Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Greenest Cities in the United States

A passenger train enters the eastbound platform of Portland, Oregon's Washington Park MAX station.

SustainLane's just announced their new US City Rankings 2008, which ranks the nation's most populous cities in terms of their green score. Portland ranks #1 while my city, Indianapolis, comes in at #44. In other words, if your mission is to change things "from brown to green," this is a much better place to start than in Portland, where the job is already done. We plan to catch Portland while they rest on their organic laurels. Columbus, Ohio provides a role model since they moved from #50 in 2006 to #30 in 2008, the biggest mover.

Lists apparently help sell books and magazines, especially if they list the best cities for whatever. Magazines like CountryHome (Portland #2, Indianapolis unranked), Move (Portland #1, Indianapolis unlisted) and even Popular Science (Portland #1, Indianapolis unranked) also rank green cities all hoping to become the leading green city ranker. All have different methods for gathering comparative information, which is a problem if you are a city like Indianapolis intent on making sustainability progress.

All that may change with an attempt to create a meaningful, measurable third-party-verified standard called the STAR Community Index, that's about to go into pilot phase now with test cities and will be available in final form in 2010. Then the real race will begin. There is also a STARS rating system for college campuses which 90 colleges and universities of all sizes are piloting now. Of course institutions of higher education are also challenged by a plethora of magazine greenest campus rating systems.

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