Portland, Ore.: America's greenest city

Popular Science magazine ranks the top 50 greenest cities in America based on raw data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Geographic Society’s Green Guide. Portland barely edges out San Francisco as the greenest city in America.


Portland, Ore., narrowly edges out San Francisco as the greenest city in America, according to Popular Science magazine. The magazine based its results fromiled these statistics into four broad categories, each scored out of either 5 or 10 possible points. The sum of these four scores determines a city’s place in the rankings. The categories are:

  • Electricity (E; 10 points): Cities score points for drawing their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power, as well as for offering incentives for residents to invest in their own power sources, like roof-mounted solar panels.

  • Transportation (T; 10 points): High scores go to cities whose commuters take public transportation or carpool. Air quality also plays a role.

  • Green living (G; 5 points): Cities earn points for the number of buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as for devoting area to green space, such as public parks and nature preserves.

  • Recycling and green perspective (R; 5 points): This measures how comprehensive a city’s recycling program is (if the city collects old electronics, for example) and how important its citizens consider environmental issues.

The magazine celebrates these cities that have taken strides toward sustainability faster than the U.S. federal government. Austin, for example, has committed to using renewable energy to satisfy a third of its energy needs by 2020, while Seattle has retrofitted its municipal heavy duty diesel vehicles to reduce particulate pollution by 50%.
"Something about the comparative speed of city government -- a city-council member can green light a project and be cutting the ribbon a year later--leads to bold action, and as cities trade ideas, a very positive sort of mimicry is spreading," according to the magazine's article publicizing the list.

America's top 10
1. Portland, Ore. 23.1

  • Electricity: 7.1 Transportation: 6.4 Green Living: 4.8 Recycling/Perspective: 4.8

America’s top green city has it all: Half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

2. San Francisco. 23.0

  • Electricity: 6.8 Transportation: 8.8 Green Living: 3.5 Recycling/Perspective: 3.9

  • See how San Francisco turns wasted roof space into power, here .

3. Boston. 22.7

  • Electricity: 5.7 Transportation: 8.7 Green Living: 3.4 Recycling/Perspective: 4.9

  • Boston has preliminary plans for a plant that would turn 50,000 tons of fall color into power and fertilizer. The facility would first separate yard clippings into grass and leaves. Anaerobic bacteria feeding on the grass would make enough methane to power at least 1.5 megawatts’ worth of generators, while heat and agitation would hasten the breakdown of leaves and twigs into compost.

4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5

  • Electricity: 7.0 Transportation: 7.5 Green Living: 3.1 Recycling/Perspective: 4.9

  • See how Oakland's hydrogen-powered transit helps the city cut pollution, here .

5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4

  • Electricity: 10.0 Transportation: 4.7 Green Living: 2.9 Recycling/Perspective: 4.8

  • CATEGORY LEADER: Electricity
    Much of the wet Pacific Northwest draws its energy from hydroelectric dams. But Eugene draws an additional 9% of its municipal electricity from wind farms. It also buys back excess power from residents who install solar panels.

6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2

  • Electricity: 6.1 Transportation: 7.5 Green Living: 3.9 Recycling/Perspective: 4.7

7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2

  • Electricity: 6.2 Transportation: 8.4 Green Living: 2.9 Recycling/Perspective: 4.7

8. Seattle. 22.1

  • Electricity: 6.2 Transportation: 7.3 Green Living: 4.7 Recycling/Perspective: 3.9

9. Chicago. 21.3

  • Electricity: 5.4 Transportation: 7.3 Green Living: 5.0 Recycling/Perspective: 3.6

  • CATEGORY LEADER: Green Space
    In addition to the 12,000 acres Chicago has devoted to public parks and waterfront space, the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded four city projects with a Platinum rating, its highest award.
    See how Chicago's power plants produce twice the energy with a third the carbon, here .

10. Austin, Tex. 21.0

  • Electricity: 6.9 Transportation: 5.9 Green Living: 3.3 Recycling/Perspective: 4.9

Click here to read about the remaining cities in the top 50.
Click here to read how America's greenest cities became so green.

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