Ecocentrism

Eugene not "number one Green City"

 

http://outside.away.com/outside/features/200309/200309_college_towns_6.html
Outside University: The Top 40

Today's topic: We rank the Top 40 schools where you can hit the books AND the backcountry. Your assignment: Rappel off that ivory tower and take our cram course on America's most adrenaline-friendly colleges. You'll come for your B.A. (Bachelor of Adventure) and want to stay for life.When it came to ranking North America's best places to learn, live, work, and play, we did our homework, canvassing hundreds of colleges and enlisting an able crew of undergrad reporters. Then we narrowed the honor roll down to 40 schools that turn out smart grads with top-notch academic credentials, a healthy environmental ethos, and an A+ sense of adventure.

28 UNIVERSITY OF OREGON
Eugene, Oregon

LOCAL COLOR Home to 140,000 people, Eugene is Oregon's second-largest city, but its residents somehow manage to emit an earthy, 100 percent organic aura. It helps that the Class II-III Willamette River runs through town and that the Spencer's Butte bike trails are nearby, making for fit (as opposed to fat) and happy locals.
WORD ON THE QUAD A heightened sense of activism pervades student life, with regular protests against everything from war to animal abuse to logging. Nike founder Phil Knight has been the single largest donor to the university.
VITAL STATS CONTACT: 541-346-1000, www.uoregon.edu; STUDENT BODY: 14,800 undergraduates, 3,700 graduates; TUITION: residents, $4,875; nonresidents, $16,416; room and board, $6,570
--AIMEE RUDIN

37 CALIFORNIA POLYTECHNIC STATE UNIVERSITY
San Luis Obispo, California
LOCAL COLOR In the foothills of the Central Coast, this town of 44,000 has a stringent downtown preservation campaign, even banning drive-through windows in fast-food restaurants.

 

 

from the wikipedia entry on "puffery":
The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defined puffery as a “term frequently used to denote the exaggerations reasonably to be expected of a seller as to the degree of quality of his product, the truth or falsity of which cannot be precisely determined.” [1]
The FTC stated in 1984 that puffery does not warrant enforcement action by the Commission. In its FTC Policy Statement on Deception, the Commission stated: "The Commission generally will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously."
Federal Trade Commission Policy Statement on Deception, 103 F.T.C. 174 (1984), appended to Cliffdale Assoc. Inc., 103 F.T.C. 110 (1984).
^ Better Living, Inc. et al., 54 F.T.C. 648 (1957), aff’d, 259 F.2d 271 (3rd Cir. 1958).


Feb 8, 8:09 PM EST
Albuquerque Tops Fittest City List
SUE MAJOR HOLMES

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Albuquerque's mayor says the city has a lot of options to keep people fit - everything from gyms to hiking and biking.
And because of those options, "Albuquerque is a very fit city," Mayor Martin Chavez said.
New Mexico's largest city was listed as the fittest city in the United States in March's issue of Men's Fitness magazine, up from a 13th-place showing last year.
"Albuquerque is turned on, and recognition like this just fuels that phenomenon," Chavez said. "Nothing succeeds like success, or I guess you could say nothing is better than fitness."
The magazine's nonscientific survey of 50 cities listed Seattle as No. 2 in the most-fit rankings, followed by Colorado Springs; Minneapolis; Tucson, Ariz.; Denver; San Francisco; Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; and Honolulu.
It's Top 10 fattest cities are Las Vegas, Nev., up from No. 2 last year; San Antonio, Texas; Miami; Mesa, Ariz.; Los Angeles; Houston; Dallas; El Paso, Texas; Detroit; and San Jose, Calif.
"This is not a scientific list; this is a commonsense list," said Neal Boulton, editor of Men's Fitness. He said he puts out the fittest and fattest lists each year for one reason - "to motivate folks to look at simple things in their lives they can do to be healthy."
America is always going to be a fast-food nation where people have long commutes and busy lives, he said. But instead of a soft drink during the commute, they can choose water; instead of a fast-food snack, they can eat almonds, he said. ....

for fair use only


ethnocentrism: the belief that your culture is the best in the world

ecocentrism: the belief that your practices are the most ecological anywhere

The City of Eugene is taking out advertisements and making banners promoting itself as the Number One Green City in America, which is about as accurate as the previous slogan of "World's Greatest City of the Arts and Outdoors."

