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 Metro, the regional government around Greater Portland, OR