Greener than the Grass: Greenest Cities in the U.S.
It’s definitely tough to be in the city and think of how “green” it can be, especially because cities are mostly built environments. Aside from industrialization, you can’t stop from noticing the streets covered in trash, air full of car exhaust, and lack of large green spaces! However, some cities in the U.S. have begun to push these stereotypes aside. The WegoWise, Inc. team decided to gather 7 cities that have promoted sustainability in great ways. Check it out!
What makes a city “Green”?
Determining the “effectiveness in carbon footprint reduction” essentially boils down to a variety of qualities. According to Mother Nature Network, there are a few factors that play into how sustainable a city is. Air and water qualities are two of the most obvious factors to consider: having clean air and water is important, since they are both essential aspects of our daily lives (we drink water and we breathe in air, so these two factors are vital).
Another factor of urban sustainability is percentage of LEED-certified buildings. LEED is a building tool that addresses a building’s lifecycle and how it can be green; to be more specific, it’s heart is a third party verification, handling green certification. The foundation to becoming LEED certified is through a rating system, and each industry has a rating system designed uniquely for them. Then, the industry prepares a project that must meet LEED’s prerequisites. As the company gradually works on the project, LEED gives them points, and the amount of points collected signifies that they have been certified under certain categories such sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy efficiency, and more. The start to a greener city would be to create and develop buildings and communities that are designed to be more energy efficient. Thus, being LEED- certified assures that buildings are running effectively green.
An added green city factor, obvious but true, would be having large, connected areas of land devoted to green space. Aside from protecting the natural environment, the green grass brings color to the city, especially with so many dark surrounding buildings. Additionally, the use of renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power significantly reduces the carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global climate change.
Finally, having organic and local vendors that sell fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as convenient public transportation systems such as the metro and bike rentals are great!
The Greenest Cities title goes to 7 places (What are they doing to promote sustainability?)
1. Austin, TX
- Environmentally friendly by providing over 206 public parks
- High goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020
- The city takes part of the Green Lane project, a project focused on providing a safe and convenient lane for bikers
2. Portland, OR
- Outstanding transit system: light rail, aerial tram, and streetcar system
- Encourages local food production
3. San Francisco, CA
- Use of solar energy
- The city is currently reusing 80% of its waste, which will allow them to soon reach their goal of zero waste
- First city to ban plastic bags in 2007 by eliminating use in grocery stores
4. Seattle, WA
- 20 public buildings are LEED certified
- Focused on air and water quality
- Hydroelectric plants power 90% of the city’s power
- Obligation to wind energy
5. Chicago, IL
- The city continuously provides a sustainable and environmentally fun place for residents by expanding green space
- Half a million new trees have been planted in recent years
- More than 2.5 million square feet of the city rooftops support plant life, including the Willis Tower
6. Oakland, CA
- Reduces waste and carbon emissions by promoting locally grown food
- Holds the cleanest and freshest tap water
- Newer buildings meet high LEED green standard
7. Cambridge, MA (a town right outside of Boston, WegoWise, Inc. home town)
- Majority of the new constructions and major renovations are LEED certified
- Known to be one of the best cities to walk in (the area where Mass Institute of Technology and Harvard University are located)
For the cities that aren’t green enough, here are some tips to get on track:
- Recycle: Whether you are at home or outside walking the busy streets, take just one second to reconsider where you throw your plastic bottles or papers. Make it become a habit to recycle; it will be worth it in the long run.
- Increase use of Public Transportation: The use of pubic transportation not only helps the city become greener and reduce carbon emissions, but also benefits riders by saving them money on all the extra payments that come with the use of a car (think about how much you spend on gas!).
- Purchase locally: This means going to your local farmers market, growing vegetables in your backyard, or shopping at organic markets. Not only is it healthy for your body but it’s also reducing the amount of waste associated with food transportation.