The determination of "Number One" was made by a New York City based publication The Green Guide, which could be renamed The Greenwash Guide when one reads the criteria that they used. Informed sources state there was zero effort by this publication to fact check anything they were told, and therefore the determination was made solely on answers to a very limited questionnaire.

The Green Guide also claims that trash incineration is a good thing for the environment, which suggests they are either a greenwash group (falsely promoting pollution as ecological) or uninformed. Burning garbage creates thousands of new "products of incomplete combustion" that are much more toxic than the original trash. These new synthesized poisons are then injected into the air (where they are inhaled, ingested or become part of the food chain), or incorporated into the ash (which still has to be landfilled somewhere). Whatever the problem with "Green Guide," they are not an authority to rely upon for accuracy.

 

Here is the article where the conclusion was made, along with some editorial comments (in red) that illustrate how this wild exaggeration was crafted:

 

www.thegreenguide.com/doc.mhtml?i=113&s=top10cities
Web only | posted April 7, 2006
The Top 10 Green Cities in the U.S.: 2006
by P.W. McRandle and Sara Smiley Smith

Filed under: Green living, Environmental health, Green building, sick building syndrome

For this Earth Day, recognizing that cities across the country are providing energy-efficient, least polluting and healthy living spaces, The Green Guide presents the environmental leaders, those cities whose green achievements set the standard for others. As The New York Times has reported, in the absence of federal direction, cities across the country are taking environmental stewardship into their own hands and reducing their burden on the planet. Mayors are even working to lower greenhouse gases: As of March 28, 2006, 220 had signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which now covers urban areas housing 43.8 million Americans.

note: it is unlikely that any of these cities will be mandating any of the more difficult shifts that would be needed to actually slow down climate change, although the speeches provide some palliative reassurances that techno-fixes will be sufficient to cope with the problems. It is unfortunate that few of these politicians will ask the Inconvenient Questions "Why didn't more on this get done during the Democratic Presidential administration of Clinton-Gore, especially when the Democrats ran both houses of Congress?Why wasn't Jimmy Carter able to make more of an impact on energy conservation? Why did the leaders of the corporations who run the world wait until the ice caps were going to start making noises about the problem?"

Our metro areas can be the focus of many ills—from layers of asthma-inducing smog to pesticide exposures and gas-wasting sprawl. Yet, being tightly packed also allows them to run more efficient public transportation and creates a tax-base for green building and environmental programs smaller communities can't afford. Thomas Jefferson famously expressed his distrust of cities, but now, along with community gardens and other green spaces, some of the rural virtues he extolled have finally found their way into urban life.

Last year on Earth Day, The Green Guide recognized 10 green cities and a handful of runners up. This year, in response to widespread interest, we pursued a more comprehensive evaluation, ranking each city on its performance over several criteria. We sent out surveys to mayors' offices in all 251 metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 or more. By scoring survey responses in combination with information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and other independent sources, we came up with our ranked list of the top 25 green cities in the U.S., giving special recognition to the top 10.

Among last year's awardees, Austin, Portland, Honolulu and Oakland remain in the top 10. Along with Seattle and San Francisco, Minneapolis made it to the top 20, while sister city St. Paul now occupies fourth place. Since we required a minimum population of 100,000, Boulder, which remains a gem among green cities, couldn't be considered in this round, while Madison and Chicago did not score as well due to incomplete surveys. The survey was designed and its results analyzed by our co-author and researcher Sara Smiley Smith, a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies under the supervision of John Wargo, Ph. D., professor of environmental risk analysis.

note: risk analysis is not usually the same thing as environmentalism. Many excellent articles refuting the pseudo-science of risk analysis are archived at www.rachel.org

As more citizens and leaders invest their energy in cities, helping prevent urban sprawl, reduce traffic and clean the air and water, we are excited to report again on their progress in the years to come.

note: lots of towns had reductions in the growth of traffic and increase in mass transit usage in 2006, but that was a result of gas price increases, not "new urbanists," "smart growth" or any other marketing campaign.

