The Greenwash Brigade

Portland, OR tops 2008 eco-friendly city rankings

Janne K. Flisrand Sep 25, 2008

(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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