We received a couple of responses from SustainLane to our coverage of their 2006 City Rankings. Many of you likely saw marketing communications manager Abendigo Reeb's comments here at Treehugger -- he noted, among other things, that "Some cities just do certain things better than other cities, and other cities should know about it, because they just might be able to do it too." We agree that SustainLane's efforts to promote the work of certain US cities is a positive contribution -- we should all hold up cities like Portland, San Francisco and Seattle as models of possibility for other urban areas struggling with environmental problems (which is all US cities, I'd imagine).
SustainLane's Chief Strategy Officer Warren Karlenzig, the director of the US Cities Rankings, also dropped us a note:
Thanks for your comments Jeff...
As for being puzzled, our results demonstrate what the data and information we collected indicated. I agree that the bottom 25 cities, if this were a class, would get failing grades with their 50 out of 100 or less scores. And Portland would probably only be at A minus or B Plus. But you have to start somewhere and a relativity scale has to be looked at just that--cities performance in particular categories relative to one another. There is value in what we do many experts, citizens and cities have told us.
And yeah, obviously, none of these cities are sustainable. We never said they were. The rankings are just a starting place. And regarding your point by point critiques:
* We measured air quality and that was included in the rankings.
* We measured metro area sprawl and included that in the rankings
(under planning/land use).
* We measured water importation as part of tap water quality. Water
consumption per capita normalized according to climate would be a great
indicator to use--any idea how we might obtain that data for next year?
Our study is the only one to benchmark the largest 50 US cities by such sustainability related criteria. SustainLane.com offers this for free to cities and citizens (one city said they would have paid 100,000 to 100's of thousands for such a benchmarking). We unfortunately do not have unlimited resources for this pro bono offering.
Perhaps you or others might want to undertake your own study of smaller to medium sized cities?
Finally, Gil Friend, President and CEO of Natural Logic, posted his thoughts on our criticisms on his blog. Natural Logic has formed a strategic partnership with SustainLane, which Gil describes in the post: "[SustainLane will] focus on ranking cities, and we'll work with cities to help improve and deepen their sustainability initiatives, reduce their footprints, and raise their rankings." He promises more details are forthcoming.
We thank everyone who responded to this post, and believe this is a necessary conversation. We look forward to talking more with these important players in the sustainability community, as well as our readers who took the time to share their thoughts.