Portland, Oregon is strengthening its reputation for incorporating environmental sustainability into urban planning. In 2008, SustainLane ranked Portland as the most sustainable city in the nation, based on sixteen factors including tap water quality, planning and land use, city innovation, and green building.
The rank is built on a 30-year history of green thinking in Portland, beginning in the 70s when city planners focused on urban density and implemented the urban growth boundary. This kind of thinking paved the way for current approaches to sustainable, earth-friendly development.
A summit hosted by the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI) at the end of October 2010 focused on developing neighborhood-scale sustainability by establishing eco-districts. The challenge in Portland will be to transform existing urban areas into eco-districts with sustainable features such as renewable energy, green building development, and transportation systems designed to reduce carbon emissions.
A similar project, Living City Block, is underway in Denver, Colorado. By 2012, Living City Block plans to reduce energy consumption in its pilot neighborhood by 50%. By 2016, the area should be creating more resources than it consumes. Living City Block aims to drive economic development as well, creating jobs, stimulating business, and creating thriving communities.
In Portland, five urban neighborhoods are currently being targeted for eco-district development: Lents, Lloyd District, Gateway, South Waterfront, and Portland State University. PoSI hopes to generate results by concentrating resources, funds, and strategies on specific neighborhoods. If the approach works, these neighborhoods may serve as models for sustainable development throughout the city, the United States, and around the world.