When it comes to going green, these cities are years ahead of the curve. This series will introduce you to some of the greenest cities on the planet. Think globally, act locally and get inspired to start a green program in your city. Who knows? Maybe your hometown will be on this list soon!
Spotlight: Pacific Northwest, U.S.A.
Our first stop on the Green Cities Tour is Portland, Oregon.
Portland is lauded as one of the nation's most bikeable and sustainable cities. Perhaps that is because it has an entire department devoted to making Portland a more sustainable city. The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability isn't sitting back on its laurels, either. For starters, it has a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon emissions by 80% of 1990 levels; a plan to support sustainable food systems, such as farmers' markets, local sourcing and consumer education; a citywide food scrap collection program for composting and a recycling program to reduce waste; and an energy-efficiency and renewable-energy education and assistance program to reduce energy consumption and grow solar capacity to 10MW across the city. Plus, the city has 319 miles of bikeways with more than 50 additional miles in the planning stages. Keep up the good work, Portland!
Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment worked for more than a decade to improve the environmental standards and future economy of this iconic Pacific Northwest city. Seattle residents have access to some of the cheapest and cleanest energy in the country. The city gets approximately 50% of its electricity from hydropower and another 40% from a mix of hydro and other renewable energy sources. Grunge is just a music genre in Seattle, where a zero-waste strategy incorporates recycling, composting and toxin-reduction programs to reduce waste in the city. Seattle's Climate Action Plan not only focuses on ways to achieve carbon neutrality but also includes climate change mitigation plans to reduce the impact of rising sea levels on the coastal city. Seattle's municipal government leads by example when it comes to green building. With 26 LEED-certified government buildings, Seattle's Green Building and Sites Policy, which mandates that projects over 5,000 square feet achieve a minimum LEED Silver rating, is a great success.
The city of Eugene is forward-thinking when it comes to sustainability, but Eugene also understands that a greener future starts today. One of the ways Eugene is planning for the future is by encouraging the development of 20-minute neighborhoods, or neighborhoods where residents have convenient access to home, work, schools, entertainment and shops that reduces their need to travel by car. Through creative zoning measures, public policies and infrastructure investments, Eugene hopes to have 90% of residents living in 20-minute neighborhoods by 2030. Eugene is another city leading by example when it comes to energy efficiency and green power. Fifty-three percent of the city's fleet vehicles are hybrids, including police cruisers. Energy-efficient upgrades in city buildings have saved more than $1.7 million in energy costs since 1994, and 25% of the energy consumed in city buildings comes from wind power purchases.
Don't miss our spotlight on the greenest cities in the Southwest.