Sustainability | Renewable Energy

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Portland - A United States Sustainable City Leader

Urban Planning and Public Transit in Portland

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 U.S. city, gets a majority of its energy from hydroelectricity, and recycles the majority of its waste (roughly 70%). The City of Portland aims for an 85% recycling rate.

Portland was one of the first cities in the world to develop a master plan for bicyclists and pedestrians. Transit options in Portland include bus service and options unique to this city such as the MAX light rail, WES commuter rail, and the Portland streetcar.

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. Master 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 their Forest Park.

Forest Park, Portland
view of Forest Park, Portland FROM -

Renewable Energy and Green Building in Portland

Portland cityscape

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

The City of Portland's 2009 Climate Action Plan 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.

15% of the city's energy for buildings is to be from on-site renewable energy generation such as geothermal heat pumps, solar panels/ solar thermal water heating, and biogas. Portland's goal is to supply all electricity needs in the city with renewables by the year 2035, and ultimately to 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.

The City of Portland's City Energy Challenge has led to energy efficiency improvements at office buildings, sewage treatment plants, and in 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).

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 from over 60% of its waste (see: biomass, anaerobic digestion). The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has led Portland to adopt a goal to raise the recycling rate of all recyclable materials to 90% by 2030.

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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  1. Please let us here at Green City Times know what you think in a comment; and we’ll try and answer any questions as well.

    Please also visit our other blog at

    [Dan Braff is the founder of GCT –

    Daniel Braff]

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