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Greenest Countries / Most Eco-Friendly Countries 2023

Terms such as green, eco-friendly, environmentally friendly, and earth-friendly refer to the level of environmental protection set forth by a country's laws, public policies, and governmental services. The greenest countries in the world establish practices that help preserve and even restore the natural environment, conserve resources, encourage economic growth without the use of fossil fuels, and improve the health of their citizens. Examples of such policies include promoting renewable energy and reducing CO₂ emissions and consumption of coal and oil, establishing recycling programs and public transportation networks, and subsidizing conservation research.

Using the Environmental Performance Index to determine the greenest countries in the world

Arguably the most widely cited and respected measure of a country's green level is the Environmental Performance Index (EPI). This aggregated metric tracks each country's performance in 40 different environmental metrics, which are then grouped into 11 "issue categories" including Air Quality, Biodiversity & Habitat, and Sanitation & Drinking Water, then grouped a second time into three policy objectives: Environmental Health, Ecosystem Vitality, and Climate Change. Each country's scores are ultimately combined into a single EPI score ranging from 0 (least desirable) to 100 (most desirable).

Top 10 Greenest Countries in the World (2022 EPI):

  1. Denmark — 77.9
  2. United Kingdom — 77.7
  3. Finland — 76.5
  4. Malta — 75.2
  5. Sweden — 72.7
  6. Luxembourg — 72.3
  7. Slovenia — 67.3
  8. Austria — 66.5
  9. Switzerland — 65.9
  10. Iceland — 62.8

By measuring and comparing their Environmental Performance Index (EPI) scores, countries can see how close they are to their established environmental policy goals and meeting the targets of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The EPI also helps determine which countries are the leaders in environmental performance and provides guidance for countries that are looking to move towards a more sustainable and greener future.

As one might predict, developing and least developed countries with low and middle incomes tend to score lower than fully developed or high-income countries. By and large, the countries of Europe dominate the EPI's top ten, with Scandinavian countries performing particularly well.

Profiles of the greenest countries in the world

1. Denmark

Denmark ranked as the greenest country in the world in 2022, with an overall score of 77.9. Denmark has previously been known for its efficient greenhouse gas emission policies and its efforts to prevent climate change, but the 2022 EPI credits the country for excellent performance "across nearly all issues tracked". The report goes on to praise Denmark's leadership in the areas of clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and sharing its successes and insights with its 19 global energy partners, including the United States, China, India, and Japan.

2. United Kingdom

The UK has an overall EPI score of 77.7, the second-highest in the world behind Denmark. The United Kingdom earned praise for slashing greenhouse gas emissions and scored 100 for water and sanitation, including drinking water and sanitation. There are about 8,879 wind turbines currently in the U.K., supplying the country with sustainable, clean power. The UK's EPI score has increased by 23 points over the past ten years, the second-highest increase in the world during that time, second only to Malta.

3. Finland

2022's third-greenest country is Finland, which scored 76.54 on the EPI. One of six countries to score a perfect 100 in the Sanitation & Drinking Water issue category (alongside Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the UK), Finland also ranked highly in minimizing heavy metals pollution, protecting marine areas and grasslands, and maintaining air quality.

4. Malta

Malta’s EPI score is 75.2, a world-leading improvement of 25.4 points over the past ten years. The country's current mark is thanks in large part to high performance in climate-related categories including CO₂ growth rate, Black Carbon growth rate, N₂O growth rate, and Greenhouse Gas Intensity Trend. The country also ranked highly for its terrestrial biodiversity and protection of its tree cover, and is known for its efficient and environmentally-friendly train system as well as its agritourism. Malta’s rank as the fourth-greenest country in the world comes amid challenges such as the country’s lack of space and local resources, energy dependency, water scarcity, and waste management.

5. Sweden

Sweden is the fifth-greenest country in the world, courtesy of an EPI score of 72.7. Sweden is known for being one of the most sustainable countries in the world, with low carbon dioxide emissions and strong renewable energy programs. Sweden’s government has pledged to be fossil fuel-free and running 100% on renewable energy by 2045. Oddly, while Sweden protected its grasslands and wetlands extremely well, it ranked 140th out of 180 countries for protecting its tree cover.

6. Luxembourg

Despite its growing population and world-leading GDP per capita, Luxembourg is the sixth-greenest country of 2022 thanks to its progress in decoupling environmental pressures from its economic growth. Luxembourg’s overall EPI score of 72.3 may have ranked sixth, but the country ranked second in the world in Species Protection (second only to Botswana) and fourth overall in the Ecosystem Vitality policy objective.

7. Slovenia

Slovenia's 2022 EPI of 67.3 can be traced directly to the country's performance in the Ecosystem Vitality policy objective, which proved to be the second-highest in the world (behind Austria). Slovenia protects its terrestrial biomes well, and actually lacks fisheries and marine protected areas (although it is not a landlocked country), which arguably simplifies conservation efforts.

8. Austria

Austria is yet another country that owes much of its total EPI score (66.5) to the Ecosystem Vitality policy objective, in which it ranks first out of 180 countries analyzed. Like a number of other countries, Austria does an excellent job of protecting its terrestrial biomes and preventing acid rain. It is further known for high scores in waste management

9. Switzerland

With an overall score of 65.9, Switzerland is the ninth-greenest country in the world. Switzerland's high overall score is buoyed considerably by its top-5 performance in the Health issue category, with admirable scores in metrics ranging from Solid Waste Management to Sanitation, Drinking Water, and pollution from Household Solid Fuels.

10. Iceland

Iceland ranks first in the world in the Health issue category, with very little particulate matter pollution in the air, excellent sanitation and clean drinking water, very few heavy metal pollution, and excellent recycling programs. Iceland also leads the world in the Species Habitat Index metric, which measures the degradation of each existing species' habitats in that country since the year 2001. Iceland is the only country of the 180 examined that has experienced zero habitat loss since 2001.

Here are the 10 countries with the highest EPI scores:

  1. Denmark: 77.9 🇩🇰
  2. United Kingdom: 77.7 🇬🇧
  3. Finland: 76.5 🇫🇮
  4. Malta: 75.2 🇲🇹
  5. Sweden: 72.7 🇸🇪
  6. Luxembourg: 72.3 🇱🇺
  7. Slovenia: 67.3 🇸🇮
  8. Austria: 66.5 🇦🇹
  9. Switzerland: 65.9 🇨🇭
  10. Iceland: 62.9 🇮🇸
Note: Higher EPI scores are preferable. Ecosystem Vitality, Environmental Health, and Climate Change are the three "policy objectives" of the EPI and are compiled from 11 "issue categories" collectively made up of 40 individual metrics.

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Greenest Countries / Most Eco-Friendly Countries 2023

Which country is most eco-friendly?

Denmark's 77.9 Environmental Protection Index ranking places it as the greenest nation in the world. This country's use of sustainable farming and clean power contribute to its ranking.

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