 

The Criteria

In compiling the list, we gave points in the following categories:

Air Quality: Exposure to polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from fuel exhaust and cigarette smoke has been reported to increase the risk of breast cancer by 50 percent, as noted in the 2002 Long Island Breast Cancer Study. In order to measure air quality, we based our score on the EPA's Air Quality Index (AQI) and smoking bans noted on the Smoke Free World website. About 60 percent of cities surveyed have passed a smoking ban. AQI values are broken into five different ranges with lower values indicating less polluted air (Good 0-50, Moderate 51-100, Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals 101-150, Unhealthy 151-200, Very Unhealthy 201-300 and Hazardous 301-500). Anchorage, Alaska, had the best median AQI at 19 while the worst was a 79 in Saint Louis. The average value was 43.5 for cities participating in this study.

Electricity Use and Production: Close to 40 percent of U.S. emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) comes from electric utilities. Since coal accounts for over 90 percent of these emissions, we asked survey respondents to note each city's energy mix from resources including coal, oil, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, oil, solar and wind. Also included were incentives for the home use of solar or wind power, such as rebates or property tax exemptions.

Environmental Perspective: City administrators were asked to rank from 1 (highest) to 9 (lowest) nine issues in order of importance to city residents—education, employment, environmental concerns, health care, housing costs, public safety, reliable electricity and water service, property taxes and traffic congestion. Scores were assigned depending on the ranking given to environmental concerns. Out of a total of nine, the average ranking for the importance of environmental concerns was 5.4.

Environmental Policy: In our survey, we asked city officials whether the city has an environmental policy, a specific indication of concerted effort at the municipal level to better the environment. Thirty-six cities, or 58 percent of respondents, had such statements.

Green Design: The resource-conserving, non-toxic standards of USGBC's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program have become the basis for many cities' green building projects. Recognizing this, we based scores not only on survey responses about policies and incentives for green design but also on LEED projects listed on the USGBC's website. While we collected data on the degree of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum) buildings achieved, this did not affect scoring. Additional points were given to cities reducing sprawl. A total of 29 cities, or 46.8 percent of participants, reported having a policy to encourage green design. Forty cities, or 64.5 percent of respondents, reported having a city policy to help prevent sprawl.

Green Space: Survey respondents were asked to identify the variety of green spaces, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trail systems and waterfronts, along with any additional spaces. This question was designed to elicit the variety of outdoor amenities available and was scored on the total number of different types of green spaces present. Scoring also considered the percentage of overall city area occupied by green space.

Public Health: Scores were based on Robert Weinhold's rankings of the 125 healthiest U.S. cities as published in the March 2004 Organic Style.

Recycling: Survey respondents were asked to indicate which items their city recycles from a list that included aluminum, cardboard, glass, hazardous materials, paper, plastic, tin and other. Cities that had more then seven categories of recyclable items were given the highest scores.

Socioeconomic Factors: Having considered affordability in 2005, this year The Green Guide expanded the analysis to consider the impact of income on the ability of urban residents to lead healthy lives. Cities scored well for having less than the national average of families and individuals earning below the poverty rate. Participants also gained points for having a city minimum wage and for the availability of housing affordable to families earning the area's median income according to the National Association of Home Owners' Housing Opportunity Index.

Transportation: Wishing to recognize efforts to get people out of their cars (reducing greenhouse gases, traffic congestion and smog), we asked survey respondents about the transportation options available, including bicycle paths, bus systems, carpool lanes, dedicated bicycle lanes, light rail, sidewalks/trails and subways. As a follow up to this, we also asked about the percentages of residents who used public transportation, rode bicycles to work and carpooled.

Water Quality: In order to assess this complicated factor, we drew on data from the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) and noting violations of the Safe Water Drinking Act, with the greatest weight given to health violations.

