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Ecofriendly is good business

(Page 2 of 2)

Transportation Alternatives in New York. They’re staffed by 20- and 30-somethings who articulate the desires of those who aim to stumble onto
the fun.

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“We’ve helped bring green city ideas into the mainstream political conversation,” says Margo O’Hara, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Land Bicycle Federation, a leading bicycling advocacy group.

They’ve been joined by unlikely allies: CEOs from J.P. Morgan and Time-Warner, as well as 50 other major New York companies that are actively involved in the Partnership for NYC, a business group pushing Bloomberg’s green-city program.

The more successful green mayors – Daley in Chicago, Bloomberg in New York, and, in the 1970s, Neil Goldschmidt in Portland, Ore. – have forged working alliances among environmentalists and business leaders. Portland, with a big head start, still leads in a number of areas, although it’s looking over its shoulder at Chicago.

Green-city advocates in New York and Chicago like to cite cold, hard figures – the billions in lost productivity that traffic gridlock costs, for example. But in the Northwest, in Portland and Seattle, people talk of an “environmental ethic.”

“Out here, this whole ‘green city’ thing is much more than a trend,” says Portland urban planning consultant Abe Farkas. “It’s woven into the entire urban fabric.”

You can plug in your electric car at one of Portland’s free recharging facilities, or toss your recyclable coffee cup into one of the numerous bins throughout the city.

Each city puts its own stamp on the push to be greener: New York, run by CEO-in-chief Michael Bloomberg, has no fewer than 127 green initiatives in the implementation pipeline, the progress of each one tracked at least once each year.

San Francisco, despite a notoriously green citizenry, surprisingly lags. It doesn’t help that Mayor Newsom (right-of-center, by San Francisco standards) has a contentious relationship with the more progressive Board of Super­­visors. Its business community has been lukewarm toward the kind of green initiatives that have taken off in other cities.

So Newsom has had to settle for symbolic gestures: planting that organic garden near City Hall and issuing a stream of press releases that call for one green initiative after another.

“If press releases could save the environment, we’d be in great shape by now,” says Mr. Radulovich of Livable City.

Still, no one’s a loser in this green competition. San Franciscans can cycle on car-free streets in Golden Gate Park on weekends, and the city boasts a spacious waterfront promenade and a bike-friendly boulevard that have replaced earthquake-crumpled freeways.

Shades of green

Population (2007):
1. New York, 8.2 million
2. Chicago, 2.8 million
3. San Francisco, 744,000
4. Seattle, 582,000
5. Portland, Ore., 537,000

Miles of bike lanes:
1. Portland, Ore., 432.7
2. New York, 360
3. Chicago, 112.5
4. Seattle, 80
5. San Francisco, 45
Acres of parkland per 1,000 residents:
1. Portland, Ore., 25
2. Seattle, 10.4
3. San Francisco, 7.2
4. New York, 4.6
5. Chicago, 4.2
Recycling rates:
(Percent recycled out of all materials generated, according to each city’s recycling supervisors; does not include private collection centers)
1. San Francisco, 51 percent
2. Portland, Ore., 48 percent
3. Seattle, 48 percent
4. Chicago, 17.66 percent
5. New York, 17.5 percent