Portland, OR tops 2008 eco-friendly city rankings

(Image courtesy of SustainLane)

I love the annual SustainLane City Rankings, and the 2008 results came out this week, with Portland, OR at the top of the list.

I dug in to check out their methodology, and I have to say that the academic in me is pretty impressed. Overall, it's very well thought out.

But I can quibble with some of the details. For example, I'm unconvinced that LEED is really the best way to evaluate green building. What about Energy Star, which arguably has a larger effect because of its accessibility and scale -- and easily accessible data? How did Austin, Texas end up at #9 when they have one of the strongest green building programs in the country?

Some of the categories seem to double-dip - Metro Transit Ridership, City Commuting, and Metro Street Congestion are nearly the same thing. They are largely a function of Planning and Land Use. And, Air Quality is a function of all of them combined. Still... hanging out with friends I'd argue that the importance of Planning and Land Use deserves extra weighting. Looking at Atlanta's details, it's easy to see how these are all connected (if you remember that sprawl leads to congestion, and congestion encourages transit and carpooling.)

I then went to skim the overall rankings and the more interesting specific category rankings, in particular using my egocentric perspective of "How's Minneapolis rank?" Now, I'm really curious about our low water quality ranking, as I was under the impression it was really good. More homework. The highlight of the rankings - the stories at the bottom! I'm off to visit one of them (the Common Roots Cafe) to work now!

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Portland is indeed a green city (I lived in Seattle until two years ago) but the greenest aspects of it have little to do with LEED. short blocks, good public transit, good public participation, and a population willing to fund transit and green streets.

Jealous, Janne? Have you ever been to Portland?

Portland is constantly on the top of many green lists. Here it is a passion. Many cities contibute being green in their own way. Sierra Club had an article on them called "Green Streets" last year. City of Portland has an excellent Office of Sustainable Development to aid the path of those going green. We have one of the only Natural Step chapters in the United States. We have the highest hybrids per capita as well as those buying green energy through their utilities.

Indeed, I am jealous. I wish all cities are like that.


I disagree with your point about Energy Star as a better metric for green building than the LEED Rating System, which was used by SustainLane for their analysis. The SustainLane analysis attempts to be comprehensive, assessing a broad range of categories such as air, water, waste, planning, and climate change policy, rather than a single metric such as energy. The Energy Star program only considers energy use, while the LEED Rating System addresses a broad range of impacts, including site/planning, water, energy, materials/waste, and indoor environmental quality. The LEED approach seems to me to be more compatible with the SustainLane analysis.

Jim - Thanks for your comment. Energy Star for new homes is more than just an energy rating - it also addresses indoor environmental quality and durability (which is part of materials/waste.) It's not as all-encompassing as LEED, but the number of LEED buildings in a city has little to do with how green a city's buildings are - except in those parts of the country especially competitive (NYC) or who were especially slow to start on green building.

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