Each of these factors was equally weighted, with a maximum score of 1 point per criterion, to create an overall maximum possible score of 11 points, though only one city we looked at, Eugene, Oregon, scored 9 or better. Unfortunately due to lack or response or incomplete surveys, some cities that might have ranked higher are not included here.

note: Eugene would not have registered as high if there had been independent verification of these factors.

 

Top 10 U.S. Green Cities

1. Eugene, OR (score 9.0375, pop. 137,893)

First on our list is the university town, Eugene, well known as a powerhouse of green industry, clustering sustainable businesses like an environmentally minded Silicon Valley.

notes: Eugene is also well known as the Plywood Capital of the Known Universe. Its economy has been dominated by the timber industry since Day One, and lumber is still king of the local economy, not "green industry."

Portland is known as the "Silicon Forest" -- there are lots of computer businesses in the sprawling western suburbs - but Eugene has one major computer business (Hyundai). There are some smaller high-tech businesses that are in part spinoffs from the University of Oregon.

Eugene may become a center for the emerging nanotechnology industry (via a University research center) but this is not a "green" industry, since there has been very little health research on nanoparticles, although some early research suggests severe brain damage from carbon-60 "buckyballs."

Nestled in the Willamette River Valley with views of the Cascade Mountains, residents enjoy numerous bike trails, clean air and water, parkland and outlying wilderness areas.

The air in Eugene is clean when it is raining. In the winter, cold temperatures lead to inversions that trap pollutants. In the spring, grass pollen counts soar to astronomical levels. In the summer, smoke from grass seed burning makes "no smoking" rules seem absurd. In the fall, timber companies burn acre after acre of slash piles from their clearcuts - usually with plastic tarps over the piles (they get burned, too). And nearly everywhere in rural Lane County gets sprayed by the timber companies with herbicides, since clearcutting forests is a great way to grow invasive weeds and the timber companies are not interested in selective forestry that avoids this problem.

A mention of vast sea of clearcuts between the City and the "outlying wilderness areas" would paint a less flattering picture.

These clearcuts are so enormous they are easily seen on satellite photos. The wilderness areas are also easily seen - they are the only areas that do not have any clearcuts. Most of the wilderness areas are high elevation forests that have smaller trees and slower growth that the lower elevation zones with longer growing seasons.

 

Hydroelectric and wind power contribute over 85 percent of Eugene's power, reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably. A little over 16 percent of Eugene is green space, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trails and waterfront. The city has over 2,500 acres of publicly owned wetlands, and its West Eugene Wetlands Program includes a mitigation bank, a native plant nursery, protected wetlands and educational features.
"Overall, we have a reputation for protecting the environment and that reflects a commitment throughout the city organization to look for ways of becoming more sustainable," says Jim Carlson, sssistant city manager, citing the city's biodiesel and hybrid fleets, its evaluation of all city activities for environmental impact and the mayor's sustainable business initiative to green the local economy. And Carlson notes that "In next year's budget, we're planning to purchase 25 percent wind power for all existing general fund buildings such as libraries and city hall."

 


Air Quality: While Eugene does not have severe levels of ozone pollution (the main pollutant ranked by the EPA for "non attainment" areas for metropolitan areas), it does have other kinds of severe air pollution problems ignored by this questionnaire that nevertheless are harmful to health. Eugene has extremely high levels of formaldehyde (for plywood production), is a non-attainment area for dust, and is number one in the country for grass pollen due to the massive amounts of ryegrass fields occupying nearly all of the farmland upwind of town.

