Portland, Oregon is often considered
one of the most sustainable cities in
the country. Mother Nature Network
made Portland number one on their list
of top green cities, the NRDC project
gave it runner-up distinction in 2009,
just behind neighboring Seattle, and the
EPA awarded Portland with the Green
Power Leadership Award.
But regardless of distinction, it’s the
community spirit of sustainability that
makes it clear: Portland is a city that’s
committed to reducing its impact and
protecting the environment.
Whether you’re watching bikers zip to
work in a comprehensive network of
bike lanes, admiring massive fir trees in
Forest Park, or navigating the disposal
options at restaurants that recycle AND
compost, spending time in Portland will
quickly expose you to the city’s sustainable vibe.
Portlanders love their bikes, and with about 320 miles of bikeways,
it’s not difficult to understand why. Residents bike to work and
school, to run errands, to exercise, and simply to enjoy the fresh air
offered both in and around the city. Portland is widely considered the
most bike friendly city in the country, and it’s the only one to achieve
Platinum Status from The League of American Bicyclists.
When it comes to recycling, Portland is very organized in their
efforts. You’ll find compost and recycling bins at many self-service
restaurants. While the sorting and disposal of your leftovers and
garbage might take some careful consideration, it alleviates the
excessive waste that typically accumulates when eating out.
Regarding home recycling, the city of
Portland collects blue recycling bins
once a week. Green compost bins can
also be ordered from the city to dispose
of your food scraps and yard debris.
Stormwater management is another way
in which Portland focuses on sustainability. Stormwater becomes a problem
in cities when sidewalks and buildings
take up space that trees and plants
would claim in more natural environments. When there are fewer plants to
absorb rain, the runoff carries pollutants into our water supply, while also
causing erosion, flooding, and harm to
Portland alleviates the stormwater issue
with green streets, ecoroofs, bioswales,
trees, and other green infrastructure to
absorb all of that rain. This is particularly necessary in Portland, as over one third of Portland’s pipes are
over 80 years old. Urban streams, forests, and wetlands reduce the
runoff that would otherwise overwhelm our plumbing.
Newcomers to Portland can find plenty of resources to get them
up to speed with the city’s appreciation for all things sustainable,
starting with the City of Portland’s Climate Action Now! website,
which offers tips on sustainable practices in all aspects of life.
People may lovingly poke fun at Portland’s obsession with all
things sustainable, organic, and homegrown, but Portland’s
progressive city planning and dedication to protecting the environment is lovingly embraced by long-time residents and newcomers
alike. Once you experience the beauty of the Portland area, you’ll
want to protect it, too.
Photo courtesy of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability