City: Madison, Wisconsin Population: 220,000 Green Cred: Built around or near 5 lakes, and with more than 200 miles of biking and hiking trails, Madison has long been home to a progressive, outdoorsy, and green-minded community.
Madison's credentials as a green town go way back. The state capital has been home to senator and former governor Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day. Aldo Leopold, often cited as the founder of wildlife ecology, taught at University of Wisconsin-Madison. And landscape architect John Nolen, who focused on preserving natural beauty while incorporating the needs of urban life, has fingerprints all over the town and its park system. Today, the city has ranked highly on lists of everything from "Best Places to Live," "Top 10 Greenest Cities," "Best Farmer's Market in the Nation," "Best Outdoor-Oriented Towns," and "Top Cities for Recycling."
City: Chicago Population: 2,896,016 Green Cred: A 20,300-square-foot green roof built on top of City Hall accompanied by several city-wide environmental initiatives: green roof and green alley programs, 1,300 acres of new open space, minimum tree requirements, Greencorps Chicago, Green Bungalows, green permitting and minimum LEED certification requirements; a vast network of city and suburban public transit; Chicago Center for Green Technology (one of the first LEED Platinum-certified buildings in the country); and lastly over 18 miles of Lake Michigan waterfront.
While Chicago is best known for its cold snowy winters, sports teams and beautiful architecture, it's quickly rising as one of the best green cities in the US. If it was up to its mayor, Richard M. Daley, it would be known as the greenest city — since becoming mayor Daley has made greening the city his mission, and as the last several years has shown, it's been quite the success.
Population: 3.2 million in the metro area Green Cred: Consistently named some of the best cities to bike and be outdoors in, the Twin Cities have over 16 lakes,180 parks and 200 miles of recreational paths.
With a new LEED certified ballpark, a lightrail transit system, and over 16% of the cities' area being parks, the Twin Cities are bursting with sustainable features. Even with the cold temperatures in the winter, this is an area where people love to be outdoors and embrace the eco-lifestyle whole heartedly.
City: Austin, Texas
Population: 1.7 Million
Green Cred: Green initiatives, big and small, have a major presence in and around the community
Those of us who are fortunate enough to call Austin home know just how lucky we are and spend plenty of time taking this city in. There's no shortage of things to do, from live music to great food to gobs of pet-friendly outdoor activities. With an unofficial slogan like "Keep Austin Weird," you can bet that Austinites do their share of composting, front-yard gardening, and eco-friendly eating and entertaining. Here's what we do when we're not at the eight-to-five.
City: Los Angeles
Population: 3.8 million (city), 15.3 million (metro)
Green Cred: Copious hiking trails, local produce year-round, and innovative businesses
With its notorious sprawl, deeply-ingrained car culture, and air quality issues, Los Angeles probably isn't the first place you'd think of as a green city. But talk to LA residents (many of whom are passionate advocates of public transportation and biking), stroll its farmers' markets, and visit its design boutiques, and you'll find plenty of examples of eco-consciousness in this big city.
City: Vancouver Population: 600,000 Green Cred: Vancouver is a metropolitan port city nestled between mountains and the ocean in the Pacific Northwest. Vancouver draws 90% of electricity from renewable resources, mainly Hydroelectric dams. The birthplace of Greenpeace.
Vancouver is frequently listed at one of the most livable cities on the planet. It’s a stunning jewel of a city with a mild climate and a high quality of living. With the recent 2010 Olympic games this past winter Vancouver has been with streamlined with convenient new transit lines, LEED facilities, and an overall facelift. Here are just a few of the green features of Vancouver.
City: San Francisco Population: 800,000 Green Cred: Known for cutting-edge green tech and policies
From urban homesteading classes to sustainable design, San Francisco is full of things to do (and see) for anyone interested in sustainability. The city actually has so many green things to do that it's hard to choose between them, but we've pulled together a guide to some of our favorites here.
City: Berlin, Germany Population: 3.4 Million Green Cred: Devoted to alternative energy development
When East and West reunited in 1990, city planners had the opportunity to rebuild one of the world's great metropolises. Innovative new buildings went up everywhere, while old factories and modernist gems got a new lease on life. Once known for its drab gray apartment blocks, Berlin has become a vibrant green oasis. With thrift shops, farmer's markets, vegan restaurants, and vast parklands, the German capital is one of Europe's greenest travel destinations.