Electricity Use and Production: Most of Eugene's electricity comes from the Bonneville Power Administration, which is mostly hydroelectric (damning of the Columbia River) but also includes some nuclear power from their reactor at the Hanford Reservation. Nearly half of the northwest power grid is run on coal combustion, and several new natural gas (fossil methane) power generators have been built in Oregon and Washington in the past few years (EWEB, the City of Eugene's utility, was an investor in one of them). Several ports along the Oregon coast are targeted for ultra-hazardous Liquid Natural Gas terminals and will be difficult to stop due to the 2005 national energy bill's pre-emption of local authority over energy facilities (the State of Oregon is disinclined to oppose them, anyway). While the local utility professes an interest in conservation, it recently shut down its energy conservation office that did public education and is planning to spend about $90 million to relocate operations from downtown to wetlands near the edge of town, next to the Beltline bypass of the metro region.
There are several small businesses that install solar panels (hot water and electricity), but no City building has installed them on their roofs. The City is planning to include these kinds of features as a marketing component of a planned, unpopular, expensive new City Hall, but with costs of about $1,000 per citizen a ballot measure approving the funds is unlikely. A recently opened biofuels station near the City also gets lots of kudos, but it is a private enterprise, not a government operation (the case with nearly all environmental initiatives). The University of Oregon, a public institution, added solar panels to its new business complex, but about one third of the cells were installed in the shade -- the largest collection of solar panels installed in the shade of any known installation anywhere.

Environmental Perspective: The City of Eugene government has long suffered from a split personality on environmental issues. In many cases, the rhetoric is excellent. However, the implementation is often retrograde. In recent years, the City has approved numerous big box megastores, subdivisions and factories in wetlands, more roads and highways. Part of town is relatively green and pedestrian friendly. The parts of town built in the past few decades is as much of a suburban wasteland as anywhere in the country, albeit with some bike lanes and some bus lines.

Environmental Policy: Eugene has some excellent environmental policies. Unfortunately, they do not have any legal weight, and are routinely ignored by many City staff when planning further metastatization of sprawl.

Green Design: The City has said nice things about private and university efforts for greener construction. However, Eugene's economy is very dependent on clearcuts and plywood, which is not offset by a couple of buildings built to moderately green standards. Eugene has declined to require Green Building as a condition of permits, and still allows subdivisions to be built without any effort to orient buildings for passive solar design.

Green Space: Eugene does have a lot of green space. Most of this area fits into three categories. The largest green space inside the Urban Growth Boundary is owned by the United States Bureau of Land Management (the West Eugene Wetlands) and was targetted for freeway construction between 1951 and 2006 (when the Federal Highway Administration finally gave up, understanding federal transportation laws would not permit the project). Some of the green space is along the Willamette River or Amazon Creek, perhaps half of that is too close to the flood plain to be suitable for urbanization (a lot of urban parks are merely the areas that developers cannot directly use). The most significant parkland in the City is the ridgeline in the South Hills, although the City is considering allowing much of the remaining Amazon Headwaters to be smothered with more subdivisions.

Public Health: The City of Eugene is considering approval of a new hospital in the most inaccessible location of the city, behind the most congested interchange in the region.

Recycling: The Lane County transfer station has a very good recycling program, although the City of Eugene does not directly run a recycling program. Trash and recycling is all collected by private companies - one of the largest is partially controlled by the brother of an outgoing City Councilor.

Socioeconomic Factors: Eugene is recognized as having high housing costs relative to the incomes that the average person can earn.

Transportation: Eugene has bike paths, buses, sidewalks, trails -- and a relatively low level of transit usage compared to many other cities.

Water Quality: The main waterway entirely in the City, Amazon Creek, is contaminated with hazardous waste and lawn chemicals. Much of its route through the middle of the city is encapsulated in a concrete channel. Some of the cleanest water on Earth is found in high Cascade lakes -- but wading in Amazon Creek is hazardous to your health.

 

2. Austin, TX (score 8.5325, pop. 656,562)
Austin reappears in our top 10 list where once again it stands out for its commitment to solar power and green building. Offering its customers one of the highest solar power rebates in the country, Austin plans to meet 20 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020.

It is likely that fossil fuel inputs into the power grid will decline by more than 20% by 2020, especially natural gas.

Austin's Green Builder program provides information for homeowners, renters and members of the design and building professions to help build more energy efficient and environmentally sound dwellings. For their central business district, Austin has established minimal requirements for energy efficiency and is considering requiring reflective roofs. Austin's Smart Growth Initiative is designed to preserve drinking water quality, ensure proximity to mass transit, and maintain a pedestrian-friendly urban design. And it's S.M.A.R.T. (Safe, Mixed Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced and Transit Oriented) Housing offers incentives to developers to create more affordable housing.

