Hear the phrase “smart growth” or “green city,” and chances are you’ll think of one place: Portland, Ore. That progressive pocket of the Northwest has become synonymous with sustainability, landing atop many a list and capturing more than a few hearts and minds along the way. Not far behind, other stars of the Northwest and Northeast vie for the top spot — places like Seattle, Vancouver, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. All have made great strides toward making life cleaner and greener for their residents — and all are, as one planner put it recently, the “honor students” of urban sustainability.
So what about the C students?
We dedicate this series to them. To cities that have faced more than their share of problems, that have been written off because they’ve fallen prey to sprawl, or post-industrial depression, or a general lack of glamour. These are places you won’t see in a Top 10 list of green cities anytime soon — but it doesn’t mean they’re not trying. Over the course of this week, we’ll take a look at unexpected progress happening in unexpected places. Places like Phoenix, Cleveland, and Atlanta.
Don’t scoff. These cities, and others like them, are discovering that if they do their homework and stay awake in class, they might just ensure themselves a brighter future.
At the very least, they’ll expand their role in the nationwide — and, indeed, global — effort to reduce the major impact that cities have on climate change. To top it off, better planning and innovative solutions not only means fewer emissions, it means a healthier, more satisfying life for the people who call these cities home.
Stay tuned as we explore the following topics:
Day One: Smart(ish) Cities
- What’s a Sustainable City, Anyway? SustainLane CEO James Elsen explains
- How Smart Is Your City: An urban-dweller’s pop quiz (Sorry, the quiz you are seeking no longer exists. If you’re in a voting mood, suggest a quiz and you might just see it on the site.)
- Urban Index: Cities, climate, and smart growth by the numbers
Day Two: The Southwest
- Hope for a Desert Delinquent: Can desert-devouring Phoenix save itself?
- Dry, Dry Again: How three more Southwest cities are changing
Day Three: The Southeast
- Outer Limits: Despite drought and sprawl, Atlanta may have a prayer
- A Moment in the Sun: How three more Southeast cities are changing
Day Four: The Midwest
- Those About to Rock: Cleveland emerges from the doldrums
- Shinier, Happier People: How three more Rust Belt cities are changing
Day Five: Going Forward
- Your Cities, Yourselves: Tips for greening your own city
- Urban Legends: The series concludes, sustainability efforts march on
Stories in this series:
With a chart-topping 26,000 people per square mile, New York City has to be smart.Photo: Tom TwiggBack in 2004, the news emerged that two-thirds of the world’s population might be living in cities by 2030. At SustainLane, we got curious …
Less than 1: Percent of the earth’s surface covered by cities (1) 75: Percent of global energy consumed by cities (2) 80: Percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions contributed by cities (1) 6.7 billion: World population in 2007 (3) 50: Percent …
Can Phoenix remake its desert-gobbling ways?In order for Phoenix to truly be a green city, it would have to be brown. Or not brown, exactly, but the sandy shade of the mountains that surround it: the jagged peaks and parched …
For more on Southwest cities see our full feature on sustainability initiatives underway in Phoenix. Scan any list of “green U.S. cities” for winners from the Southwest, and you’ll find a geographical void. Sure, a liberal-leaning place like Austin or …
For more on Southeast cities, see our full feature on sustainability initiatives underway in Atlanta. With rapid population growth and increased climate vulnerability, the Southeastern U.S. would seem a prime place for sustainability initiatives. But the area has been slow …
The City in the Forest hopes to get back to its roots.Despite its reputation as a city of wall-to-wall subdivisions, office complexes, and shopping centers, Atlanta’s not a complete stranger to matters of green. At the time of its mid-19th …
Still known for smokestacks and football, Cleveland is turning its ship around.Photo: Craig Hatfield“Most people know Cleveland by the Browns or The Flats,” says Marc Lefkowitz. From the roof of his office building, which is dotted with native wildflowers and …
For more on Rust Belt cities, see our full feature on sustainability initiatives underway in Cleveland. It may not be intuitive to link an area historically associated with steel mills, coal mining, and automobile assembly lines to sustainable development. But …
By now, you may have forgotten that Portland was ever crowned the Miss Universe of Sustainability, and have started packing up your bicycles and solar panels for the big move to Syracuse or Tampa. OK, maybe you’re not thinking of …