Portland, Oregon is a city in the northwest of the USA, just above San Francisco and a bit below Canada. The reason why it’s a good city to compare to us, is because as well as being one of the greenest cities in the world, it also has a fairly similar population and weather to us (it rains a lot). The population is around the same as most cities (around 250,000). But unlike here, it has a park for every day of the year, vegan eateries on every corner, cloth nappy delivery services, and the best public transit system in the world. Here are just a few things that Portland does differently:
- Trimet is known as one of the best transit systems on earth. People use a combination of tram, train and bus, and local elderly people and disabled passengers travel for free or at big discounts. Volunteers accompany new users, until they get used to the system (all the stations also have Braille information).
- You won’t have to go far to find plant-based food. It’s everywhere. There are vegan supermarkets and even mini shopping malls, and a real street food culture, where you can find veggie hot dogs to falafel on most streets, sold hot and freshly made for affordable snacks.
- The rain is not wasted here. Some goes to produce green living roofs (gives habitats to native wildlife). The city also uses bioswales, which absorb pollutants to stop them going down drains. This also helps to prevent flooding. The trees that are planted across the city, often are maintained by local volunteers.
- Most of the local energy comes from renewable sources, and nearly all new buildings are made to green building standards.
- The city is so cycling-friendly that 7% of people commute by bike.
- Instead of being overrun by branches of Tesco, the main ‘chain store’ of supermarkets is New Seasons Market. Each branch is different, but all sell local organic food (food with yellow stickers means it’s made and sold direct by a local artisan). There are bioswales in the parking lots, and one even sells coffee from a van, where the employees are local people just out of prison, to try to get them back into society earning a legal living. Seniors and military staff get 10% discount, once a week.