For an individual person to make changes to go green can seem a daunting task. Now, imagine that task multiplied to the city level, imagine how challenging it must be to get a city council, businesses in a city, parks, recreation, people and more to all go green together. The good news is, it can be done – it is being done – all around the United States. People, local governments, businesses and municipalities are coming together to make cities that are environmentally friendly, sustainable, walkable and simply healthier places to live. Let’s look at some of the greenest cities of 2011 and what these cities have done to become eco friendly, perhaps helping each of us to see how we can fulfill our own green destiny. Following are a few of the greenest cities, from a variety of sources.
Austin, Texas Leading the way by developing green areas and committing to alternative energy is Austin, Texas. The city has designated more than 200 parks throughout the air, as well as a variety of nature preserves and other green areas. By using a pay-as-you-throw program, Austin encourages its residents to think twice about what they throw away. Austin is also working towards using more sustainable energy resources, and already powers 20% of the city with alternative power. Austin is also trying to be carbon neutral by 2020.
New York, New York It may be a surprise that New York City ranked number one in U.S. News and World Report’s list of green cities, but it’s true. In NYC mass transit rules, as more than trips are taken on public transportation every day! Nearly 70% of New Yorkers recycle on a regular basis and only 15% admit to having no ecological consciousness at all.
Oakland, California With a focus on energy self-sufficiency, Oakland has a goal of becoming oil independent and to be zero-waste by 2020. This ambitious goal is already in progress as the city uses hydrogen power for their public transportation, has programs to make fresh, organic food available to its residents, and already gets nearly 20% of its energy from sustainable sources. Oakland has been carefully tracking how much it sends to landfill compared to how much it recycles since 2000, and shows a solid 33% increase in recycling since that time, with a 27% reduction in waste to landfill.
Portland, Oregon This active city boasts a recycling rate of over 70%, but more importantly it is a community that always stays active. Portland uses carpool lanes to encourage joint commuting, but bicycle lanes also make riding to work easier – the city has more than 200 miles of bike lanes and was recently declared the most bikable city in the country. This city has a serious recycling program, but more importantly the city gets nearly half of all the power it uses from sustainable sources including wind and water power.
San Francisco, California Many people think of California as the home of granola loving hippies, but really it is a vibrant, active state with a variety of business types and an even larger variety of people. Nowhere is there more divergent people than in San Francisco, yet that city has managed to be a top runner in sustainable, green living for some time. Walkability is one of the main reasons that San Francisco tops the green city lists year after year – this city was simply made for walking. If there is a place that you can’t get to by foot, or if the hilly terrain is just too much, their public transportation system is tops. It is quite common to live in the city and not even own a car. In fact, more than 50% of the city residents use bikes, roller blades, walking or public transportation to get to work each day! Nearly 75% of residents recycle on a regular basis.
The Road to Green The road to a green country starts with our individual cities. As people find more innovative ways to minimize our impact on the environment we can see city after city qualify to join a list of the greenest cities in the country. Together, these green cities form states and eventually will yield a country that has an active focus on environmental sustainability.