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America’s Greenest Cities List Does Not Say Much!

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On April 16, 2008 @ 5:21 pm In G Living,Traveling & Cool Stuff To Do | No Comments

If you lean green and want to join the legions in a green city, you should check out Popular Science’s rankings of the 50 greenest U.S. cities. For those of us who take personal responsibility for our footprints on the world no matter where we live, the list offers hope that urban communities can curb their fossil lust. And the rest of you … well, you’re probably not reading this anyway.

The cities are ranked based on four categories: electricity, transportation, green living (meaning green dwellings), and recycling/green attitude, for a possible total of 30 points, with the first two getting 10 points each and the second two getting 5. But enough of guidelines, you’re probably dying to know who came to the top.

Portland ranked number one, followed closely by San Francisco. The two cities scored 23.1 and 23.0 respectively. They were followed by Boston at 22.7 and Oakland at 22.5. Notably missing from the list is Los Angeles (shame on you, Hollywood), although suburbs Irvine, Pasadena, and Norwalk came in at numbers 21, 37, and 38.

See the whole list here.

Some surprising facts from the list include Portland’s affinity for biking and sustainable energy – nearly 25% of residents pedal, carpool or bus to work and the city gets nearly half of its energy from renewables; Lexington, KY leads in recycling – scoring a full 5; and New York’s dominance in the transportation category – 54% of New Yorkers commute using public transit, 17% better than the next best city.

Looking for good ideas? You’ll find a few on the list like Minneapolis’ $1,000 and $10,000 mini grants for sustainable ideas, Denver’s use of “green” concrete that uses fly-ash from coal plants, and Anchorage’s use of moonlight to supplement streetlights in winter.

The bad news about the list, at least from my perspective, is that the highest score was 23.1 and only 12 cities scored above 20. Greensboro, NC made the list, but only registered a 10.0. Does that make it green? Probably not, especially when scoring a 2 on both transportation and electricity. Perhaps PopSci’s headline should read “Only a handful of cities making the cut.”

And I’m not sure how accurate a green picture this ranking system paints because there seems to be a bias towards cities with strong mass transit systems. There are certainly many smaller cities and towns that don’t make the list simply because they don’t have mass transit, but many folks bike, walk, etc. We must keep in mind that there is much more to green than reducing emissions. Sustainability requires re-thinking the way we approach life in total, from how we get around to what we wear to what we eat.

Am I overly critical? Maybe. But there’s good news, too: cities are making changes that help to reduce energy consumption and cut greenhouse gases. Chicago, for example is home to four platinum-rated projects from the US Green Building Council and you’ll find hydrogen-powered buses in the entire Bay area.

As for me, I’ll stick to rural Montana.

Two lists I’d like to see: what areas of the country are taking sustainability to the next level and the top 50 greenest cities in Europe.

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