A landmark without a footprint, Portland’s eco-friendliness may be the most valuable souvenir you can take back home. Embedded in the local DNA, this respect for the environment impacts the way the Pacific Northwest works, every day.
Blazing the trail for sustainability back in 1971, Oregon was the first state to legislate refundable deposits on bottles and cans, launching a worldwide recycling revolution. Today, Portlanders recycle 63 percent of their waste, which is one of the highest rates in the U.S. From compost bins at restaurants to recycling receptacles on street corners, the city, its businesses and its residents make it easy to be green.
But to some, particularly drivers, green means “go.” Portland has kept this in mind by timing traffic signals to reduce gas consumption and cut CO2 emissions. Renting a bike is an easy way to go carbon-free, and as a Platinum-level Bicycle-Friendly Community (an honor bestowed by League of American Cyclists), Portland is a friendly place to ride, with more than 300 miles of lanes, paths and trails dedicated to pedal-powered transportation. Bike racks are even available on the city’s public transportation, which covers Portland from the airport to the suburbs. These light rail, streetcar and bus services are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective way to get anywhere in town.
Then again, wherever you are, it’s likely to be green already. From the Oregon Convention Center to the Moda Center sports arena, Portland has one of the highest numbers of LEED-certified buildings per capita in North America. The city’s 275+ parks boast more than 37,000 acres of green space, and a dozen farmers’ markets and 47 community gardens yield truly local ingredients while reducing dependencies on fuel-burning imports. And what can’t be grown within city limits comes from farmlands located just outside the metro area’s Urban Growth Boundary, a forward-thinking, artificial border developed in the 1970s to keep urban sprawl in check. It’s clearly a success, since Portland is getting greener every day.