’s greenest.

EPI Rankings

The EPI (Environmental Protection Index) was performed by Yale University, and graded 149 countries on a scale from 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best. To arrive at the score, many factors were considered, including a country’s carbon emissions, sulfur output, conservation efforts and water purity (1, 2).

The top 10 countries and their scores, (out of a possible 100):

  1. Switzerland, 95.5
  2. Sweden, 93.1
  3. Norway, 93.1
  4. Finland, 91.4
  5. Costa Rica, 90.5
  6. Austria, 89.4
  7. New Zealand, 88.9
  8. Latvia, 88.8
  9. Colombia, 88.3
  10. France, 87.8

European countries make up 14 of the top 20 on the list, explains Newsweek (1). Specifically, many European countries have clean drinking water, which decreases disease rates.

Out of the 149 countries in this study, the U.S. ranked 39th with a score of 81.0 (1).

Greendex Scores

Greendex scores were calculated by GlobeScan, (an international polling group), and The National Geographic Society, notes MSN Health. The online survey measured responses from 1,000 consumers per nation in each of 14 nations. Multiple factors were examined, including transportation, water usage and energy efficiency. As with the EPI, scores range between 0 and 100, with 0 being the worst and 100 being the best (3).

The 14 countries and their scores, (out of a possible 100):

  1. Brazil, 60
  2. India, 60
  3. China, 56.1
  4. Mexico, 54.3
  5. Hungary, 53.2
  6. Russia, 52.4
  7. Great Britain, 50.2
  8. Germany, 50.2
  9. Australia, 50.2
  10. Spain, 50.0
  11. Japan, 49.1
  12. France, 48.7
  13. Canada, 48.5
  14. United States, 44.9


Recycling Rates

We pride ourselves on our recycling efforts. Many Americans faithfully push out recycling bins to the curb for collection, or bundle up recyclable paper, plastic, glass and metal to bring to recycling plants. However, other countries recycle even more than we do.

According to the Web site,, here are the seven countries that the recycle the most, along with the percentage of their waste that is recycled (4):

  1. Switzerland, 52%
  2. Austria, 49.7%
  3. Germany, 48%
  4. Netherlands, 46%
  5. Norway, 40%
  6. Sweden, 34%
  7. United States, 31.5%


Alternative Energy Rankings

Reader’s Digest reports the following five countries have the highest alternative energy production rates (5):

  1. Finland
  2. Iceland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Austria

How Does the U.S. Measure Up?

As you can clearly see from EPI rankings and Greendex scores, the U.S. isn’t the greenest country in the world. This wasn’t always the case, however. At one time, our country was at the forefront of environmental protection. But, other countries have taken the lead, passing new legislation aimed at protecting the environment and creating healthier, more eco-friendly standards. In contrast, the U.S. hasn’t passed any “significant American air quality legislation” since “1990, an amendment to the Clean Air Act,” writes Andy Stone for Newsweek (6).

Moreover, while countries all over the globe supported the Kyoto Protocol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, “the U.S. was one of only a few countries that failed to adopt Kyoto,” Stone notes (6).

And, our greenhouse gas emissions are astronomical: the U.S. “per capita carbon dioxide emissions were nearly five times the worldwide per capita figure” in 2004, claim Matthew E. Kahn and Fran Lostys in Reader’s Digest (5).

Stay tuned to learn more about other countries and new, greener steps they’re taking.


1. The World’s Greenest Countries. (January 23, 2008). Newsweek. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from

2. Top 10 Eco Friendly Countries. (2009). Eco Friendly Daily. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from

3. What’s Your Greendex Score? (May 2008). MSN Health. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from

4. Countries with the Highest Recycling Rates. (2009). Retrieved October 25, 2009 from

5. Kahn, Matthew E. & Lostys, Fran. Greenest Locations on the Globe: Five Key Environmental Lessons. (n.d.). Reader’s Digest. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from

6. Stone, Andy. The World’s Cleanest Countries. (April 15, 2009). Newsweek. Retrieved October 23, 2009 from

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Posted under GDM News & Politics, Living.

Article By: Nancy Sabatelli

Nancy Sabatelli

Profile: Nancy Sabatelli is a freelance writer for a skincare/beauty site as well as an educational publishing company, and is excited to be writing for Green Diva Mom. Nancy received her Bachelor of Science in General Studies with a concentration in Communications from Charter Oak State College. She believes that each of us can make small changes in our lives that have a large impact on the environment. Nancy enjoys reading, music, watching baseball and spending time with her family, friends and fiancé. She lives in Connecticut with her family, two spoiled cats and a pampered puppy.


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