Emerald Cities



By Liz Galst



Illustration by Jason Lee

You know we’re reaching a cultural tipping point when male big-city mayors start boasting that theirs is, well, the greenest. Unsurprisingly, the metropolis that comes out on top of two recent sustainability rankings is Portland, Oregon, shepherded by Mayor Tom Potter. But that hasn’t stopped Mike Bloomberg of the Big Apple, L.A.’s Antonio Villaraigosa, and a host of others from vying for the crown. Whether such claims are macho posturing or plain old civic boosterism, it’s good news: Urban areas are responsible for more than three-quarters of the world’s climate damage. Still, to help keep these Hizzoners honest, we’ve compiled a list of their environmental boasts and bona fides. 

Michael Bloomberg
New York
Population 8,143,197, the largest city in the nation
On The Record Boast “We are going to seize this opportunity to…create the first environmentally sustainable 21st-century city.”
Tree Count 1,000,000 trees to be planted by 2017 (1/8 of a tree per resident) emissions reduction target 30 percent citywide below 2005 levels
Best New Initiative That May or May Not Come To Fruition Congestion pricing, which would charge drivers a fee for entering certain sections of Manhattan, thereby significantly reducing
traffic-related emissions.
Funkiest New Idea Mollusks for water filtratio

Richard M. Daley
Chicago
Population: 2,842,518, 3rd largest city in the nation
On The Record Boast “When I talk about making Chicago the greenest city in the nation, I’m not being
idealistic. I’m being very practical.”
Tree Count About 30,000 trees planted per year since 1989  (1/5 of a tree per resident by 2010) emissions reduction Target Citywide targets to be announced. Emissions related to city government operations have decreased five percent from the 1998-2001 baseline.
Best New Initiative That May or May Not Come To Fruition 2030 Challenge: All new buildings will cut emissions by 60 percent by 2010 and be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Funkiest New Idea Green-collar job training program for ex-offenders

Greg Nickels
Seattle
Population 573,911, 23rd largest city in the nation
On the Record Boast None—Nickels is a modest guy. But a number of media outlets have called him the nation’s greenest mayor. Spokesperson John Healy says Nickels “wants every mayor to try to be the greenest mayor in America.”
Tree Count 650,000 trees to be planted within 30 years (1 tree per resident by 2037)emissions reduction target Seven percent below 1990 levels citywide by 2012
Best New Initiative That May or May Not Come To Fruition A plan to cut them even further—a whopping 80 percent by 2050.
Funkiest New Idea The U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. At Nickels’s urging, more than 510 U.S. mayors have signed on to the goals of the Kyoto protocol, promising major emissions reductions.

Antonio R. Villaraigosa   
Los Angeles   
Population 3,844,829, 2nd largest in the nation
On the Record Boast “I realize that our city has historically been more synonymous with sprawl and smog, but we’re committed to making our city the greenest big city in America.”
Tree Count 1 million to be planted within 10 years (1/4 of a tree per resident) emissions reduction target 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 for city government operations
Best New Initiative That May or May Not Come To Fruition A plan to generate 35 percent of city power supply—L.A. has a municipally-owned utility— with renewable energy by 2020
Funkiest New Idea Refusing to renew contracts with operators of coal-fired power plants

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Issue 25



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