Best Green Place to Live in America: Country Home Magazine Ranks 'Em

The data has been logged; the numbers have been crunched, and, after a nationwide study on green living, Corvallis, Oregon (Hey, that's where I live. Look at that.) has been named the Best Green Place to live in America by Country Home Magazine. The study, administered in conjunction with Sperling's BestPlaces, examines 24 data metrics in 5 major categories to determine which metro areas are the best places to live a green life.

Corvallis scored points for its focus on energy issues such as solid waste management, land use, water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, and green buildings and building practices; green power was also a major consideration (in 2007, Corvallis received utility provider Pacific Power's certificate of environmental stewardship). The city also purchases 15 percent of its power from renewable sources, and in 2006, the city was named a Green Power Community by the EPA. Corvallis is ranked the 9th most bicycle-friendly city in the nation by Bike USA and was named "One of the 13 best towns to be a vegetarian" by Vegan Magazine.

Rounding out the top 10: Portland metro, OR; Bellingham, WA; Santa Rosa/Petaluma, CA; Boulder, CO; Eugene/ Springfield, OR; Santa Cruz /Watsonville, CA; Minneapolis metro, MN; Bend, OR; and Santa Barbara metro, CA.

Also featured in the report, the top 10 cities with the best organic food supply (Boulder, CO, of carbon tax and smart grid fame, ranks #1); the cities with the best use of wind powered energy (Fargo, ND ranks #1); the Best Green small cities, with populations of 150,000 or less, (Corvallis, OR ranks #1); and Best Green large cities, with populations of 500,000 or more, (Portland metro, OR ranks #1).

The metrics used to determine the list include: mass transit use and other practices of each place's population, green power policies, biofuel and wind power availability, number of green-certified buildings, farmers markets, organic producers, and air and watershed quality. Sperling's BestPlaces ranked the 379 major metropolitan areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Data was collected from sources which include the Census Bureau, the U.S. Green Building Council, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the GreenPeople.org online directory.

As with all ranked lists of this nature, there is a large degree of subjectivity involved, and the definition of "what defines green" along with "which choices are greener than others" often makes the biggest difference. TreeHugger has seen a wide range of similar rankings before -- Portland, OR, Austin, TX and Hastings, NE have all earned the distinction at one point over the past few years -- and, while it's interesting to see how different places are ranked by different metrics (using different data, usually), the real value of rankings like these is what can be learned, as best practices, from those who come out on top.

In this case, I can't really speak to the breadth or depth of the city's sustainability efforts -- you can learn more about that at the City of Corvallis' Organizational Sustainability website -- since I've only lived here for about two months; personally, I can vouch that there are bike lanes everywhere that people use (even in the rain), a well-stocked food co-op, Oregon's only winter farmer's market to complement the summer farmer's market, and I just joined a great-looking local community-supported agriculture co-op that'll provide me with fresh, local produce from June to October. The local utility makes it easy to buy green power, and the year-long Corvallis Energy Challenge is currently underway, offering free home energy audits and home energy efficiency tips. So, all in all, I think it's a pretty green place to live. Learn more about it in Wikipedia and the City of Corvallis' website.

Get all the details on the list and rankings in the April issue of Country Home magazine, on newsstands today, March 18; the top 25 cities are listed below. Detailed results of the study will be posted to their site as well; see it all at ::Country Home

1. Corvallis, OR
2. Portland metro, OR
3. Bellingham, WA
4. Santa Rosa /Petaluma, CA
5. Boulder, CO
6. Eugene /Springfield, OR
7. Santa Cruz /Watsonville, CA
8. Minneapolis, MN
9. Bend, OR
10. Santa Barbara metro, CA
11. San Francisco metro, CA
12. La Crosse, WI
13. Seattle metro, WA
14. Fort Collins Loveland, CO
15. St. Cloud, MN
16. Salem, OR
17. Madison, WI
18. Iowa City, IA
19. Ames, IA
20. San Luis metro, IA
21. Salinas, CA
22. Bremerton Silverdale, WA
23. Duluth, WI
24. Pittsfield, MA
25. Medford, OR

Tags: Alternative Energy | Buy Local | Cities | Community Supported Agriculture | Energy Efficiency | Local Food | Renewable Energy