America’s Greenest Cities in Celebration of Earth Day

In honour of Earth Day yesterday (22 April) glossy travel mag Travel & Leisure asked its readers to vote for what they considered the “greenest” cities in the United States, based on various criteria.

Not surprisingly, New York didn’t feature in the Top 10, despite its huge green space, Central Park, but there were some surprises among the results.

As part of the magazine’s annual America’s Favourite Cities survey, readers had to rank 35 metropolitan areas on a variety of travel-friendly qualities which ranged from hotels to local microbrews, good Wi-Fi and food, but to determine which cities deserved the top slots in the greenest cities rankings, the magazine analysed the votes in three categories: cleanliness, pedestrian friendliness and public transport services, and great public parks.

Portland, Oregon came out best in class, right at the top for a number of reasons. One quarter of the entire city is shaded by trees, the city has almost 300 parks (288 to be precise) and one hotel, the Heathman, even recycles “gently used” soap and shampoos, sending the hotel guests’ leftovers to area shelters for the homeless.

Last year, a Siemens 2011 study measured CO2 emissions, land use, air quality, and environmental governance in major US cities and inn that survey, San Francisco came out on top. The Bay Area is a stellar recycling example – San Franciscans recycle almost 80% of their waste (78%), a habit which comes naturally to them. In the Siemens study, New York also performed well, ranking in the top three for its efficient use of land and its mass transit (public transport) services. It didn’t however make the top 10 in this year’s Travel & Leisure magazine poll – in fact, it didn’t even get into the Top 20.

Some of the most popular “green cities” in the magazine reader survey were:

Portland, Oregon – in first place, for its infinite green spaces, excellent public transport and pro-cyclist initiatives. There’s something organic about the entire city, and it’s one of the top American cities when it comes to organic food and recycling.

In second place came Savannah, Georgia, not a city that most Brits would think of first, but it won the Parks category for its greenery and quaint, walkable streets and twenty-two tree-lined squares. Voted one of the friendliest cities, it won the Romance category in the survey.

No. 3 – Minneapolis/St. Paul. On your bike could be the tagline in this bike-friendly city which boasts 46 miles of city bikeways and 84 miles of off-street paths. In fact despite the harsh winters, it’s normal for many locals to ride a bike to work. The Red Stag Supper Club, famous for its Slow Food Sundays, is the first US restaurant to light its premises entirely with LED lights.

Denver, which took the number 4 spot, did very well for its efforts to protect nature – it’s famous for being an outdoors-orientated city with a good work-life balance. It was also ranked the best city to take your pet on holiday with you! You can get from A to B in Denver by using the city’s B-Cycle programme – just rent a bike for about £5 a day and drop it off at one of the numerous pick up/drop off points throughout the city.

In at number 5 came Chicago, not the most obvious choice for a green city award, but it prides itself on having more energy-efficient “green roofs” than any other city in America, with living green (plant) roofs on Soldier Field, O’Hare Intl. Airport and Chicago’s famous City Hall. Unbelievably, you can even buy honey made by the bees on the rooftop hives at City Hall when you visit the Downtown Farmstand which is open all year round.

Seattle, in sixth place, was the number one city for tech-savvy, recycling locals. Recycling isn’t an option – it’s the law for households and businesses and a lot of local hotels have introduced innovative recycling programmes, such as composting left over food, or offering completely free parking for any guests who drive a hybrid electric car. The Hyatt near South Lake Union, has earned LEED certification for clever features such as auto-off electricity (the electricity automatically shuts down when you leave your hotel room).

At number 8 and 9 were San Diego and San Francisco. In San Diego you can rent an electric car downtown for as little as 35 cents a minute, while San Francisco’s reputation for organic food, sustainability, composting (600 tons of scrap daily!) and its commendable commitment to recycling won it a lot of points. In fact SF plans to recycle 100% by 2020, in just eight years time, which would be a fantastic achievement. And its famous AT&T park is the first solar-powered Major league Baseball stadium in the United States.

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