If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either. Joseph Wood Krutch

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Perhaps you haven't heard but Portland Oregon was just named the nations "greenest" city by Popular Science magazine.  But, well, ummm, according to Forbes magazine, that honor  actually belong to Ames-Boone, Iowa. Portland didn't even make their  list. Not even in last place. But cheer up Portland, MSN city guides thinks we are one of the ten greenest cities in America. They weren't specific on whether we were number one though.

If you believe David Owen, of The New Yorker, well, he thinks  good old NYC is the greenest place to be, not Portland. Now I've never been to NYC personally, but I have watched Cash Cab, and I think that might be a real stretch. Are you sure Dave?

Yahoo thinks that Hastings, NE is the greenest place to be, even though Nebraska is actually kind of brown.

Sacramento is the one I truly feel bad for though. According to the Sacramento Bee, they aspire to be the greenest city in America but always kind of find themselves stuck in the middle. Mediocre.  Well, duh,  I mean what do they expect would happen if their governator drives around their fair town in a Hummer all day. Personally I think Sacramento is a great place to be, even if they aren't the greenest. I mean after all, they do have a killer train museum that is well worth a visit even if you are not into trains.

The out guy in all of this green contest stuff though is  Boulder Colorado.  They claim to be fiercely progressive in managing their greenhouse gasses and expressed shock they weren't on the Popular Science list.  Better luck next time Boulder but, hey, cheer up, Forbes magazine considers you to be the "Smartest City in America" and that has to count for a lot...right? You'll get it all figured out.

Well, to be honest I don't really pay serious attention to these lists but my first thought when I read that Portland was "the greenest" is that the rest of the world is in some serious trouble. Oh, it's true, we are pedestrian and bike friendly, organic and local produce is easy to come by, and if all else fails, the rain keeps everything green without us doing a single thing, even if it is just moss.  I mean moss is green and natural.  It counts. No argument.  It counts.

On a serious note, Portland is on a better track than most cities I think. Not that that is really saying much.  Despite my sometimes very vocal complaints about Tri-Met Transit's management and their grumpy bus drivers, we do have a really great system for getting around that saves oodles of gallons of petroleum. Or would I should say, if we could get more people out of their cars and onto the busses. Tri-Met can get you lots of places in a decent amount of time for less than the cost of a gallon of gas and that is a real bargain.  Plus they have a new commuter rail line that opens soon and a couple new light rail lines in the works.  Bigger and better things all the time.

Another big accomplishment for Portland is that our largest hospital system  Providence, just recently began diverting all of their food waste out of the landfill to a company that transforms it into humus. (Not hummus...one M...humus.) A big green kiss their way since that is seriously a huge accomplishment. Honest. Food waste in the landfill is really, really, really bad.

Another  accomplishment that makes me smile quite a bit is that one of my favorite places to eat is now collecting the used foil wrappers from their burritos and recycling it. And they even bring your food out on a real washable plate, despite the fact that it is essentially fast food. And very much unlike so many places that do a small green deed, and then trumpet it all over town, these guys just do it because they really care and don't need to advertise their greenness. They just do it because it's the right.  It's why they see a lot of the green from my wallet.

Well, those are just a few examples I notice. On the whole I think we in Portland are still doing a good share to mess up the planet and fill the landfills but...well, we're trying to be better. Honest. And that counts for something doesn't it? I mean just little.

There is probably a contingent in Portland that numbers at least ten percent of our local population that really gives this stuff some serious thought and takes action. You can see them flying across the Hawthorne bridge on their Cannondale bundled against the sub freezing temperature with a messenger bag slung over their shoulder. The rest of us, self included, have a long way to go to be truly green. From my travels around the country though, Portland is doing a much better job than most other large cities. For that we can still be proud so, I guess we can honestly keep that number one spot. At least until the next magazine list comes out, or Boulder Colorado figures out how to beat us. They probably will too since they're smarter than everyone else and mom always liked them best. They may, in fact, be getting on a roll real soon and it is never a good idea to stand in the way of a rolling Boulder.  Ouch.

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