At the top of the Willamette Valley in the lush Pacific Northwest lies a bustling city that is green, quite literally: Portland. Surrounded by trees, rivers, parks and the people who are committed to preserving them, this city has been named the most eco-friendly city in the United States. Here are a few reasons why:
BIKING: In an effort to reduce the number of cars
on the road as well as the city’s carbon footprint, 315 miles of bike
paths accommodate Portland’s tens of thousands of cyclists. The
nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters (8%) live here - the
highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the
national average. It’s easy to go by bike, and if you get
caught in the rain (eventually you will), you and your bike are welcomed
on light rail trains as well as buses, which are all outfitted with
bike racks. Bike-themed events span the entire year, one in particalar,
Pedalpalooza, claiming two weeks in June which encompasses 200 events to
celebrate the cycling culture.
CAR-SHARING: Portland was the first U.S. city to
implement car-sharing. ZipCar was implemented in 1998, allowing users to
book one of the agency’s ﬂeet of hundreds of vehicles in the Portland
metro area in a timeshare-type scheme. With designated parking all over
the city, members can reserve their car for their weekly visit to the
grocery store or a drive to visit family at a small price, while not
having to worry about insuring or maintaining their own vehicle.
TRANSPORTATION: A quarter of the workforce commutes
by bike, carpool or public transportation. Light rail service between
the airport and downtown, and free train and streetcar service within
the 330-block Free Rail Zone, Portland’s public transportation is
accessible and affordable.
ENERGY: Half of Portland's power comes from
renewable sources. Solar and wind power are quickly becoming popular
methods for supplementing energy and eco-roofs and living roofs are
catching on as an environmentally-friendly way to not only grow your own
food but keep your house or business safe from the elements while
avoiding manufactured roofing.
Even working out has gone green. The Green Microgym strives to be
self-sustaining: it channels the energy from the various treadmills and
incumbent bikes on-site and converts it to power. In 2010, through their
energy creation and saving culture, they generated 36% of their own
RECYCLING: Portland’s households and businesses
recycle and compost 67 percent of waste generated, one of the highest
rates in the country. Appliances and computers also have a healthy
recycle and reuse rate!
PARKS AND RECREATION: There is no lack of trees nor
people who care about preserving their environment. With 200 parks
within city limits, hiking and camping are all in close reach.
Portlanders want to maintain their “green” status: in 1995, voters in
the Portland metropolitan region passed a regional bond measure to
acquire valuable natural areas for fish, wildlife, and people. Ten years
later, more than 8,100 acres (33 km2) of ecologically valuable natural areas had been purchased and permanently protected from development.
SUSTAINABLE EATING: More than 20 farmers’ markets
and 35 community gardens in Portland – promotes the “farm to fork”
culture that is quickly spreading. Backyard chicken coops are a growing
trend for those who appreciate fresh eggs, and raised vegetable beds are
commonly seen in front and back yards.
The city is also known for being the most vegetarian-friendly city in America.
Vegetarian and vegan cuisine can be found everywhere, from the city’s
numerous (200+ and growing!) food carts to the most elegant of dining.
Portland is also home to vegan grocery stores, bakeries, and even a
vegan tattoo parlor. (A vegetarian diet reduces the production of carbon
dioxide (CO2). Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as
driving your car for three weeks!)
FURRY COMPANIONS: People in Portland have a heart
for animals. This year the Oregon Humane Society hopes to place 11,000
animals with loving families (of which Portland has plenty!). As the
largest no-kill animal shelter in the area, there are no time limits
placed on how long an animal is available for adoption, and they are
never euthanized because of space limitations. When finding a new
family, dogs generally wait an average of 8 days or less and cats wait
an average of 9 days or less! Adoption rates for dogs in 2009 was 97
percent; for cats it was 95 percent (quite impressive when compared to
the national average of 25 percent for dogs and 20 percent for cats).
A CULTURE OF GIVING: Nonprofits thrive in Portland,
where many people are employed, volunteer, donate, and/or benefit from
the many registered non-profit organizations located in the area.
Donating to local groups is encouraged; one of the city’s largest weekly
alternative newspapers, the Willamette Week, distributes a publication
called the Give!Guide, which is inserted in all 90,000 copies of
Willamette Week. One of the goals of the Give!Guide is to encourage
people age 18-35 to get involved in philanthropy. If young people begin
supporting non-profit organizations at a young age, even at smaller
levels, they are likely to continue to give as they get older, and the
amount of their support is likely to grow with their incomes.
With its roller derby, Voodoo Donuts (where you can actually have
marriage ceremony), coffee shops on every corner, a city block of books
chez Powell’s Books, First and Last Thursday art festivals, and the
amazing music that flows from the city is unstoppable and renowned
worldwide: Portland, it’s awesome, and awesomely green.