Green Portland: How Have They Done It?

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 2:20 AM

Portland, OR has been hailed as one of our nation's green leaders countless times, and the question on the minds of many of its not-so-green neighbors is: "How have they done it?"

Business Insider named 6 main environmental sustainability efforts in which Portland excels:

     -Air Quality
     -Transportation
     -Water Quality
     -Buildings
     -Energy
     -Recycling

(1)
Air Quality:
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has implemented a plan to "meet the health-based benchmarks for all air toxins" and "operated three programs that achieve significant reductions of air toxins from vehicles: the Employee Commute Options Program (ECO), the Vehicle Inspection Program and the Oregon Low Emission Vehicles Program," (2). The Vehicle Inspection Program alone prevents the release of 170 tons of air toxins per day. It's all paying off, as Portland ranks as one of the top metropolitan areas for air quality in the country (3).

You can even view current air quality status and air quality forecasts here!

Transportation:
The Portland Bureau of Transportation has long withstanding philosophies when it comes to their Transportation Systems Plant (TSP): "cost-effective street, transit, freight, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements," in order to provide "transportation choices for residents, employees, visitors, and firms doing business in portland," with "a balanced transportation system to support neighborhood livability and economic development," (4). With those philosophies in place, 25% of Portlanders commute using alternative forms of transportation (5)!

Water Quality:
The Portland Water Bureau collects, monitors, and tests water samples in accordance with regulations (6). In addition, the DEQ Water Quality Program aims "to protect and improve Oregon's rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater quality" in order to keep "waters safe for a multitude of beneficial uses such as drinking water, fish habitat, recreation and irrigation," (7). Moving beyond the city's obligatory quality standards and treatment systems, local government is providing incentives for residents to contribute to water quality efforts as well. These extras have names Portland as having one of the cleanest water supplies of any city in the United States (8).

Buildings:
In 2000 the City of Portland launched their Green Building and Development Program, which has transformed the practices of residential, business, and community buildings into that of sustainability (9). Residents are offered individual incentives to "go green," and energy usage in buildings is now targeted, tracked, and reported (10). As a result of all of the city's efforts, it now has the highest number of LEED certified buildings per capita in the U.S. (11).

Energy:
Portland General Electric (PGE) offers a promise of 100% renewable energy sources if customers elect for Green Source. Signing up for Green Source guarantees that all electric energy used comes from all renewable sources-- wind, geothermal, and solar. This option is slightly more expensive (PGE expects it to be about $7 more per month per person). However, these costs can vary-- this writer has never paid  more than $20 per month total for electric, which includes the Green Source option. Green building programs, energy options, and energy awareness have made Portland the national leader in renewable energy (12).

Recycling:
When is comes down to it, recycling is a culture, and Portland has it. The City of Portland Planning and Sustainability offices have helped to create that culture, promoting education, offering resources and smart practices, setting goals, and boasting results (13). In 2008, 56.8% of waste created in Portland was recycled (14). By the end of 2015, Portland's goal is to raise the recycling rate up to 75% (15)!

(4)
How have they done it? Portland has made sustainability one of its top priorities, and through communication and marketing, they have created a culture where its practices are commonplace. 

ANY city can go green. Follow Portland's lead!

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