America's 50 Greenest Cities

March 3, 2008 17 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Popular Science recently released their list of the Top 50 Green Cities in the U.S. Did Jacksonville make the cut?

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How the Rankings Work:

We used raw data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Geographic Society’s Green Guide, which collected survey data and government statistics for American cities of over 100,000 people in more than 30 categories, including air quality, electricity use and transportation habits. We then compiled these statistics into four broad categories, each scored out of either 5 or 10 possible points. The sum of these four scores determines a city’s place in the rankings. Our categories are:

* Electricity (E; 10 points): Cities score points for drawing their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and hydroelectric power, as well as for offering incentives for residents to invest in their own power sources, like roof-mounted solar panels.
* Transportation (T; 10 points): High scores go to cities whose commuters take public transportation or carpool. Air quality also plays a role.
* Green living (G; 5 points): Cities earn points for the number of buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as for devoting area to green space, such as public parks and nature preserves.
* Recycling and green perspective (R; 5 points): This measures how comprehensive a city’s recycling program is (if the city collects old electronics, for example) and how important its citizens consider environmental issues.


Popular Science List - Top 50 Green Cities in U.S.

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1

America’s top green city has it all: Half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0

3. Boston, Mass. 22.7

* CASE STUDY: Grass Power
Boston has preliminary plans for a plant that would turn 50,000 tons of fall color into power and fertilizer. The facility would first separate yard clippings into grass and leaves. Anaerobic bacteria feeding on the grass would make enough methane to power at least 1.5 megawatts’ worth of generators, while heat and agitation would hasten the breakdown of leaves and twigs into compost.

4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5

5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4
* Electricity: 10.0 Transportation: 4.7 Green Living: 2.9 Recycling/Perspective: 4.8

* CATEGORY LEADER: Electricity
Much of the wet Pacific Northwest draws its energy from hydroelectric dams. But Eugene draws an additional 9 percent of its municipal electricity from wind farms. It also buys back excess power from residents who install solar panel

6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2

7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2

8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1

9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3

In addition to the 12,000 acres Chicago has devoted to public parks and waterfront space, the U.S. Green Building Council has awarded four city projects with a “Platinum” rating, its highest award.
See how Chicago's power plants produce twice the energy with a third the carbon, here.

10. Austin, Tex. 21.0

11. Minneapolis, Minn. 20.3

* CASE STUDY: Citizen Enviro-Grants
If you’ve got a world-saving idea, the City of Lakes will give you, your church or your community group the money to get it done. Twenty $1,000 mini-grants and five $10,000 awards were distributed last year to programs ranging from household power-consumption monitors to “block club talks” about global warming. A similar initiative has sprung up in Seattle.

12. St. Paul, Minn. 20.2

13. Sunnyvale, Calif. 19.9

14. Honolulu, Hawaii 19.9

15. Fort Worth, Tex. 19.7

16. Albuquerque, N.M. 19.1

17. Syracuse, N.Y. 18.9

18. Huntsville, Ala. 18.4

19. Denver, Colo. 18.2

* CASE STUDY: Green Concrete
Fly ash, a by-product of coal-burning power plants, usually ends up in landfills. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver found a way to reuse this industrial by-product. They add it at concentrations of about 20 percent to a new green concrete mix. The addition of fly ash also reduces the amount of sulfur- and carbon-spewing concrete production needed to finish a job. The mayor has signed an executive order requiring the use of green concrete in new city projects, and a $550-million infrastructure bond makes demand for the mix likely to grow.

20. New York, N.Y. 18.2

* CATEGORY LEADER: Transportation
More than 54 percent of New Yorkers take public transportation to work, beating the next-best metropolis, Washington, D.C., by 17 percent.
See how New York City turns its tides into electricity, here.

21. Irvine, Calif. 18.1

22. Milwaukee, Wis. 17.3

23. Santa Rosa, Calif. 17.2

24. Ann Arbor, Mich. 17.2

25. Lexington, Ky. 16.8

* CATEGORY LEADER: Recycling and green perspective
Lexingtonians recycle everything from surplus electronics to scrap metal, and they listed the environment as their third most important concern (behind only employment and public safety)—the highest ranking in our survey.

26. Tulsa, Okla. 16.7

27. Rochester, N.Y. 16.1

28. Riverside, Calif. 16.0

29. Springfield, Ill. 15.7

30. Alexandria, Va. 15.7

31. St. Louis, Mo. 15.0

32. Anchorage, Alaska 14.4

* CASE STUDY: Power-Saving Streetlights
Since Anchorage spends a good part of the year buried under highly reflective snow, it doesn’t make sense to keep the street lamps at full bore when moonlight can do the job. The fix? Install citywide dimmers. On top of that, the city is planning to upgrade its 16,000 streetlamps to either LED or induction bulbs, depending on the results of computer simulations designed to find the type of light that helps humans see best and disturbs wildlife the least. The swap should be complete by year’s end, and the initial $5-million investment is expected to save up to $3 million in energy costs annually.

33. Athens-Clarke, Ga. 14.1

34. Amarillo, Tex. 14.0

35. Kansas City, Mo. 13.8

36. Salt Lake City, Utah 13.5

37. Pasadena, Calif. 13.2

38. Norwalk, Calif. 13.0

39. Laredo, Tex. 12.9

40. Joliet, Ill. 12.0

41. Newport News, Va. 11.9

42. Louisville, Ky. 11.9

43. Concord, Calif. 11.9

44. Fremont, Calif. 11.3

45. Elizabeth, N.J. 10.5

46. Livonia, Mich. 10.2

47. San Bernardino, Calif. 10.2

48. Thousand Oaks, Calif. 10.2

49. Stockton, Calif. 10.1

50. Greensboro, N.C. 10.0


Where's Jacksonville?  What would it take for our city to make a progressive list like this?