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By Justin Greig – a self-proclaimed “21st century hippie” who studied Journalism at Berkeley and freelances for environmental publications. He has a special interest in conservation, recently adding solar panels to his family home.

The green living lifestyle skyrocketed in the last decade and became a social injection of epic proportions. In no time shoes were being made from bamboo, college towns were turned into tiny Vespa cities, and the canvas bag market boomed like it was being shot from a cannon. Suddenly, shrinking America’s Shaq-sized carbon footprint seemed possible, and everything from water bottles to t-shirts changed their ingredients.

There are plenty of ways to go green and promote sustainable living in your home and community. Beyond simply rolling out the recycle bin to the curb and making eco-chic clutches out of Capri Sun pouches, you can get innovative with your recycling through local waste services like Republic Services in the US and other international equivalents who, by changing the way they take care of trash and recyclables, are making money from your waste. Earth consciousness is perpetually rising, and waste management is following suit. Here’s a quick trip around the globe, looking at three sustainable cities on the rise and what they’re doing to be friendly to the earth.

Oslo

The pleasant Scandinavian city is a leading example of sustainable living and au naturale principles. Heat is a necessity amidst the abundant snow flurries in Oslo, and 80% of the city’s heating system is powered by renewable energy, mainly from biomass from residual waste. Within 20 years, Oslo is projecting a 50% cut in carbon emissions, and by mid-century it will be completely carbon neutral. Not a bad plan for any city.

Seattle

The Emerald City has been associated with being a hippie haven long before Kurt Cobain was strumming his six-string. Going well beyond making hacky sacks out of yarn, Seattle is host to a number of green initiatives, including the Bullitt Center (pictured, under construction, above). Timbers for the six-story office building began being hammered together last October. The Bullitt Center is a 50,000-square foot office park comes complete with composting toilets, solar panels, and 26 geothermal wells beneath it to naturally keep it toasty in the winter and cool in the summer. The commercial building is at the forefront of self-sustaining efforts in an urban area. The site will be complete this fall.

Curitiba

If you thought Brazil was only known for its bananas and rain forest and ancient golden legends, think again. Some of the cities in the progressively earth-friendly country are implementing green living ideas. In Curitiba, 90% of its citizens recycle two-thirds of their garbage on a daily basis. The South American city also has a pretty snazzy “trash-for-transit” program, where people can trade in their trash for transit tokens to get around on public transit. Add in 1.5 million trees being planted along city streets and you have yourself a leading green city.

Citizen efforts for being more eco-conscious have been in full swing, but the cities they live in have been lagging until recently. From more bike paths paved and Light Rail systems in operation, to farmers markets being the hip thing to do on a Saturday morning, cities are upping their green game. Stay connected in your community and make sure to take advantage of all green living area, including smarter waste and recycling choices.

Images via ellenm1, Egil Fujikawa Nes, Payton Chung and pepsiline on flickr