Austin has also built an outer Bypass and vast amounts of suburbs. The State is also considering an enormous "Trans Texas Corridor" NAFTA Superhighway that would parallel I-35.

3. Portland, OR (score 8.24, pop. 529,121)
Portland also returns from last year's list, not a surprise, perhaps, for this evergreen city which has directed all of its departments and agencies according to its Sustainable City Principles since 1994. The principles, which cover the protection of natural resources, habitat and ecosystem conservation and minimizing human impacts on the environment both locally and worldwide, haven't languished on paper these last 12 years. The first U.S. city to have a plan to reduce the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, Portland gains 44 percent of its energy from hydroelectric sources and encouraging the installation of solar power through municipal tax incentives. Light rail, bicycle lanes and buses help keep residents out of their cars, with 13 percent relying on public transportation for their commute to work, two percent bicycling and 11 percent carpooling.

In other words, 85% commute by car, and 74% commute by themselves in their car. Portland has a decent public transit system, but it's also part of regional efforts to expand I-5 to the north and the new Sunrise Freeway (a de facto Outer Beltway segment).

Portland not only recycles the standard glass, metal and plastics, but also composts residential yard waste and food scraps from businesses. To enjoy their green city, residents have over 92,000 acres of green space (over 11 percent of the total city area) ranging from waterfront areas to trails, athletic fields, parks and public gardens.

That 92,000 acres is far more green space than #1 ranked Eugene.

4. St. Paul, MN (score 7.805, pop. 287,151)
With a quarter of its area given over to green space, St. Paul almost seamlessly integrates urban life with the natural environment. And this will improve as the city charter not only ensures the protection of parkland but requires expanding public access to the Mississippi River which winds through the city. Working to reduce global warming, St. Paul has passed its 1997 goals in CO2 emissions-reduction goals and now plans to reach a 20 percent reduction of 1988 C02 levels by 2020. To achieve this, Rick Person, program administrator for St. Paul's Department of Public Works, says the city will need to complete its central corridor light-rail system and adopt a 20 percent renewable energy portfolio. To assist residents in installing renewable energy, the state provides property tax exemptions for the value of the system, and St. Paul's Neighborhood Energy Consortium (NEC) provides assistance and expertise in obtaining Energy Efficient Mortgages. Helping reduce congestion and smog, NEC's Hourcar program provides hybrid and energy-efficient cars at neighborhood level for shared use. Lastly, St. Paul's requirement that 20 percent of all new housing units be affordable by those with incomes less than half of the area median ensures that these environmental benefits will remain available to all.

5. Santa Rosa, CA (score 7.785, pop. 147,595)
Fifty-five miles north of San Francisco, Santa Rosa provides clean air, water and a healthy environment for residents, with its smoke-free public spaces and restaurants. Enhancing these elements, Santa Rosa has implemented California's Build It Green certification program certifying environmentally sound building construction for municipal, commercial and residential sectors. The program's goal is for more than half of all new municipal building starts of over 10,000 square feet to meet or exceed LEED certification requirements. Well equipped with bicycle paths and lanes, Santa Rosa has recently finished a walking and bicycle trail connecting to the Joe Rodota Trail that leads to nearby Sebastopol. And for a novel way to reconnect with nature, stroll among the native California Gray Rush plants in the Snoopy Head labyrinth at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center.

6. Oakland, CA (score 7.3675, pop. 399,484)
Oakland has taken a progressive stance on renewable energy, adopting a plan to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2017. Now it's turning its attention to food, with the Oakland Food Council setting a goal for 30 percent of the city's food production to occur within a 100 mile radius. Bringing those goods into the city are six farmer's markets, while seven community gardens help production right at home. With multi-family housing making up most of Oakland's new building, the city's Green Building Ordinance passed in 2005 will encourage them to achieve LEED Silver rating with rebates and permit fast-tracking. To create a denser downtown and reduce pollution from traffic, Oakland is encouraging 10,000 new residents to move into the downtown area where they'll have access to the city's subway, bus and bicycle path systems. The proof is in the pudding, with 20 percent of Oakland residents commuting by bicycle or public transport.

