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 same
year, 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 takes stewardship seriously as a city committed to
reducing its impact on 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 to simply to enjoy the fresh
air in and around the city. Portland is widely considered the most
bike friendly city in the country, and it’s the only U.S. city to achieve
Platinum Status from The League of American Bicyclists.
Recycling is available everywhere in Portland: at home, at work and
even on the streets of downtown Portland! Portlanders are proud to
be good recyclers, and they should be: the city has one of the highest
recycling rates in the country. Recycling right—putting the correct
items in the correct bins—matters, so pay attention to bin signs or
contact the city for guidelines.
Regarding home recycling, the city of Portland collects blue recycling roll carts once
a week for paper, plastic and metal. Glass
is collected separately in a yellow recycling
bin weekly and green compost roll carts
play and important part of the residential
curbside collection system, disposing of
residential 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 the water supply, while also causing
erosion, flooding and harm to wildlife.
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 sustainability,
organics and homegrown veggies, but Portland’s progressive city planning and dedication to protecting the environment is warmly embraced
by long-time residents and newcomers alike. Once you experience the
beauty of the Portland area, you’ll want to protect it, too. l
Photo courtesy of Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability