Thousands are coming together for a climate call-to-arms, but we can’t seem to get anything together on a larger scale. The world can’t come to an agreement, neither can our country, and neither can any individual state. A study that was put out in autumn 2014 showed that only 14 states are preparing for the effects of climate change, or global warming, or whatever else you might be inclined to call it. Feel free to check out the full study at the LA Times.
What’s extra shocking about the study’s findings was the list of states that are determined not to make plans for climate adaptation. Coastal states like Louisiana made the list, a state whose coastline is quickly disappearing, bringing its protection against storm surges and flooding along with it. Texas is also in the “unprepared” category. With rising temperatures and a drought that is the worst in 500 years, it’s a bit of a shock that the state isn’t doing more about it. On the other hand, it’s not too surprising since so many governors in the U.S. deny that climate change is a problem, or that it even exists. You can check out the climate change acceptance here. With fierce resistance on the state level, it’s time for individual cities to make their own plans and make the necessary changes to become more green.
Top 8 Climate-Conscious Cities
Thankfully, there are some cities and towns that are being more responsible. Many will argue that changes like this are much easier to make on these smaller scales. These cities see it as a necessity, their only option if you will, and don’t consider looking back the other way. Some problems affect thousands of U.S. cities, such as rising sea-levels, which will impact an estimated 1,400 cities. Here are some of the top climate-conscious cities in the United States (in no particular order.)
Portland might just be number 1 in terms of sustainability. It is the most bikeable city in the U.S. with 200 miles of dedicated trails. Portland is creating “20-minute neighborhoods” with all basic needs within a 20-minute bike ride. The goal is for 90% of residents living in these condensed neighborhoods by 2030. The city also offers lessons in sustainable food sources, and classes for activities such as gardening, cheese making, and chicken keeping.
Chicago has been embracing sustainability much longer than other cities. Back in 1909, city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham made a lakefront plan to balance urban growth and create a permanent green belt. Chicago houses more “green roofs” than any other city in the country. These roofs can support vegetation, which improves air quality and decreases the energy required to heat/cool a building. Half a million new trees have been also planted.
Instead of waiting for the federal government to implement a nation-wide carbon tax, citizens of Boulder took matters into their own hands. In 2007, the city enacted the country’s first municipal carbon tax, which funds Boulder’s climate action plan. The tax generates $1.8 million a year. In 2010, the tax prevented nearly 85,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Seattle has more green space than many other U.S. urban cities with seven parks per 10,000 residents. More than 20 public buildings in Seattle are LEED-certified or are building to meet certification. LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” The city’s residents are also among the most sustainability-savvy around. They are encouraged to install solar panels on their homes and are invited to workshops to learn how to live in harmony with the environment.
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco may be a bustling city, but they are full of eco-friendly features and policies. The city’s has an excellent curbside compost pickup program and is a leader in solar energy. It was also the first U.S. city to put a ban on distributing disposable plastic bags in grocery and other retail stores.
Austin has an ambitious goal to be carbon-neutral by 2020, a mere 5 years away. Austin Energy is the country’s top provider of renewable energy, which makes this goal to power the city only on green energy within reach. There is also a large amount of land dedicated to luscious green spaces. It includes 206 parks, 12 preserves, 26 greenbelts, and 50 miles of trails.
Boston ranks high in urban green life. They had a goal to go “Green by 2015” by replacing traditional taxis with hybrid cars, using recycled trash to power homes, utilizing more solar panels, and using more electric motorbikes for transportation. Boston has been holding Down2Earth conferences since 2008 that are meant to educate residents about living green lifestyles.
While some cities are being smart to prepare for the worst, others are going a step further and becoming hubs for “green technology” which can help boost the city’s economy and prepare it for the worst that mother nature has to offer. One city in particular to keep on your “green radar” is Asheville, North Carolina, the perfect example of a green tech town. This city of 87,000 people is surrounded by mountains and filled with artsy and outdoorsy types of people, so it is in a great position to be a leader in the industry of eco-consciousness and sustainability. Moving even further, Ashleville is filling up with great green-tech start-ups led by Josh Dorfman, “Lazy Environmentalist.” He has a well-known book and TV franchise, but also an MBA and a background in start-ups.
He and his family moved to Asheville and decided to use his experience with media and start-ups to develop an entrepreneur community. He was soon offered a position by the county to be the director of entrepreneurship.
His efforts resulted in Venture Asheville, a “high-growth entrepreneurial ecosystem” as Dorfman calls it. Aspiring entrepreneurs are linked up with start-up finding and given access to resources, such as pitch events, mentoring, and networking. Business that operate with sustainability in mind that are outside of the “tech” category have access to the nature-based accelerator called Accelerating Appalachia.
Venture Asheville isn’t focused exclusively on green technology, but it does seem to be a great fit for the city. Asheville houses the National Climatic Data Center and hundreds of scientists who study the climate. The city will also soon be home to the “Collider,” which is set to serve as a meeting ground for tech start-ups scientists, entrepreneurs, and artists. Yet another opportunity for innovation in Asheville. The ultimate goal is for these opportunities to allow others to live somewhere with a good quality of life that helps the environment. It’s a great place for good-paying green jobs to thrive.
“It’s a millennial strategy,” says Dorfman. “I’m talking to a guy in LA right now who grew up in Asheville and is currently working on a start-up. He can look at Asheville now and say, ‘Yeah, not only is it a great place to live, but I see where I can get capital, where I can find programmers. Maybe I’d love to move home.'”