At the top of the Willamette Valley in the lush Pacific Northwest lies a bustling city that is green, quite literally: Portland. Surrounded by trees, rivers, parks and the people who are committed to preserving them, this city has been named the most eco-friendly city in the United States.

Here are a few reasons why:


Bike commuters crossing a bridge

BIKING: In an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road as well as the city’s carbon footprint, 315 miles of bike paths accommodate Portland’s tens of  thousands of cyclists. The nation’s highest percentage of bike commuters (8%) live here - the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average[430]. It’s easy to go by bike, and if you get caught in the rain (eventually you will), you and your bike are welcomed on light rail trains as well as buses, which are all outfitted with bike racks. Bike-themed events span the entire year, one in particalar, Pedalpalooza, claiming two weeks in June which encompasses 200 events to celebrate the cycling culture.


CAR-SHARING: Portland was the first U.S. city to implement car-sharing. ZipCar was implemented in 1998, allowing users to book one of the agency’s fleet of hundreds of vehicles in the Portland metro area in a timeshare-type scheme. With designated parking all over the city, members can reserve their car for their weekly visit to the grocery store or a drive to visit family at a small price, while not having to worry about insuring or maintaining their own vehicle.


TRANSPORTATION: A quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation. With light rail service between the airport and downtown, and free train and streetcar service within the 330-block Free Rail Zone, Portland’s public transportation is accessible and affordable.[427]

Living roof


ENERGY: Half of Portland's power comes from renewable sources. Solar and wind power are quickly becoming popular methods for supplementing energy and eco-roofs and living roofs are catching on as an environmentally-friendly way to not only grow your own food but keep your house or business safe from the elements while avoiding manufactured roofing.

Even working out has gone green. Portland's Green Microgym strives to be self-sustaining: it channels the energy created from the various treadmills and incumbent bikes on-site and converts it to power. In 2010, through their energy creation and saving culture, they generated 36% of their own electricity.[428]


RECYCLING: Portland’s households and businesses recycle and compost 67 percent of waste generated, one of the highest rates in the country. Appliances and computers also have a healthy recycle and reuse rate![429]


Portland, Oregon

PARKS AND RECREATION: There is no lack of trees nor people who care about preserving their environment. With 200 parks within city limits, hiking and camping are all within close reach. Portlanders want to maintain their “green” status: in 1995, voters in the Portland metropolitan region passed a regional bond measure to acquire valuable natural areas for fish, wildlife, and people. Ten years later, more than 8,100 acres (33 km2) of ecologically valuable natural areas had been purchased and permanently protected from development.[430]


SUSTAINABLE EATING: There are more than 20 farmers’ markets and 35 community gardens in Portland – they further promote the quickly-spreading “farm to fork” culture. Backyard chicken coops are a growing trend for those who appreciate fresh eggs, and raised vegetable beds are commonly seen in front and back yards.[429]

The city is also known for being the most vegetarian-friendly city in America[431]. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine can be found everywhere, from the city’s numerous (200+ and growing!) food carts to the most elegant of dining. Portland is also home to vegan grocery stores, bakeries, and even a vegan tattoo parlor. (A vegetarian diet reduces the production of carbon dioxide (CO2).  Eating one pound of hamburger does the same damage as driving your car for three weeks!) [432]


FURRY COMPANIONS: People in Portland have a heart for animals. This year the Oregon Humane Society hopes to place 11,000 animals with loving families (of which Portland has plenty!). As the largest no-kill animal shelter in the area, there are no time limits placed on how long an animal is available for adoption, and they are never euthanized because of space limitations. When finding a new family, dogs generally wait an average of 8 days or less and cats wait an average of 9 days or less! Adoption rates for dogs in 2009 was 97 percent; for cats it was 95 percent (quite impressive when compared to the national average of 25 percent for dogs and 20 percent for cats). [433]


A CULTURE OF GIVING: Nonprofits thrive in Portland, where many people are employed, volunteer, donate, and/or benefit from the many registered non-profit organizations located in the area. Donating to local groups is encouraged; one of the city’s largest weekly alternative newspapers, the Willamette Week, distributes a publication called the Give!Guide, which is inserted in all 90,000 copies of newspaper. One of the goals of the Give!Guide is to encourage people aged 18-35 to get involved in philanthropy; they believe that if people begin supporting non-profit organizations at a young age, even at smaller financial levels, they are likely to continue to give as they get older, and the amount of their support is likely to grow with their incomes.[434]


With its roller derby, Voodoo Donuts (where you can actually have marriage ceremony), coffee shops on every corner, a city block of books chez Powell’s Books, First and Last Thursday art festivals, and the amazing music that flows from the city is unstoppable and renowned worldwide: Portland is awesome, and awesomely green.

Tending raised vegetable beds