Is Sheffield really the greenest city in England?

Finding the evidence

Sheffielders are rightly proud of their city and are always happy to extol its virtues at any opportunity. One thing in particular that we have all heard and seen written countless times before is that Sheffield is England’s – and if not the UK’s or even Europe’s – greenest city. But is this really true?

When it comes to promoting the city, most of the bigger organisations in Sheffield seem to think it is. The development agency Creative Sheffield mentions it in the introductory text on its homepage and then states it as fact on a sub-page of their site. The council website is also littered with references to ‘the greenest city’ and Sheffield Hallam university devotes a page of its site celebrating the fact.

Sheffield university shows a little more restraint, with some pages focusing on more general facts about our open green spaces and others including references to us as one of the greenest cities. You can still find mentions of it being the greenest though.

The sometimes-inaccurate Wikipedia sits on the fence by stating that ‘Sheffield often boasts of being Europe’s greenest city’.

The problem is that there is no agreed way of defining what ‘green’ is and then comparably measuring how green a city is. If you define green using your own criteria then you could argue that there are several other cities deserving of the title of the greenest one. The only way to work out which city is definitively the greenest is to agree a set of quantifiable criteria and then measure your sample of cities against these.

There are some green statistics about Sheffield that we can be proud of, but together these don’t necessarily add up to mean that the city is the greenest. As quoted from the Creative Sheffield site (and also by many people from Sheffield):

  • Despite its urban location almost three-quarters of the city is taken up by natural vegetation and waterways.
  • More than a third of the city is located in the Peak District National Park – no other city has a National Park within its boundary.
  • In addition you’ll find 150 woodlands and 50 public parks all within Sheffield and it is rumoured that there are 4 mature trees to every person living here!
  • Over 44 per cent of Sheffield residents live within a five minute walk of a wood and half the city’s population live within 15 minutes of the open countryside. Imagine that!

The gold that we won in the Entente Florale back in 2005 is also often used as a trump card in the argument. But what about the other cities that have won this? Does that award make them the greenest, too?

I’m not saying that Sheffield isn’t the greenest city, but it would be good for someone to do the research and prove beyond all doubt that this is categorically true. Is anyone up to the challenge? Or does it not matter whether it can be proved or not?

In the meantime, at the very least we can rightly be proud of all the parks, woodlands, greenery and world-class countryside right here on our doorstep.

Is Sheffield the greenest city in Europe? Image by @DrJoolz

Sheffield from Norfolk park by @DrJoolz; used with permission

Leave a comment


  1. Simon

     /  20 July, 2009

    “More than a third of the city is located in the Peak District National Park – no other city has a National Park within its boundary.”

    Is this not as spurious as the ‘greenest city’ claim? Surely this is only true because someone has arbitrarily stuck “Welcome to Sheffield” signs about 8 miles from the city. Does anyone actually take these seriously as they drive through green meadows with not a habitation in sight? No doubt Manchester could just as easily make the same claim if they fancied planting some signs in the countryside, but they seem to have a bit more self-respect.

  2. greyone100

     /  20 July, 2009

    If you look at this map of the peak district boundary I don’t think a lot of sheffield is actually in the peak district

  3. I moved to Castleton last October, which is officially in Derbyshire and about fifty minutes from Machester. Sod those facts though, I’ve still got a Sheffield postcode – S33 – huzzah!!!

  4. It depends what you mean by ‘green’ . Sheffield certainly has a lot of trees – 5m I believe. However in terms of city policies it’s not very green – transport policy is in a mess, with the Lib Dems pandering to a minority of very vocal motorists who think they should be allowed through every bus and tram gate in the city.

    Waste management isn’t looking so clever either, with recycling levels very low – this being due to Veolia’s need to feed their incinerator.

  5. It states on Sheffield’s Wikipedia page that it has ‘more trees per person than any other city in Europe’ with ‘61% of the city being greenspace’.

    But like Pedal Pusher says, it depends on the definition of green.

  6. From what I understand those parts of the Peak District are officially in Sheffield but I think we could all agree that it doesn’t really count as the City of Sheffield.

    I suspect it is those areas that enables many of us to claim Sheffield as the greenest city. Nevertheless, it is great to have so many parks and woodlands and have the Peak Distict on the doorstep. I live in Birmingham now and it gets quite depressing having small parks and no woods!

  7. Simon

     /  27 July, 2009

    I agree that it is absolutely wonderful to have such areas on our doorstep. As such Sheffield would be better marketed by making reasonable claims like yours Nathan, about the *proximity* of Sheffield to the Peak District, rather than spurious claims based on very little.

  8. bobble55

     /  11 August, 2009

    why on earth do we need to quantify or justify it????? just enjoy it for what it is !!!!!!!

  9. Simon

     /  17 August, 2009

    As for quantifying it, there is no need to at all. When it comes to justifying it, then that depends on whether someone has previously made the step of needlessly quantifying it, which they have. Having made a claim, that claim deserves scrutiny otherwise there is no reason to believe claims which anyone makes.

    I’m all for enjoying the Peak District – I think the Peak District is great. But I think using that particular claim as a means of marketing Sheffield backfires and is an embarrassment.

  10. Sheffield blog

     /  18 October, 2010

    In this study it is 10th in the UK

  11. adam

     /  15 April, 2011

    Sheffield claims to be the greenest city referring to the ammount of parks, trees and grass in the city, not the fact that it is eco friendly. I personally live next door to Ecclesall Woods and think that Sheffield is a wonderfully green city and almost certainly most deserving of its title.

  12. runningowl

     /  19 August, 2011

    The tag Greenest city comes from the fact that we have so much vegetation not the policies of the council. sheffield was the first city to introduce recycling but doesn’t lead the way anymore.

    saying that we still have weekly bin collections. friend in newcastle, which does well in most studies have fortnightly pickups and he has 8different bins which all goin same wagon. strange.

  13. Tony Robinson

     /  5 July, 2016

    Absolute rubbish, there’s hardley a tree within a mile of the city centre. n NONE of the urban area is anywhere near the Peak District, in fact. the parts of shef failed that are. really is south York’s

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