7. Berkeley, CA (score 7.285, pop. 102,743)
Berkeley's distinguished history as a center of politically progressive thought extends well into the environmental movement, and the city currently boasts the highest number of members of environmental organizations of any city in the U.S. Located on the gorgeous San Francisco Bay, Berkeley shares the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system with neighboring Oakland and San Francisco, linking all three cities in a community where organic rules. Berkeley requires that all new city-owned buildings be built to LEED Silver standards and has created a sustainable development fee on all new permits to pay for the creation of green building guidelines for residential, multi-family and commercial buildings. Nineteen percent of Berkeleyites commute on public transport and besides BART and the bus system, residents also may take advantage of the city's car sharing program. The green thumbed may work the earth at over 20 community gardens, and their children can get a start at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School's Edible Schoolyard program where students grow, harvest and prepare organic food.

8. Honolulu, HI (score 7.055, pop. 371,657)
Renowned for its clean air and pure water from Oahu's aquifer, Honolulu is among America's healthiest cities, with a mild climate that encourages outdoor activities along the 28 acre Kaka'ako Waterfront park. Although Honolulu draws 89 percent of its energy from imported oil, Bill Brennan, press secretary to the mayor, notes that seven percent of its power is from burning garbage. The city's H Power Plant burns 500,000 tons of waste annually helping cut down on landfilled trash.

Any environmental group that promotes trash incineration as ecological is either a front for polluters or woefully ignorant of biochemistry, since it is well documented that burning trash creates thousands of new toxic chemicals not present in the original garbage. Trash incinerators generate ultrahazardous ash that is the most noxious material apart from the excretions of the nuclear industry.

To further reduce waste, this March Honolulu launched a lawn, garden and tree clippings or "greenwaste" recycling program. "This greenwaste is recycled here on the island," says Brennan. "It goes to Hawaiian Earth Products, which turns it into mulch and compost and provides it to the public for free on the site or packaged and sold in stores." The future looks green as well: By 2007, all new city buildings of over 5,000 square feet must meet LEED Silver standards.
Although the March 2006 sewage spill Honolulu suffered occurred too recently to be taken into account in this year's scoring, The Green Guide will report on the impact it has on the city's environmental health.

9. Huntsville, AL (score 7.035, pop. 158,216)
New to the top 10 list this year, Huntsville has devoted almost a third of its land to green spaces including undeveloped forest and nature preserves, along with public gardens, parks and waterfront. The city-funded Operation Green Team has been remarkably successful in their public education and city clean-ups, enlisting 12,000 volunteers in their 2005 effort to clean and green the city. Thirteen percent of the population commutes by bus while a trolley is available for special events to reduce congestion, helping clean up their air. The hospital possesses its own light rail system to shuttle staff across its grounds. Although Hunstville relies on coal and nuclear power for the majority of its energy mix, homeowners can purchase solar or wind-generated energy through the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The city is also developing a first-of-its-kind industrial park: 100 percent of all water runoff, says Ben Ferrill, city of Huntsville planner, will be biofiltered with swales, wet ponds and dry ponds. Rooftop runoff is separated from parking and street runoff to capture pollutants on site before they reach the subsurface aquifer.

10. Denver, CO (score 7.0325, pop. 554,636)
"Denver has just completed a five-year plan for its Greenprint Denver sustainable initiative, covering everything from green building to greenhouse gases," says Beth Conover, director, Mayor's Greenprint Denver initiative. Focusing on greenhouse gas reduction, water conservation and quality, waste reduction and increased recycling, Greenprint Denver also has three solar installations under consideration, one of which is now approved and will produce one to two megawatts. A signatory to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, Denver maintains one of the country's largest hybrid municipal fleets. It is also in the midst of completing the nation's largest light rail system, serving the larger metropolitan region and with an anticipated half-million riders daily.

