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Greening Our Capital Cities

Greening America’s Capitals is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities between EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to help state capitals develop an implementable vision of distinctive, environmentally friendly neighborhoods that incorporate innovative green building and green infrastructure strategies. This program will assist three to four communities per year, with the first projects beginning in the fall of 2010.

A green and sustainable city is a community of residents, neighbors, workers, and visitors who strive together to balance ecological, economic, and social needs to ensure a clean, healthy and safe environment for all members of society and for generations to come.

There are many ways to measure as well as perceive how pretty or how green or sustainable a city is. These may include air and water quality, efficient recycling and waste management, percentage of LEED-certified buildings, land devoted to green space, use of renewable energy sources and easy access to products and services that make green lifestyle choices easy. Here are some potentially high ranking green cities:

Portland, Oregon with its 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes and numerous bridges over a scenic river.

San Francisco, California billed as the solar energy capital, has also banned the use of plastic bags for grocery shopping.

Boston, Massachusetts has launched the program, “Green by 2015” and is well on its way for getting there. Major initiatives include making hybrid cars commonplace.

Oakland, California uses renewable sources for generating energy and plans to be oil independent by 2020.

Eugene, Oregon with its Emerald Express, the first hybrid public transport system was the first city in the 1960’s to embrace the Green revolution.

Cambridge, Massachusetts dubbed as the “Best Walking City in US”, has most city vehicles fueled by B20 biodiesel or electricity.

Berkeley, California is recognized as a leader in the incubation of clean technology for wind power, solar power, biofuels and hydropower.

Seattle, Washington

runs an extremely successful incentive program where residents are encouraged to install solar panels on their homes for energy conservation.

Chicago, Illinois — The windy city has gone green. The “Chicago Green Roof Program” has ensured that more than 2.5 million square feet of city roofs support plant life.

Austin, Texas with 206 parks, 12 preserves, 26 greenbelts and more than 50 miles of trails plans to go carbon neutral by 2020.

EPA will be funding a team of designers to visit several of the state capitol cities to produce schematic designs and exciting illustrations intended to catalyze a larger planning process for the targeted neighborhood. Additionally, these pilots could be the testing ground for citywide actions, such as changes to local codes and ordinances to better support sustainable growth and green building. The design team and EPA, HUD, and DOT staff will also assist the city staff in developing specific implementation strategies.

EPA is providing this design assistance to help support sustainable communities that protect the environment, economy, and public health and to inspire state leaders to expand this work elsewhere. Greening America’s Capitals will help communities consider ways to incorporate smart growth strategies into their planning and development to create and enhance interesting, distinctive neighborhoods that have multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits.

This design assistance is being made available to all 50 state capital cities, plus the District of Columbia. EPA is soliciting letters of interest from mayors of state capitals.

Article by Andy Soos appearing courtesy Environmental News Network

photo: laura padgett