Eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas. And as more Americans become concerned about the quality of the environment, an increasing number of U.S. cities are making an effort to become greener.
Ten cities have been named the greenest cities in the United States by The Green Guide, a guide for the environmentally conscious consumer. Because the magazine purposely looked at large metropolitan areas, all of the cities except one - Boulder, Colorado - have populations greater than 200,000.
Others listed include: Austin, Chicago, Honolulu, Madison, Minneapolis, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Senior Research editor Paul McRandle says The Green Guide judged a city's green-ness on a number of factors. "We focused on water and air quality; efficient use of resources through renewable energy leadership; accessible, reliable public transportation, and green building," he says. "We were also checking on green space like public parks and green belts, access to locally grown foods from farmer's markets and lastly, affordability, although that is not specifically a green issue."
The Green Guide used data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the American Association of Homebuilders and other public and private groups to rate cities. The top 10 are listed alphabetically and not ranked in any order. Senior editor Paul McRandle says each has a green story to tell.
"Honolulu ranks as among the top cleanest cities in terms of clean air and water," he says. "Madison has an excellent commitment to bicycle transportation. In Minneapolis we have a solar rebate program that enables us to hook up to the city's grid. Portland stands out in a number of categories, but they are the top city for green building. In San Francisco we see excellent public transportation, and in Seattle we have a program to avoid any net increase in greenhouse gases, through self-generated wind energy."
Paul McRandle says Chicago was the biggest surprise on the list. "In fact some people who live there have written in asking why we chose it," he says. It made the rankings because of affordability. "It was affordability that made our list a bit different from others," Mr. McRandle says. "Chicago does have this commitment to green building, and it does have at the moment very good public transportation."
Paul McRandle says the purpose of the survey is to raise public awareness about green issues. "What we really want to say in this is not that these are the greenest, best cities in America and everyone should flock to them, but rather that cities across America can take on more environmental practices, and every city, including these cities, face problems," he says. "They have environmental legacies that they have to correct, but that there is a movement afoot that is really building up steam (gathering strength) to make urban life more environmentally friendly, to take advantage of the urban spaces and their compactness, to move people around in energy efficient ways."
Paul McRandle says while no city has a pristine record, the 10 cities set a green example for others to follow. He says The Green Guide plans to continue its yearly top-10 list to promote progress around the country. The magazine welcomes comments on green practices in your hometown. You can e-mail the editors at their website.