Denver also has just about completed an enormous Outer Beltway - I-470 - and has one of the world's largest airports. Denver's air quality is especially poor, with some calling it the "Mexico City of the United States" due to the combination of smog and high elevation air. Denver is also immediately downwind of the notorious Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory and home to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, where chemical weapons materials were manufactured for decades. While both facilities are closed, their threats to the environment and public health continue.

Conover notes that the city of Denver has recently created a position for the promotion of green business and has the "largest CO2 based dry cleaning chain in the country, Revolution Dry Cleaning, using waste C02 for a zero greenhouse gas effect."

Dumpster diving (which is what that is) does not have a "zero greenhouse gas effect."

As for green building, Denver currently has 17 LEED-certified buildings and 73 in the process of certification. With clean water and access to skiing, hiking and wilderness nearby, Denver remains a gem in the Rockies.

The Top 25

Our top 10 list just scratches the surface of cities engaged in improving their environment. We would also like to recognize the runners up—those that ranked within the top 25 of our contenders for America's greenest cities:

11. Boston, MA (score 6.99, pop. 589,141)
• Green building
• Excellent public transport
• Smoking ban

12. Lexington, KY (score 6.785, pop. 260,512)
• Comprehensive growth management plan
• Clean air
• Smoking ban

13. Springfield, IL (score 6.7225, pop. 111,454)
• Clean air and good water
• Green design
• Green spaces

14. Irvine, CA (score 6.72, pop. 143,072)
• Comprehensive green building program
• Smoking ban
• Pedestrian oriented

Irvine is part of the sprawling megalopolis of greater Los Angeles, which is not "pedestrian oriented."

15. Cambridge, MA (score 6.72, pop. 101,355)
• High rate of public transport use
• Green design
• High percentage of green space

16. Anchorage, AK (score 6.705, pop. 260,283)
• Excellent air and water quality
• Smoking ban
• High public health

17. Syracuse, NY (score 6.66, pop. 147,306)
• Good air
• Smoking ban
• Commitment to reduce greenhouse gases

18. San Francisco, CA (score 6.6, pop. 776,733)
• Municipal composting
• Green design
• High percentage of renewable energy use
• Very high public transport use

By those standards, San Francisco would rank higher than Eugene or Portland.

19. Minneapolis, MN (score 6.58, pop. 382,618)
• City-specific minimum wage
• Smoking ban
• High percentage of renewable biomass energy

20. Milwaukee, WI (score 6.5125, pop. 596,974)
• Green housing development
• Green space

21. Rochester, NY (score 6.43, pop. 219,773)
• High percentage of renewable energy
• Clean air
• Smoking ban

22. Albuquerque, NM (score 6.3475, pop. 484,607)
• Clean water
• Smoking Ban
• Wind power

23. Ann Arbor, MI (score 6.2875, pop. 114,024)
• High percentage of public transport and bicycle commuters
• High yard waste recover
• Green space

24. Seattle, WA (score 6.115, pop. 563,374)
• Large number of green buildings
• Very high percentage of hydroelectric power use
• Clean air and smoking ban

Seattle has relatively low levels of public transit for a city of its size.

25. Kansas City, MO (score 6.055, pop. 441,545)
• Clean water
• City specific minimum wage
• U.S. Mayors Climate Protection signatory

Washington, D.C., which is not normally seen as "green," has large amounts of protected green space in the city limits (all owned by the Federal government and much higher transit usage than most of the "top ten" cities on this list. Plus, Washington has passed a new law that will require new commercial buildings to meet "green" standards.

 

Conclusion

American cities, in adopting Kyoto Treaty protocols and taking it upon themselves to build green, are putting themselves at the forefront of the environmental movement at a time when some have predicted its death. But like the once predicted death of cities themselves, forecasts for the demise of the green movement have been greatly exaggerated. Should it be any surprise that people prefer to live in healthier cities with more vibrant (and wildlife-filled) surroundings? Not to those who live there—or even visit.