Conservation has a long tradition in Switzerland and enjoys international recognition. Environmentally compatible activities are simply a matter of courtesy to the Swiss.
Conservation has a long tradition in Switzerland: The first national park in the Alps was established 100 years ago: the Swiss National Park. With the economic boom, environmental problems such as air and water pollution began to arise in the 1950s. The state reacted by introducing strict legislation and so fostered innovative studies into environment-friendly technologies and processes. The Swiss developed special expertise in environmental technologies earlier than most other countries and exported them abroad.
Today, global climate change is a particularly explosive subject for the alpine state: Over the past 100 years the average temperature here has risen by 1 to 1.5 °C compared with a global increase of 0.6 °C. Along with this there has been a decline in biological diversity: The higher temperatures cause a rise in the timberline. The traditional habitats of animal species living at certain altitudes are at risk. Many Swiss institutes and initiatives are therefore dedicated to species conservation. The state monitors so-called biodiversity in accordance with the "UN Convention for Biological Diversity".
Water, like timber, is one of the few natural resources Switzerland has. About two thirds of electricity is produced by hydro power. It is safe to bathe in Swiss lakes and rivers because modern wastewater treatment technology guarantees water quality. Thanks to water-saving systems and more careful use by the population of this valuable resource, drinking water per head per day dropped from 500 liters in the mid-1980s to about 309 liters today (source: Schweizerischer Verein des Gas- und Wasserfaches SVGW).
Switzerland and the Swiss are world champions when it comes to consistent separation and recycling of waste. Since 2000, all combustible waste that cannot be recycled is burnt in modern refuse incineration plants. These have perfect filter systems which reduce air pollution to a minimum and usually produce energy at the same time.
With about 20,000 km of rail, road and shipping routes, Switzerland has the densest transport network in the world. User-friendly concepts like the "Swiss Pass", which enables free travel by railway, bus and ship throughout Switzerland, motivate visitors and native residents to leave the car at home. The innovative transport associations in the towns and surrounding areas have also contributed to a reduction in exhaust fumes. In the Zurich region commuters are using public transport more than the private car. The quality of life in the Swiss cities such as Geneva and Zurich has also been praised in international rankings with respect to these ecological achievements.
Switzerland is also a pioneer in organic farming and animal welfare. The principles for sustainable farming and animal husbandry and hence for the production of healthy food were drawn up over 30 years ago. No country in the world has such a high consumption per head of organic products. In the canton of Grisons, organically farmed land outstrips conventional farming by more than 50 percent.
Environment-friendly activities are undertaken by the Swiss almost as a matter of course. Many citizens are involved with countryside projects and support conservation bodies. An environmental conscience and individual interest in and willingness to participate in conservation is more strongly ingrained in the Swiss than in their European neighbours, according to Europe's biggest consumer study, the "Reader's Digest European Trusted Brands 2010". 94 percent of Swiss interviewed admitted to sorting their household waste (82% across Europe) and, for 75 % of Swiss, environmental compatibility is the most important consideration when buying a car to name but two examples.
The successful efforts of Switzerland to conserve nature have found international recognition: In the "Environmental Performance Index" rankings of Columbia & Yale Universities, countries were assessed with respect to the environment, air pollution, water quality, biodiversity, use of natural resources and climate change: Switzerland was ranked first in 2014. As regards sustainable tourism, the alpine country was also ranked first out of 140 countries evaluated in the "Global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013".