In pop culture, Portland, Oregon’s most famous thanks to the sketch comedy show, Portlandia. The entire show is painted with hyperbole, using satire to share the city’s “unique” vibes. But for all the jokes about socially-conscious diners making sure their chicken entrees lived carefree and cage-free lives and eating local, organic produce, the real-life Portland is actually a leader in the green city movement.
Portland Is a Bicycling Utopia
Life on two wheels doesn’t get better than in Portland, Oregon, and the city has the numbers to back it up. In 2017, more than 7 percent of commuters here travel by bike according to the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Compare that same statistic to less than 1 percent nationally. In Portland, biking to work isn’t the life-risking decision it is in some other cities. For decades, Portland has taken steps to make riding safer and easier, installing 188 miles of bike lanes and 77 miles of Neighborhood Greenways (roads where bikes take priority). Among many other honors, Portland has been named the “Number 1 bike-friendly city” by Bicycling magazine many years running.
It Actually Has Clean and Friendly Public Transit
Maybe biking isn’t your thing. Portland has award-winning public transit, also unlike many other major cities in the United States. With nearly 80 bus lines, 97 light rail stations, and a gondola, you have options for quick, efficient transport wherever you want to go. According to Walkscore, “Bus routes, electric car charging stations, Amtrak, and a gentle topography crisscrossed with miles of bike lanes make Portland a city that almost dares you to find a reason to drive your car.” Personally, I’ve never experienced nicer bus rides than in Portland. If a bus driver sees me running, they stop to let me on. Even the riders are friendlier here, saying “thank you” when they get on and off the bus. It’s a politeness you don’t see in many cities.
It’s a Hydroelectric Powerhouse
On April 10th, Portland joined city and county leaders from around the world in a pledge to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Already a leader in renewable energy, the city is actively taking steps to reach that 100 percent goal. Right now more than 50 percent of Oregon’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources. Even more impressive, Oregon is the seventh largest renewable energy-producing state in the country thanks to a massive hydroelectric industry. During peak season, Oregon produces so much renewable energy they sell it off to California.
The City Is Building Green
A whopping 32 percent of Portland’s offices are green certified with an ENERGY STAR or LEED label (CBRE.us, 2017). Many workplaces are on board with the green building movement, replacing inefficient lighting with LEDs, making it easier for employees to recycle, and incentivizing energy savings in the office. The shift proves that people don’t just want to live green, they want to work green too.
It’s Leading the Way on Recycling
In 1971, Oregon led the US with its pioneer bottle recycling program. More than 40 years later, the program is getting a boost from 5 to 10 cents a bottle. The jump actually had some people stockpiling bottles, ready to cash in when the price doubled. Even without rewards, Portlanders recycle and compost more than 60 percent of their trash, compared to the U.S. average of 35 percent in 2012.
It’s the City of Trees
Yellow Poplars, Wingnuts, Oak, Elms…and that’s just one block downtown. Portland really is a city of trees and it didn’t happen by accident. Bucking the old nickname “Stumptown,” the city now enforces aggressive rules protecting Portland’s trees, forcing businesses to plant trees with new development and even controlling what people do with the trees in their own yards. Though sometimes controversial, the impact is clear: Portland’s urban canopy is growing in spite of a booming population. The city plans to grow the already-impressive tree canopy from 30 percent to 35 percent. That’s thousands upon thousands of new trees in the next two decades.