Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Portland - Sustainable City Leader in the United States

Portland, Oregon

Sustainability in Portland:

Public Transit and Urban Planning

Portland has developed over 92,000 acres of green spaces in the city with a connected system of trails and parks ideal for walking and biking. 

Currently, Portland has the highest rate of biking to work of any major U.S. city, and Portland was one of the first cities in the world to develop a master plan for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Transit options in Portland include TriMet bus service and C-TRAN buses; as well as transit options unique to this city such as the TriMet MAX light rail, TriMet WES commuter rail, the Portland streetcar, and the Portland Aerial Tram.

A Hop FastPass smartcard, or a virtual FastPass card for smartphones, is an easy-access transit pass, good for TriMet transit options, C-TRAN, and the Portland Streetcar. Portland also has extensive bike-sharing and electric scooter rental services.

Portland is a beautiful environmentally progressive city that has taken the concept of green open space planning to heart. The adoption of an urban growth boundary in Portland in 1979 has helped protect lands outside of the city to the present day while encouraging density and vibrancy within the city limits.

Urban planning efforts have given equal attention to livability and open space within the city so that Portland today boasts around 250 parks and recreational sites. Portland is notable for having over 5,000 acres of green space in its Forest Park.

Forest Park, Portland
View of Forest Park, Portland FROM -

Renewable Energy and Green Building in Portland


Downtown Portland cityscape

Portland has a goal to "meet the community’s electricity needs with renewables by the year 2035 and to move all remaining energy sources to renewable ones by 2050."

Portland General Electric (PGE) is one of the two main utilities in Portland, and over 40% of Oregon's energy is provided by PGE. PGE has a net zero goal of 2040

The City of Portland's 2009 Climate Action Plan (CAP) has mandated that buildings within the city get their energy from renewable sources. In addition, Portland buildings are on a 'Path to Net Zero', starting with rigorous energy efficiency standards.


Downtown Portland

One goal of the Portland CAP is to have 15% of the city's energy for buildings be from on-site renewable energy generation such as geothermal heat pumps, solar panels/ solar thermal water heating, and biogas.

The 2009 Portland CAP was updated in 2015 and includes plans for reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent, with an interim goal of a 40 percent reduction by 2030. 

Portland set a goal in 2017 to ultimately use 100% renewable energy sources throughout the city in all segments of urban life by 2050. Portland has also developed a City Energy Challenge Program, and has mandated energy efficiency and waste management programs.

Waste management goals of Portland's CAP include:

  • Reduce total solid waste generated by 25% by:
    • Working with partner organizations to encourage businesses and residents to:
      • purchase durable, repairable and reusable goods;
      • reduce the amount of materials that go to waste, including food;
      • and reduce consumption of carbon-intensive consumer goods and services
    • Developing a measurement and evaluation mechanism to track waste prevented through preservation, re-use and thoughtful consumption
  • Recover 90% of all waste generated by:
    • Completing the implementation of mandatory commercial food waste collection in Portland and begin collection of residential food waste.
    • Assisting 1,000 businesses per year to improve compliance with Portland’s requirement of paper, metal and glass recycling.
    • Together with Metro and Department of Environmental Quality, creating and periodically updating a regional waste management hierarchy that reflects energy and greenhouse gas emissions as key factors in prioritizing such technologies as commercial composting, digesters, plasmafication and waste-to-energy systems.
  • Reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of the waste collection system by 40% by:
    • Providing weekly curbside collection of food waste, other compostable materials and recycling. Shift standard residential garbage collection to every other week.
    • Completing the installation of particulate filters on pre-2007 waste collection vehicles to reduce particulate emissions. Older trucks that are not good candidates for retrofit should be phased out of operation.
    • Evaluating actions under the Portland Recycles! Plan and consider additional regulatory options to improve the efficiency of commercial collection service.  [quote from  -]

Government buildings in Portland now have recycling requirements, and residents of Portland have similar excellent recycling practices. Portland also features a unique curbside composting system. The entire metro area of Portland recycles, composts, or generates energy (waste-to-energy, or W2E) from over 60% of its waste (see: biomass, anaerobic digestion).

The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability aims for Portland to have a 90% recycling rate by 2030.

The City of Portland's City Energy Challenge has led to energy efficiency improvements at office buildings, sewage treatment plants, and urban infrastructure such as street lights. Portland has required that all new construction and remodeling of municipal buildings conform to guidelines set by the U.S. Green Building Council (such as LEED and Energy Star).

In addition, there's a Portland Clean Energy Fund that aims to create green jobs, and fund clean energy and energy efficiency improvements in the city. 

Please also see: 

Green City: Vancouver

St Johns bridge and Mt Hood - Portland, Oregon
St Johns bridge and view of Mt Hood - Portland, Oregon

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