There is no official EPA ranking system to measure green living standards for a city, but the Mother Nature Network (www.mnn.com) did its best to compile this top ten list. Each city on this list is to be commended on their sustainability efforts. They were ranked according to the effectiveness of their measures to reduce their carbon footprint. The criteria included:
10. Austin, Texas
Austin has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2020. Currently, there are approximately 850 utility-sponsored renewable energy programs. In addition, Austin is committed to providing ample green space for its residents with 206 parks, 12 preserves, 26 greenbelts and more than 50 miles of trails.
9. Chicago, Illinois
Half a million trees have been planted and 2.5 million square feet of plant sustaining rooftops have been added as part of the city’s long-range plan for “balanced urban growth” that’s been in place since 1909.
8. Seattle, Washington
Seattle stands for sustainability by promoting LEED and ENERGY STAR building certifications, offering incentives to encourage solar panel installations and hosting ongoing workshops and festivals to promote environmentalism.
7. Berkeley, California
This city is at the forefront of the organic and vegetarian restaurant scene. Berkeley is also a leader for many innovative projects in solar, hydro, wind and bio-fuel power.
6. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Home to MIT and Harvard, Cambridge was named “the best walking city” by Prevention Magazine. The city has implemented a major climate protection plan, mandated all new construction meets LEED standards, developed a massive composting effort to process organic waste and converted most city vehicles to bio-diesel and electric.
5. Eugene, Oregon
Nicknamed the Emerald City for its natural green beauty, Eugene runs an award-winning hybrid public transit system known as the Emerald Express. Residents are avid cyclists, with over 150 miles of bike paths and routes throughout the city.
4. Oakland, California
Oakland’s goal is to have zero-waste and be an oil-independent city by 2020. It already gets 17% of its energy from renewable resources, like hydrogen-powered mass transit. It also has the oldest wildlife refuge and the best tap water in the U.S.
3. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston held its first annual Down2Earth Conference in 2008 to promote sustainable lifestyles. Now, it’s “Green by 2015” effort will replace taxis with hybrid vehicles, power homes with recycled trash and add more solar panels and electric motorbikes.
2. San Francisco, California
The city is the self-proclaimed leader in solar energy and recycling innovation. Its effort to divert 75% of landfill waste made it the first U.S. city to ban plastic grocery bags.
1. Portland, Oregon
200 miles of dedicated bike lanes make Portland the most bike-able city in America. Classes in sustainable food sources like bee keeping, container gardening, cheese making and chicken keeping are all available in Portland.
The sustainability efforts these cities are making should be an inspiration to us all. What is your city doing to promote green living? What is your apartment community doing to help the environment? What are you doing? It’s a collective effort, and everybody counts. Let us know what you think needs to be done.