Smarter Cities, a Natural Resources Defense Council project, named Seattle the most sustainable big city in the nation. The project annually reports the progress American cities are making in environmental stewardship and sustainable growth. Using data from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as survey responses from city governments, the project identified the top 15 large, medium, and small cities according to ten different environmental criteria, from air quality to recycling to transportation.
Seattle led in the green building category as well as energy production/conservation and air quality. Points were attributed to the City Green Building program, Sound Transit’s new light rail system, reliance on hydroelectricity (and the resulting good air quality), and recent global warming initiatives. The City’s innovative environmental policy, leadership and commitment was clearly illustrated by Mayor Greg Nickels’ progressive U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Agreement that resulted in 900 American cities pledging to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. Seattle Climate Action Now and Seattle Climate Partnership gained kudos for action-oriented programs.
Seattle Climate Action Now accomplishments include distribution of 10,000 home energy efficiency kits to residents and the “Give Your Car the Summer Off” program with incentives for Seattleites to carpool, reduce trips and even sell their cars. The Seattle Climate Partnership has brought together over 100 local businesses to pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. In one notable success, the University of Washington Medical Center devised a water reuse system for its laundry; saving 12 million gallons annually and greatly reducing natural gas consumption and its accompanying greenhouse gases.