Portland. Seattle. Denver. These cities are regularly recognized among the greenest in the United States. So, what do they have in common? And how can you apply their features to your hometown and add it to the ranks of the nation’s greenest?
Attorney Lee Epstein, writing for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), identified a list of key elements that make a town green, including committing to green, building green, buying green, powering green, maintaining green spaces and building new ones, protecting local waterways, creating a walkable community, utilizing accessible public transportation, and eliminating waste.
Epstein writes that a city must embrace a green lifestyle in every way, from building green schools and public buildings to utilizing green vehicles for mass transit and focusing on efficient, sustainable energy. Successful green cities recognize the importance of park space and work to not only maintain their existing parks, but also incorporate new green space into their development. Cities can grow and be green, with new building projects featuring green-rated buildings and added features like green roofs.
Transportation is another major feature of green cities. Places like Portland are lauded not just for their public transportation, but also for being bike-friendly cities that encourage residents to minimize car use. Having walkable communities and features like bike lanes and bike share programs reduces the number of cars on the road, lessening pollution and also congestion for a more enjoyable living experience.
The ultimate accomplishment in greening cities is to create a city with zero carbon footprint. Abu Dhabi has begun constructing what they hope to be the world’s first carbon neutral city, Masdar City, and the nation of Costa Rica is in the midst of a plan to become completely carbon neutral by 2021. A new Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance formed in March 2015 by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network aims to help reach that goal. Sustainability directors for global cities including Berlin, London, Melbourne, New York, Portland, Seattle, Stockholm, Washington, DC, and more are working together to develop realistic plans to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050 in order to combat climate change. Our home base of Baltimore has joined the greening efforts by adopting the International Green Construction Code as law to ensure new buildings are eco friendly. They’ve also paid special attention to rehabilitating city parks and the famous Inner Harbor, and greening the busy Port of Baltimore. Extensions of public transit, including a free bus service that circles the city, have also cut down on pollution in the city. As a major metropolitan city in the Chesapeake Bay area that is working to preserve the natural habitat around it, Baltimore was an obvious choice for our headquarters.
Going forward, by applying the methods these cities master, locations in the US from small towns to bustling metropolises will hopefully be able to replicate their success.
For now, you can encourage your town to go green by implementing a comprehensive recycling plan, participating in planting drives, working to maintain and rebuild green spaces, and fighting for additions like bike lanes, bike share programs, and extra public transportation. By affecting these changes in your community you will put your home on its way to a spot on a future list of greenest towns in the country.
To read Lee Epstein’s full article for the NRDC click here.