What makes a city green doesn’t have parameters set by the EPA. Therefore, we’re left to base the criteria off of certain measures to their effectiveness in carbon footprint reduction. The greenness of a city is based on air and water quality, efficiency of recycling and waste management, acres of land devoted to greenspace, use of renewable energies, and access to products and services that make the green lifestyle choice a simple one. My city (Nashville) didn’t make the list, but check to see if yours did.
The Music City of the Lonestar State is making moves to be carbon neutral by 2020. It may seem ambitious but they are already taking the steps to make that goal a reality. Acreage in Austin that is devoted to greenspace is impressive. They have 206 parks, 26 greenbelts, 12 preserves, and more than 50 miles of trails. Also, Austin Energy is the nation’s top seller of renewable energy.
Since 1909, The Windy City has been following the long-term plan set forth by city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham. That plan was that the lakefront balanced urban growth and created a greenbelt around the perimeter of the city. The city continues to green thanks to the Chicago Green Roof Program and the 2.5 million square feet of plant life on city roofs.
Coffee, rain and grunge. That’s what most think of when Seattle comes to mind. But, they are paving the way of sustainable living. More than 20 public buildings are LEED certified and more are under construction. The city also implements an incentive program to encourage residents to install solar panels for energy conservation.
The University of California, Berkeley, is known for its prestige in research and undergrad programs. Perhaps it was these programs that made Berkeley recognized as a leader in clean technology for wind and solar power, biofuels and hydropower. There is also an abundance of vegetarian and organic restaurants.
Back in 2002 city officials implemented a climate protection plan to cut do their part in carbon reduction. Most city vehicles run on B20 biodiesel or electricity. Any new building or major renovation must meet LEED standards in Cambridge. They also have a campaign titled “Compost That Stuff” that collects organic waste from bars, restaurants, hotels and residents.
Here’s a hint: this isn’t the only time you’ll see Oregon on this list…go figure. Eugene has been green since the 1960s. And, cycling is the preferred mode of transportation around the metropolitan area. There are more than 30 miles of off-street bike paths and 29 dedicated bike routes. This makes over 150 miles of carbon free travel possible through and around the city.
Oakland has the cleanest tap water in the nation. They also have the country’s oldest wildlife refuge and hydrogen-powered public transport. They plan to have zero waste and be oil independent by 2020. That’s an easy feat considering how they already get 17% of their energy from renewable resources.
Boston is well on their way to making their goal by 2015. What goal is this? It is the “Green by 2015” goal to replace taxis with hybrids, power homes with recycled trash, use more solar energy and use more electric motorbikes for transportation around the city.
San Francisco, CA
The city where the 1960s “Summer of Love” was the center of was also the first city in the nation to ban plastic bags. San Francisco is said be the country’s leader in solar energy production. There’s also an artist-in-residence program at the recycling facility. An artist is to gain inspiration and use it by creating works made out of recycled materials.
You don’t have to worry about being run off the road here if you ride a bike. There are more than 200 miles of dedicated lanes, making Portland the most bikeable city in the United States. There are many acres of greenspace and hiking trails just outside of the city. Portland also has many DIY workshops in baking, bee and chicken keeping, container gardening and more sustainable food practices.