The most sustainable municipality in the Netherlands

The most sustainable municipality in the Netherlands

According to research from Natuur & Milieu, which compared the 43 largest urban municipalities in the Netherlands based on 12 factors in the areas of energy, mobility and refuse, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Alkmaar came out as the most sustainable.

Natuur & Milieu study

In their study, Natuur & Milieu scored 43 municipalities according to the following 12 indicators, which municipalities can exercise influence on.

  • Purchase of sustainable electricity
  • Environmental zone
  • Purchase of sustainable vehicles
  • Solar energy generation
  • The energy labels of buildings
  • Number of (semi) public charging stations for electric cars
  • Relative car use
  • Emissions by road traffic
  • Household waste
  • Aspirations for energy, climate or CO2 neutrality
  • Green Deal for gas free neighbourhoods
  • Green Deal for zero emission city logistics

For each indicator municipalities were placed in one of three categories. These categories were frontrunners, followers and stragglers.

The most sustainable Dutch municipalities

Utrecht scores the highest, with a sustainability percentage of 75, according to the report. The municipality performs well on eight of the 12 factors and has made its sustainability ambitions policy. However, despite scoring well on many indicators, Utrecht does not score particularly well when it comes to solar energy and household waste.  

A lower score for solar energy generation is unsurprising in larger cities as these tend to have high-rise buildings which decrease the roof surface available for solar panels per resident.

Placing directly after Utrecht is Amsterdam. Amsterdam scores a total of 71 percent, putting itself in the frontrunner group for seven of the 12 indicators. Amsterdam falls behind Utrecht when it comes to the purchase of sustainable energy and the city’s aspirations for energy, climate or CO2 neutrality.

Just behind Amsterdam is Alkmaar. Similar to Amsterdam, Alkmaar also falls in the frontrunners group for seven of the 12 indicators; however, Alkmaar has no environmental zone, no concrete plans for energy, climate or CO2 neutrality, and does not impose sustainability criteria when purchasing vehicles for the city.

Almere and Groningen take 4th and 5th place respectively. Almere does well on seven factors but falls shorts when it comes to an environmental zone and zero emission city logistics. Groningen makes the top five as it scores well in five categories and joins the stragglers group for only one indicator, namely an environmental zone.

The top five are thus as follows:
1. Utrecht
2. Amsterdam
3. Alkmaar
4. Almere
5. Groningen

Least sustainable Dutch municipalities

Placing in the bottom five of the 43 municipalities assessed, and therefore making up the least sustainable Dutch municipalities are:
39. Zoetermeer
40. Helmond
41. Sittard-Geleen
42. Emmen
43. Heerlen

The report does not give insights as to why these cities perform so badly, other than that they tend to score low on the majority of the indicators.

See the Natuur & Milieu report (in Dutch) for more information

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

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