As the human population shifts from rural to urban lifestyles, the nature of our environmental impact changes. As predominantly urban- and suburban-dwellers, our impacts are less direct but more farreaching. Goods must be delivered to us over long distances, requiring the use of more resources. Limiting the waste of those resources by making urban and suburban areas more efficient will be vital for our future. Fortunately, the innovative cultural environment that cities foster is helping us develop sustainable solutions.
Portland, Oregon, is among those American cities that have been enhancing the quality of life for their citizens while making strides toward environmental sustainability. However, as people stream to Portland in droves, the city risks becoming a victim of its own success. Growth forecasts estimate that the number of households in Portland will jump by 44–57% as early as 2035, and that households in its threecounty region will rise by 56–74%. As density increases inside the urban growth boundary, new challenges—such as rising rents, increased traffic, and parking congestion in residential neighborhoods—are beginning to strain the smart-growth vision that has worked so well. Portland’s leaders have been engaging citizens in a planning process to design solutions to keep their city “prosperous, healthy, equitable, and resilient,” and they have recently completed a Comprehensive Plan to help guide decision making through 2035.
Portland is just one of many urban centers whose residents are seeking to enhance their quality of life while protecting the quality of their environment.