The Top U.S. Cities for Sustainability
Written by Paul Flanagan
Over the past decade, more than 50 major U.S cities have taken significant steps to becoming more sustainable,OurGreenCities.com reports. There's been a focused effort to maintain and grow healthy local economies through smart growth and climate protection, and city leaders are increasingly doing business in a manner that promotes, guides and manages growth. They're improving energy efficiency, helping the environment and raising the quality of life for residents.
These cities are making strong, admirable strides toward sustainability:
Half of Portland’s energy comes from renewable resources, enabling it to replace dirty energy resources with clean energy. Portland created the Clean Energy Works initiative, a program designed to give homeowners free energy assessments and provide $2,000 rebates and loans for home retrofitting.
A curbside composting program was launched in 2011 that resulted in a 38 percent dropin the city’s trash output, city officials reported. Portland is also considered the most bikeable city in the United States, with 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes. This, of course, minimizes dependency on gas-powered vehicles and helps reduce the output of toxins and pollutants.
Cambridge implemented a major climate protection plan in 2002, and currently a majority of city vehicles are powered by B20 biodiesel or electricity. Named the “best walking city” by Prevention Magazine in 2008, all new construction and major renovation must meet LEED standards. Cambridge also created a project called “Compost That Stuff,’ in which organic waste from residents, hotels and restaurants is collected for compost. Forward-thinking Cambridge also provides its residents with free Wi-Fi via the Cambridge Public Internet project, enabling users of mobile devices like the 16GB Nexus 4 phone to surf the Web quickly and conveniently.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco created mandatory recycling and composting ordinances that required citizens to not only separate recyclables, but also to separate their packing items and compostable food. City officials announced in October 2012 that 80 percent of its city waste was going to recycling and composting facilities, making it the leader in sustainable waste disposal. San Francisco was the nation's first city to ban plastic grocery bags, and in 2010 Mayor Gavin Newsom declared the city America’s leader in solar energy use.
Eugene receives 88 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and the city's Sustainability Commission oversees green infrastructure and development. The city's Wayne L. Morse Courthouse made it onto the American Institute of Architects' list of the top 10 green buildings in the U.S., and the city's public transit system was nominated for an International Sustainability award for being one of the first diesel-electric hybrid systems to operate in the nation. Cycling is the preferred mode of transportation in Eugene, made possible by 150 miles of smog-free travel throughout the main metro area.
Oakland receives 17 percent of its energy from renewable resources, and there's a plan in place to have zero waste and become oil-independent by the year 2020. The city boasts a hydrogen-powered public transit system, the cleanest tap water in the country and a plethora of farmers markets that offer locally sourced, organic food. It's also home to the nation's oldest wildlife refuge.
Seattle was the first city in America to have a major utility company go carbon neutral. City Light uses hydroelectric dams, which reduce dependency on dirty energy resources. Seattle pledged not to invest its money into fossil fuel companies, a positive green action effort. Twenty percent of Seattle's buildings are LEED-certified or under construction for LEED certification, and residents are encouraged through an incentive program to install solar panels on their homes.
Boston's “Green By 2015” initiative includes replacing taxicabs with hybrid vehicles and recycling trash to power homes. The city has pledged to increase its use of solar panels and support use of electric motor bikes. Boston holds regular conferences to educate citizens on living the most sustainable life possible.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly