Farming was a major profession before the urbanisation of Iceland. After urbanisation, very few pieces of land in Reykjavik were privately owned for farming. There are many places over the city for farming, and are owned by the government however, they are very small pieces of land. Now, less than 5% of the population is involved in agriculture and a very small part of the city is used for farming. Iceland is an island formed by volcanic eruptions, which means the ground is rich and fertile. There is land for vegetation, but there are lots of parts of Iceland that are covered in ice and glaciers. Luckily, Reykjavik is not on one of those places, and has arable land. Here is a map that shows which parts of the city are used for agriculture. The mixed areas are the places where farming takes place, and there is not a lot for that.
An issue is the use of fertilisers in farming. One impact is the increase of algae on the coasts of the city. The fertiliser used in farms runs through streams and is deposited in the ocean, where the algae take in the fertilisers, and grow. Although this does not have a negative impact on the ecosystem, it still affects the ecosystem. The other impact fertiliser has on the ecosystem is the “Seagull Plague”. It refers to a group of seagulls staying over land because of the fertilisers. Some kinds of fertilisers used are made from meat, either in the form of pellets or powder. The seagulls are drawn in by this and perch near residential areas. This becomes a nuisance to the residents. Because the seagulls are staying over land, their food source in the ocean, beaches and coasts are thriving. Seagulls usually eat small fish, shellfish, and marine plants. But because of the small number of seagulls, this does not negatively affect the ecosystem, but is merely an annoyance for humans.
Major consumption of water in Reykjavik began in 1909, when the first pipeline started working in the city. It started from the Elioa rivers. The consumption of water per person went from 18 liters a day to 200 liters a day. As the population grew, the demand for water grew as well until 1986. The amount of water produced for use was over 30 tons, and a more complex distribution was required. After 1986, conservation measures were taken by the Reykjavik Water Works. Although the population continued to grow, because of the conservation measures, the water consumption rate has been steadily going down. In the previous decade, the Reykjavik Water Works was able to decrease the amount of water pumped by ⅓, and still fulfil the needs of the city. Because of the conservation measures, there is very little water pollution as well because of the fact that the water is only drawn from underground and rivers. In the chart below, it can be seen that the pollution levels of Reykjavik are very low, and especially water pollution.
Because of the low pollution, declining rate of water consumption, and less water being pumped, it does not greatly affect other organisms in the ecosystems. The water is so clean and pure, that it does not need to be processed, and can be sent directly to houses through pipelines.
The Urban development happened rapidly in Reykjavik in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People started moving from rural parts of Iceland to Reykjavik or other urban villages. As it can be seen on the map below, Reykjavik is split up into pieces showing the number of inhabitants per hectare. The map is of urban Reykjavik, or metro Reykjavik.
This other map shows how all the land in the city is used. It can be seen that most of the land is used as residential areas, industrial or commercial areas, and green spaces. The map also shows land used for the airports, and there is also a big piece of land for that. This shows that Reykjavik is very urbanised and industrialised.
Although the energy needs for Reykjavik are high, it is well maintained, and does not harm the eco-systems a lot. 95.3% of the electricity is from renewable sources, and the other 4.7% is from fossil fuels. There are no fossil fuels produced in the city, so there is no digging for fossil fuels. Nuclear energy and natural gases are not used at all. 73% is hydroelectricity, and 22.3% are other renewable sources. Crude oil usage is 0%, inport and export of crude oil is also 0%. Although most of the energy sources have a positive impact on the ecosystems, there are a few that do not. One is the refined petroleum usage. The production of petroleum is 0, but the consumption is 20770 bbl/day. This causes air pollution and greenhouse gases to escape into the environment. Most transportation is hybrid or hydrogen powered in the city. The way the city and it’s transportation is planned, by 2050, the city will be completely fossil fuel free and run solely on renewable energy.
Iceland is a northern country, and it is usually very cold there. But thanks to the geology, electricity or coal is not required to heat the city of Reykjavik. Iceland is on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and was formed with volcanoes. The underground water is heated from the volcanoes and this is used for producing energy. Geothermal energy is a small part of Reykjavik’s energy source, but it is used for something more common. The heating of the whole city, and also all of Iceland, is managed by the geothermal water. It is naturally heated so all that has to be done is be circulated through the city. This considerably saves electricity, and does not harm any ecosystems as seen in the water issues.
Production and Processing of Waste:
As with many things in Reykjavik, a lot of precautions are taken for waste management as well. There are so many precautions that licenses have to be acquired to own dogs or cats. All of Reykjavik’s waste is managed by one company, SORPA. Only residential waste can be thrown in garbage disposal bins so that it can be easily sorted out for recycling. Garden waste and other soil or rocks cannot be placed in garbage bins, instead, it is encouraged for that kind of waste to be composted. The city has something called ‘District Containers’ located all over the city. All recyclable materials can be thrown in that and it considerably reduces waste. There are different kind of bins used in Reykjavik. Black bins are normal bins that cost money to be emptied weekly, and waste is not sorted in them. Green bins are half the price of black bins, and are emptied every day. Paper Bins are similar to green bins, and are for paper. The green and paper bins encourage waste sorting for recycling.
Around 71% of the waste is disposed by landfilling. And around 25% of the disposal is recovery. Recovery includes recycling and producing energy through incineration or other methods. The remaining 4% of the waste is disposed with other, less significant ways.
The air pollution level in Reykjavik is very low. It is considered to be the most eco-friendly city in the world. There are several actions taken against air pollution. All public transports are hydrogen powered, and most of the electricity is renewable resources, and do not pollute the air. The city is heated using geothermal energy so that eliminates the need of chimneys, and in turn, the air pollution caused by them. only 4.7% of the cities electricity is made from fossil fuels, this makes the air pollution level very low in Reykjavik. The city has taken many precautions to reduce air pollution. By 2050, Reykjavik and possibly all of Iceland will be fossil fuel free. It will run solely on renewable energy sources, and refined petroleum for vehicles would not be required. Here is a chart that shows Air Pollution Index. the API of reykjavik, 19.43, is well below something that could harm the ecosystem, which is 32.29.