Although there is no official government ranking of which city is the most sustainable city in the United States, a constant contender on the numerous amateur lists has been Portland, Oregon.
According to the International Business Times, some of the factors involved in being considered a sustainable city are the size of the city’s “carbon footprint”, number of certified buildings designed with minimal nonrenewable energy use, reduced water consumption, and cities with high proportions of green space. Travel and Leisure dubbed Portland the number one greenest city in America in 2015, “for its mass transit and near the top for its groovy, offbeat locals, known for their DIY spirit and cycling culture.”
The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) , “develops creative and practical solutions to enhance Portland’s livability, preserve distinctive places and plan for a resilient future”. They list the numerous ways the city strives to be more sustainable, such as having green buildings—a way of designing and constructing buildings to increase performance and enhance the health and experience for people who work, live and play in these structures. The city saves water and energy, generates low carbon emissions, uses renewable energy and more.
Jennifer Allen, associate professor of public administration and director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) at Portland State University, stated “They [BPS] lead the development and implementation of our Climate Action Plan – Portland was the first city in the U.S. to have such a plan, and BPS does a great job of engaging all the relevant partners in exploring how we can meet the goals of the plan.”
Allen has worked in the field of sustainable development since 1987, and first began working at the World Bank on efforts to better integrate environmental and social considerations into international development. Her stance on sustainable cities starts with the understanding of how people make choices every day, and ways to encourage valuing and conserving their resources. “We need engineers, urban planners and other design thinkers to bring innovative strategies to the table to enable us to get around with a smaller environmental footprint, and to reframe topics such as infrastructure development to better integrate natural systems. Taking a more integrated approach to planning and development is a critical step. For example, Portland seeks to promote ‘20 minute neighborhoods’ that allow residents to access the basic services they need without traveling long distances,” Allen stated.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “why are you highlighting the city of Portland when there are multiple cities making every effort to be more sustainable?” Well, dear reader, since this month’s issue of The Nexus e-newsletter is themed Sustainable Cities, we wanted to take this moment to announce that the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (GC&E), to be held in 2016, will be hosted in Portland, Oregon.
Jennifer MacKellar, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute® Program Manager, stated that hosting GC&E 2016 in Portland is “an exciting opportunity to engage new audiences, revitalize the content and leverage our west coast partners. There is a lot happening in the green chemistry/sustainability space in the Portland and the west coast area that we can highlight through our technical sessions.”
The conference will be held at the Portland Hilton & Executive Tower, which has several green practices, including a robust recycling program, food composting, energy efficiency, water conservation, waste minimization and using greener products. They also try to locally source their food as much as possible, “these were important factors for us when choosing a meeting location”, stated MacKellar. There are several companies that support green chemistry in the Portland area. Nike in particular, has been a huge supporter of green chemistry and has worked very hard to include green chemistry into their corporate practices. There are also several universities in the region that have strong green chemistry programs, including University of Oregon, Oregon State, UC Berkeley, and Portland State University. Offering our 2016 conference in the Portland area will give enthusiastic green chemistry students a great opportunity to attend without the high travel costs.
Portland is just one of many sustainable cities, not only in the country, but the world! ACS GCI is excited to continue the planning for the 20th GC&E Conference and we hope to see you in Portland in 2016!
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