solar panel array

There is this idea in the American psyche, that to live a clean, “green” lifestyle, someone must live in the middle of nowhere. The cities below prove that this is not necessarily the case. While they may not have dense foliage, and they still have a long way to go towards full sustainability, these cities strive towards eco-friendliness.

San Francisco, CA This city embraced locally grown organic produce before the rest of the nation caught on. Every year, San Francisco composts 600 tons of scrap and strives for a goal of 100% recycling by the year 2020. Nearly half of the residents of San Francisco take public transit, walk, or bike each day. Over 17% of the city is devoted to parks and green space.

Even their Baseball stadium is solar powered and offers “Green” garlic fries. Over a decade ago, the city approved $100 million dollars to go towards solar panels, wind turbines and public facilities, meanwhile, they have also banned plastic bags and toys with questionable chemicals.

Portland, ORPortland is the home of 288 parks, a total of 92,000 acres, and ¼ of the city is shaded by a tree canopy. They were the first city to create and enact a comprehensive plan to reduce CO2 emissions, which sits well with the cycling and DIY culture which is so present.

Portland has a comprehensive system of buses, light rails, and bike lanes to reduce automobile traffic.  There are also 74 miles of hiking, running and bike trails.

Savannah, GA Full of quaint, walkable, tree-lined squares which date back to 1733, there is a relaxed air. There are many horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs which run through Savannah’s historic districts.

This place ranks #1 in the country for parks. As an added bonus, this city also ranks high on the friendliness list, southern hospitality is abundant here. It also ranks on the list high for romance.

Denver, CO All over downtown, there are bike rental stations where a bike can be rented all day for $8. There is an ever expanding system of lightrails and buses that run all over the city. Denver is less than an hour away from 14,000 acres of mountain parks.

Within the city limits, there are 850 miles of bike trails and 29 recreation centers. There is a no pesticide policy in the parks and in three of the four seasons; there are farmers markets to buy fresh, natural fruits and vegetables. They are adept at managing water consumption and by 2025 strive to have planted one million trees. There are initiatives to run the city on 20% wind power by 2020.

San Jose, CA While it is not the best-known California city, it does deserve some recognition. There are already 25,000 jobs in green industries and it works hard to lure green companies. One of the biggest is Tesla Motors which relocated there in 2009.

62 % of this city’s waste is diverted to recycling plants. They have a Green Vision plan to reduce energy use by 50% and to use 100% renewable energy sources within the next 15 years.

Minneapolis, MN Home of the Red Stag Supper Club, the first US restaurant to be lit entirely by LED lights, this city hosts many other green restaurants.

Despite its cold winter temperatures, Minneapolis is home to 46 miles of city bikeways and 84 miles of off-street paths. This makes it one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation.

Seattle, WARecycling is not just a passion, it is a law for both businesses and households. Many local hotels go beyond by composting table scraps and offering free parking to hybrid drivers.

This city is known for its coffee, but many people don’t realize that presenting a refillable cup to your barista can get you a discount. One hotel got LEED certification for its automatic electricity shut off.

These are just some of the cities that are striving to get past the congested, black cloud image that is so associated with cities. Places like Austin, TX and Boston are becoming solar leaders. Oakland, CA is home to urban farms and Portland, ME offers many farms to table dining options.