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One of the first actions I took when I began to question society’s faith in a growth economy and realized the hazards of dwindling natural resources was to switch my transportation method from relying primarily on a vehicle to relying primarily on my bike.  Getting into the habit of jumping on my bike was a welcome solution and I had little trouble with discarding my car… most of the time.  Occasionally, whether the air was a little too crisp, the rain a little too heavy or the desired destination a little too far away for my taste, the convenience of a car won out in the battle of transportation options.  Working and attending school downtown, where parking is at a premium, having a vehicle was not a feasible option.  Having my bike as the only option for transportation transitioned me into having a greater appreciation for two wheels and pedals.

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I received an email request last week from Sam Adams, Portland’s Mayor-Elect, asking for Portlander’s advice on ways our region can capitalize economically by introducing sustainability to China. Adams leaves September 4th for a two-week trip to China hosted by the National League of Cities to discuss green practices and energy efficiency.

“Supporting China in its efforts to become sustainable is not only a moral imperative; it is also an economic opportunity.  One of the goals of the trip will be to place Portland and its businesses in a strategic position to benefit from the ‘greening’ of China,” says Adams. (For text of the entire email, please read It’s Time for Portland to SELL more good and services TO China)

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At our August 8th MTCY&NPG meeting, Greg D. from the Water Bureau was present (his first time at a meeting?… I believe he and Chad T. share a seat on the committee and Chad has often been present) to offer the Water Bureau’s perspective on land ownership of the site and how a re-design would affect them.

Land ownership of Mt. Tabor is complicated and not something I completely understand (does anybody?…) but, in a nut shell, the Water Bureau owns part of the land that the maintenance yard sits upon. If/when the re-design of the yard occurs, the Water Bureau is requesting that they “trade” the piece of land they own for an equivalent piece of land near Mt. Tabor to be used as a staging area for future construction projects on or near Mt. Tabor (e.g. work on the water reservoirs).

A couple of things bother me about their request.

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Portland residents are highly informed on issues concerning the environment, and the issue of sustainability was top of mind when the planning group formed. Portland’s awards and accolades from the media exemplify this: “#1 Greenest City in America” – Popular Science (February 2008), “No. 1 Environmental Awareness” – CNN/Travel+Leisure (October 2007), “#1 Portland: A Role Model for the Nation” – SustainLane.com’s 2006 list of America’s most sustainable big cities (Travel Portland, n.d.).

Although sustainability can, and has, been used simply as a buzzword to excite the public and ensure them that “all is well”, the circumstances surrounding the update of the Mt. Tabor Master Plan provided an excellent opportunity to weave important sustainability principles throughout the process and across the city.

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