How Sustainable Is Denver?

Additional photos and more below.
Additional photos and more below.

Sustainability is a 21st-century ideal — a quality to which every city should aspire during a period in which concerns about the environment, and the ways we interact with it, continue to increase.

With that in mind,  Amsterdam-based Arcadis, which describes itself as "the leading global design and consultancy for natural and built assets," has compiled the "Sustainable Cities Index Report," an ambitious effort to rank the sustainability of 100 cities across the globe. Included in the survey is Denver, the metro area closest to Arcadis's local headquarters in Highlands Ranch.

How did Denver fare? The city landed in the top half when it came to both the 22 North American communities analyzed in the report, as well as the 100 overall, but without much room to spare. And in the index's three major categories — People, Planet and Profit — Denver finished much higher in the latter than the first two. Get the complete data below.

At first blush, these results seem like an indictment of Denver values. But Arcadis spokesman Marc Lumpkin notes that the categories are actually umbrella terms for a wide variety of sustainability-related issues.

"When we talk about people," Lumpkin says, "we're talking about the social aspects: how they interact in their city, how comfortable they are, how happy they are. Environmental aspects deal with things like greenhouse-gas emissions, water scarcity and water-quality issues. And profit doesn't mean making a profit. It looks at the economy of those cities."

Last year's index was limited to fifty places, and afterward, Lumpkin points out, "we heard from cities asking, 'Why weren't we included?' So we expanded it to 100, ranging anywhere from Canberra, Australia, which has around 400,000 people in the metro area, to Tokyo, Japan, which has more than thirty million in the greater Tokyo area. The idea is to encourage the cities to ask, 'How can I make my city more sustainable?'"

Denver got some of its highest marks for transportation infrastructure, with light-rail expansion and satisfaction with Denver International Airport bolstering its scores. In contrast, Denver ranked low when it came to affordability — no surprise given recent rises in housing costs. More unexpected, though, was a similarly poor finish when it came to the availability and accessibility of green space.

"The City of Denver's parks space equals around 4,000 acres," Lumpkin estimates, "and New York City's came in at around 14,000 acres — and I think the overall size of New York City is probably less than Denver. And when you realize that a lot of Denver's parks space is up in the mountains, that ranking makes sense." He adds that U.S. cities typically fell short of their European counterparts when it came to green space; Zurich, Switzerland, was number one overall.

Below, see specific data for Denver in all of the categories compiled as part of the Sustainable Cities Index. Note that in the "Percentage" category, indicators are measured according to their relative strength, with the best city receiving 100 percent and the worst registering 0 percent. As for "Rank," the opposite is true: The lower the number, the better the performance.

On page two of this post, following the local data, we've shared Arcadis graphics that show how Denver ranks among all of the cities analyzed and those in North America specifically, plus the entire report.

How Sustainable Is Denver?EXPAND
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DENVER RESULTS: PEOPLE

Demographics
Percentage: 56 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 31 out of 100

Education
Percentage: 66 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 24 out of 100

Income Inequality
Percentage: 57 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 52 out of 100

Work-Life Balance
Percentage: 67 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 36 out of 100

Crime
Percentage: 84 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 66 out of 100

Health
Percentage: 65 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 37 out of 100

Affordability
Percentage: 16 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 95 out of 100

How Sustainable Is Denver?EXPAND
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DENVER RESULTS: PLANET

Environmental Risks
Percentage: 38 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 75 out of 100

Energy
Percentage: 46 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 72 out of 100

Upcoming Events

Green Space
Percentage: 5 percent out of 100 percent
Rank out of 100: 89 out of 100

Air Pollution
Percentage: 93 percent out of 100
Rank out of 100: 12 out of 100

Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Percentage: 29 percent out of 100
Rank out of 100: 88 out of 100

Waste Management
Percentage: 67 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 57 out of 100

Drinking Water and Sanitation
Percentage: 100 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 24 out of 100

How Sustainable Is Denver?EXPAND
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DENVER RESULTS: PROFIT

Transport Infrastructure
Percentage: 83 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 3 out of 100

Economic Development
Percentage: 77 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 13 out of 100

Ease of Doing Business
Percentage: 84 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 19 out of 100

Tourism
Percentage: 3 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 96 out of 100

Connectivity
Percentage: 58 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 62 out of 100

Employment
Percentage: 52 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 46 out of 100

OVERALL DENVER RESULTS

People
Percentage: 59 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 47 out of 100

Planet
Percentage: 54 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 64 out of 100

Profit
Percentage: 59 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 24 out of 100

Combined Total
Percentage: 57 percent out of 100 percent
Rank: 49 out of 100

Continue to see how Denver ranked in sustainability overall and among North American cities. That's followed by the complete Sustainable Cities Index Report.

 



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