Sustainable Living

The Claim

Oregon is one of the most eco-friendly states in the country

The Reality

While difficult to quantify, Oregon regularly ranks as one of the most progressive states for sustainabiliy, right along with California.

Sustainable practices inform a range of environmental, social and economic aspirations, including incentives for residential and commercial solar power, wind farms, affordable housing, organic farming, green technology and electric vehicle charging stations. In many ways, Oregon has been a leader in the national green movement, through groundbreaking legislation and private sector projects.

For example, back in 1997, before climate change even became a prominent issue, the state passed the first law regulating greenhouse gas emissions, says Ben Vitale, president of The Climate Trust, an Oregonbased climate solutions firm. “It’s in the fabric of this state, from the farmers who are the ultimate stewards of the environment to city dwellers who share this common ethic,” he says. Vitale also says Portland’s recent streetcar expansion stands out as an example of sustainability. The streetcar is a green mode of transportation that was built locally and can be exported to other cities and states. “It’s the epitome of a sustainable plan with a viable economic component,” he says. “That’s long-term thinking.”

That’s not to say other states don’t rival Oregon’s progressive, can-do mentality. California has long legislated sustainable agriculture, clean air and water, and responsible energy consumption. Still, Oregon keeps pace. In 2001, the state passed the Oregon Sustainability Act, which established a Sustainability Board and new standards for green building. “Oregon’s doing great,” says Elin Shephard, who serves on the board and was the state’s sustainability coordinator until 2010. “I don’t think you ever reach sustainability, though it’s something you’re always working towards.”



Lucy Burningham
Contributing Writer | + posts