A dozen US cities (and not the ones you’d expect) are taking the fight against climate change to the streets

Green city initiatives are spreading across the nation

By Eric Mack

You've no doubt heard about the “greening” of many American cities, in which mayors, neighborhoods, and citizens are adding more green space, comprehensive recycling service, emissions reduction and energy efficiency programs, bike trails, green buildings, alternative energy, gardens…you name it. The international group Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI), which provides cities with the technical assistance to go green, reports growing steadily from its founding in 1990 until 2007, when membership suddenly doubled in a single year to more than a thousand governments worldwide; some 350 of those are in the US, and they’re not the usual suspects.

An increasingly diverse cross-section of American cities are taking bold steps and actually reshaping themselves in a new, lower carbon-emitting mold. We looked across the country and chose a handful of cities that are taking the most ground-breaking, innovative approaches to confronting climate change. We looked for initiatives that are practical, relatively easy to implement, and as easy to replicate. The unsung, forward-thinking locales on this list just might surprise you. 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – That's right, our green tour starts in the rust belt. Steel town might be the 57th most populous city in the nation, but it ranks number eight in terms of green building (as measured by the amount of LEED-certified floor space in the city). The green building movement traces some of its roots back to this town, where the Green Building Alliance originally formed in the 90s with the help of local philanthropists led by the Heinz family. Local governments saw the writing on the green-built walls and encouraged the movement through zoning incentives that reward green building and investments in new green facilities for conventions and other public uses.

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