Portland and San Francisco Prove Cities Can Be Sustainable

Portland and San Francisco Prove Cities Can Be Sustainable

By Tricia Brown

Most cities have focused at least some of their attention on sustainability, but a few stand outs are leading the way in terms of eco-friendly urban development. Portland and San Francisco top most sustainable cities lists, and these west coast hot spots are planning even more green development. From tax credits to bike paths, sustainable initiatives in these influential cities are even spreading to the rest of the country. Last decade's census revealed that Americans are moving to cities at a higher rate. Green practices will help cities curb their carbon footprints as populations grow. If you want to see the future of sustainability, take a look at what Portland and San Francisco are doing today.


799px Portland and Mt Hood

Photo by Amateria 1121 via Wikimedia Commons

The hit IFC show "Portlandia" pokes fun at unique Portland residents, many of whom consider sustainability a top priority. In one sketch, restaurant patrons insist on leaving their table and visiting the restaurant's chicken farm before ordering a sandwich. They ask the waitress if the chicken was local, organic and free roaming. "Portlandia" portrays caricatures of Portland residents, but there's a reason this Oregon city earned such a distinct reputation.

The Mother Nature Network named Portland the top green U.S. city, citing its 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes and classes in DIY sustainable food sources. Portland's city government has a Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to promote eco-friendly construction practices. Portland will also match businesses and nonprofits with sustainability advisers to help these operations conserve resources and promote personal and environmental health. Cereplast.com reports that Portland residents recycle 63 percent of their waste. That's one of the highest rates in the U.S., but it didn't happen overnight. Portland adopted a recycling system in 1987, earlier than almost all major cities. Portland combines long-term planning with fresh innovation to establish an eco-friendly city for its residents.

San Francisco

10078504093 1cf7deae3c

Photo by Joe Parks via Flickr

If you travel from Portland down the coast a few hundred miles, you'll hit San Francisco, a densely populated city with steep hills and housing costs. Despite its modern metropolitan status, San Francisco is still known as one of the most sustainable cities in the country. In 2002, San Francisco introduced objectives to establish a socially, economically and environmentally healthy city. The result has been a series of waste management, transportation and building policies that consider the environment along with San Francisco residents. In 2010, about one-third of residents didn't use a car. San Francisco's well-known Bart system serves as transportation for thousands of tourists and residents.

SFEnvironment.org, which is run by the city of San Francisco, provides resources and tips to live a green life. Here, residents can research environmental legislation, find information about recycling and explore green building initiatives throughout the city. Prospective home owners wanting to become landlords should know the environmental responsibilities associated with ownership in San Francisco and can find contractors who use sustainable practices through the American Apartment Owners Association vendor directory. This city by the bay proves that urban areas can be highly populated and highly conscious of the environment.

About Us

  • charter brand transp blue mediumCharter for Compassion provides an umbrella for people to engage in collaborative partnerships worldwide. Our mission is to bring to life the principles articulated in the Charter for Compassion through concrete, practical action in a myriad of sectors.


  • Charter for Compassion
  • PO Box 10787
  • Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
  • twitter
  • facebook1
  • facebook2
  • youtube
  • linked in
  • pinterest
  • instagram
  • tumblr



  • Be up to date with our latest news.

Log in