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Apr 23, 2008

The Greenest Cities In America

From solar-powered cars to water conservation to state-wide recycling programs, it appears that America really is beginning to "go green." And as more people learn about the role they can play in saving the planet, many are taking responsibility for their own environmental actions.
Amid the ecological advances, some cities deserve recognition for going above and beyond in this important cause. We've compiled a list of the 10 greenest cities, based on resource conservation, waste emissions, public-transportation use, recycling habits, eco-friendly buildings, and green space

Portland, Oregon. Portland was the first American city to adopt a Global Warming Action Plan, which has kept CO2 emissions down and helped Portland General Electric become one of the greenest power companies in the United States. The city also runs a comprehensive system of light rail, buses, and bike lanes to help keep cars off the roads. There's no shortage of green space either-- 92,000 acres, to be exact--and more than 74 miles of hiking, running, and biking trails.
San Francisco, California. The city's popular transportation system, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), has significantly cut back on the area's need for cars. And thanks to the year-round near-perfect weather, commuting by bike has become a daily routine for approximately 17 percent of locals. Through the leadership of Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco recently became the first city in the country to ban the use of petroleum-based plastic shopping bags in grocery stores--and the mayor is cracking down on single-serving plastic water bottles as well.
Boston, Massachusetts. This New England city is the home of the first airport terminal to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. This system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is the national benchmark for design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. Buildings can receive one of four levels of certification--certified, silver, gold, or platinum--based on how they score in six areas, including water efficiency, use of materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality. Boston law now requires that all new buildings larger than 50,000 square feet to earn at least a silver rating under the LEED program.
Berkeley, California. This sunny city boasts one of the highest rates of pedestrian and bike commuting, and special biking boulevards are abundant throughout the area. Berkeley is also the home of University of California, Berkeley, which recently received a grant that will enable the school to develop new and improved energy sources.
Seattle, Washington. In 2005, Mayor Greg Nickels helped form the Seattle Climate Partnership, a voluntary pact among Seattle-area employers to reduce their own emissions and to work together to help meet the community-wide goal. Twelve local employers, including coffee behemoth Starbucks, have jumped on the bandwagon. And how's this for a first? City Light, Seattle's energy utility company, was the first utility to attain zero net emissions of climate pollution.
Chicago, Illinois. The Windy City purchases renewable energy and has aggressive policies in place to promote green building and recycle construction waste. The locals are environmentally friendly, too--nearly 80 percent take part in curbside recycling. Also in full effect is the Bike 2015 Plan, which aims to have 5 percent of all trips of less than five miles accomplished by bike. Chicago additionally offers tax incentives to residents who buy historic homes and install energy-efficient technologies.
New York City. More than 20 percent of commuters in the Big Apple travel to and from their destinations by bicycle or foot. What's more, the Hearst Tower and 7 World Trade Center, both completed in 2006, are gold-level LEED buildings, boasting features such as rainwater collection, natural lighting, and recycled steel.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Several initiatives set the City of Brotherly Love apart. GreenPlan Philadelphia aims to provide a long-term, sustainable roadmap for using, acquiring, developing, funding, and managing open space in the city's neighborhoods. Then there's Philadelphia's Energy Cooperative, an independent power supplier that sources electricity off the roofs of residents who own solar electric systems. For those wanting to generate their own, city and federal tax incentives will pay for up to 60 percent of solar-powered hot water systems.
Minneapolis, Minnesota. The state of Minnesota has set one of the country's first state renewable energy standards, a move that will require 25 percent of electricity to come from renewable resources. Minneapolis itself recently celebrated the birth of its light rail line, which heavily exceeded expected ridership in its first year. What's more, nature abounds in this Midwest city, with more than 15 percent of the city's land devoted to parks and preserves, plus thousands of nearby lakes.
Austin, Texas. Keep Austin Beautiful, a community program aimed at decreasing litter, reducing waste, and conserving resources, is all the rage in this Texan town. Through an aggressive strategy that involves taking advantage of the city's strong sunlight, Austin is also working hard to make both residential and commercial building codes the most energy-efficient in the nation.


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February 16, 2012 at 3:06 AM