Sustainability Highlight: Portland, OR

From conserving our planet’s resources to improving energy efficiency, there are many ways to live a greener lifestyle, and no city does this better than Portland, OR. This week, one of our staff members, Justina, took a trip to beautiful Portland to look into how ol’ Stumptown does sustainability with such ease. She took a closer look at the different types of initiatives that the city has taken to secure their spot on numerous top sustainable cities lists over the years.

Betting on Biking

How does biking help the environment?

Those who choose to bike are preventing the release of unnecessary carbon monoxide car emissions into the air. In addition to helping prevent air pollution, which can impact the respiratory health of the general population, biking has the added benefit of not being a contributing factor to global warming.

With 319 miles of bike ways currently on the ground, and another 50 miles slotted for installment within the next few years, the Rose City proves their dedication to sustainable living by providing easy, safe conditions for bicyclists to ride. Those bike paths certainly aren’t going to waste either. 6% of commuters in Portland choose to ride a bike instead of driving, which approximates to over 17,000 people who choose to bike to work. This percentage is significantly higher than anywhere else in the country. In fact, the national average for those who choose to ride to work is a mere 0.5%. Portland is so bike friendly that it was, in fact, named a “platinum” bike friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists and Bicycling magazine ranked it the #1 bike friendly city.

Traveling with TriMet

How does public transportation help the environment?

Besides alleviating traffic congestion that is often rampant in large cities, public transportation also takes the pressure off from air pollution and green house gas emissions.

TriMet, the public transportation system that includes the light rail system, as well as buses and streetcars, plays a major role in Portland’s green reputation. The extensive light rail systems were built using many recycled materials, and the TriMet places a huge emphasis on conserving fuel and reducing daily emissions. Naturescaping principles were also used in the landscaping in order to select plants that would thrive in an urban environment, and simultaneously use less water, pesticides and fertilizer.

Big Impact with Compact Trash

Solar Trash Compactor

How do trash compactors help the environment?

Solar trash compactors, like the ones found scattered throughout Portland, are completely self-powered, and by using an alternative energy source like the sun, energy efficiency improves drastically. In large cities where trash accumulates at a rapid pace, the compactors help compress the volume of trash to save on costs for garbage collection. Compacting the trash allows for fewer necessary garbage collection trips, which equates to less time that large garbage trucks are on the road, spewing out those green house gases.

Earth-Friendly Electric

How do electric vehicles (EV) help the environment?

From saving money on gas and reducing independence on imported oil, to preventing volatile compounds (VOCs) from being emitted into the atmosphere, we can all agree that EV take advantage of an amazing alternative car fuel source.

For those who choose to opt out of bicycling or public transportation in order to get around town, the Rose City has created incentives to sway people to buy and drive electric cars by providing free access to EV charging stations throughout the city.

If owning an EV isn’t your style, don’t fret! You can still be earth conscious by opting to participate in the various car share programs that are available and popular in Portland, like ZipCar or Car2Go, which ultimately relieves traffic congestion by taking more cars off the road.

Fresh & Local


How does buying local help the environment?

Portland has fantastic food, so it’s no surprise that it’s been lovingly nicknamed “foodie heaven”. Perhaps their restaurants’ impressive overall quality of food has something to do with the fact that a large number of Portland restaurants opt to use local ingredients. Portland is also known for it’s plethora of talented artisans who make and sell their own homemade or handmade products.

Besides supporting the local economy, choosing to buy local products lightens the load on air pollution caused by shipping and transporting products across the country or globe. The U.S. transports and ships $2.2 trillion worth of international goods every year, or the equivalent of 11 billion gallons of fuel and 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Thus, industrial pollution makes up almost 50% of all pollution in the United States. By picking local products, you’re helping cut down on processing, packaging and transportation waste.

Okay STEM lovers, what did we miss? Any STEM Works fans in Portland? Leave your comment below!

2 comments on “Sustainability Highlight: Portland, OR

  1. Portland was voted Best City to Be a Chicken In, there are many community gardens, and urban farms abound. All of these combine to make for tastey HYPER local food. Good local neighborhood schools make going to school by bike super easy. Our public libraries are amazing — why waste resources buying a book when you can put them on hold for free with a handy dandy iPhone app and be texted when it arrives? Portland = easy to live sustainably.

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