Sustainlane Ranks Greenest US Cities

A Portland streetcar moving on an urban street.

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Sustainlane, the "people powered sustainability guide" benchmarks the performance of the top 50 cities in the United States in 16 areas of urban sustainability including air quality, innovation, commuting, local food and agriculture and more. The list reveals "which cities are increasingly self-sufficient, prepared for the unexpected and taking steps toward preserving and enhancing their quality of life."

Perhaps to nobody's surprise, Portland, Oregon came first. "If you live in Portland, you might want to think twice before complaining about the 40-plus inches of rain dumped on your head every year. It might be the only thing keeping the entire country from moving to your city by the Prius-load."

Portland was followed by San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York. Mesa, Arizona came in last. (See full list here)

The list didn't have any real surprises, but the trends across the country are interesting and positive:

People riding a bike in a bike lane in Portland.

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1) More Bicycling: There are 12.3% more cyclists across the US year-over-year (2004-2005 per U.S. City Rankings data). The cities racing ahead: Portland, NYC, Oakland, D.C., Minneapolis, Columbus.

Stores and restaurants along an urban street.

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2) Revitalizing downtowns: Cities across the country like Columbus, Oakland and Philadelphia are livening up downtowns and creating areas with high density, mixed use space, infill redevelopment and transit. This marks a "Back to the Future" historic shift from suburbs back to cities.

A purple light rail streetcar in Seattle.

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3) Trains making a comeback: New light rail and other public transit infrastructure investments lead to more dense, energy efficient and livable cities. Phoenix, Charlotte, N.C., Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, NYC, Detroit (announced 7/08), Houston, Albuquerque, Denver, Dallas and Austin are paving the way.

A civic center with solar panels on the roof.

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4) Mainstreaming of green movement: More city governments are getting up to speed on high level sustainability officer appointments, climate change plans, adaptation studies, biodiesel, green building and more. Houston, Atlanta and Columbus are among those on the move.

A solar panel in a city landscape against a blue sky.

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5) Alternative/Renewable Energy: Wind and solar energy production and energy conservation are priorities in Boston, San Francisco, Portland, Houston, Austin and Sacramento, and are being looked at as possibilities across nearly every city interviewed

Growing vegetables in allotments at a community garden.

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6) More Neighborhood/Community Groups: Citizens are joining together to solve problems caused by rising fuel prices (300% price increase over the last five years) and climate change. The result: community gardens, creating livable spaces, anaerobic digesters, etc. are found in Seattle, Minneapolis, Denver, San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit.

Complete list of cities...