Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Boston, Oakland, and Eugene make up the top five on Popular Science's list of America's 50 Greenest Cities. Each of the criteria used to create the list (transportation, recycling, overall attitude toward environmental issues, how electricity is produced, and the number of green certified buildings) makes a big impact on a city's overall energy consumption and speaks volumes of its administration's attitude on sustainability, but says little about individual residences.
To dig a little deeper into what individual homeowners are doing to create "green" houses, we asked ServiceMagic.com (a nationwide resource matching homeowners to contractors in their area) what sorts of environmentally friendly improvements are being made to individual properties, and where these improvements were being made.
Don't Mess With Texas
Though Austin, Fort Worth, Laredo, and Amarillo all make Popular Science's list, we were delighted to find out that residents of the Lone Star State are also making some very big waves on an individual level. From April 1 to July 1 of 2008, ServiceMagic processed 26,354 requests for solar panel installation nationwide (which is an amazing figure in itself, when you consider that their total number of solar panel installation requests for all of 2003 was 7,960). Let no one say that Texas doesn't care about the environment: in the same period of time, Texans accounted for a large percentage of those requests.
Geo-Thermal Heating Systems
In 2003, SM recorded 6,701 requests to install geo-thermal heating; that figure jumped to 8,224 in a single quarter of 2008! Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin have all played a big part in upping that stat, but particularly impressive is the city of Hartford, Connecticut (which saw over 100 requests from October to November, alone)!
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2010's Greenest Cities
One of Popular Science's main resources for creating its list is the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2010 when the next census will occur, we expect the numbers to be far more significant in terms of green building and green power in many different cities across the country. The incredible spike in projects like solar panel installation, geo-thermal heating, and solar water heater installation apparent in these statistics since the early part of the decade aren't likely to decrease. In fact, with homeowners becoming more concerned with the environment (and household budgets) the idea of a clean, renewable home addition that will end up saving money in the long run should only get more appealing!
What Effect "Green" Houses Will Have
A note to skeptics: individual efforts in green building DO make a difference. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy website, "?using PV [solar cells] systems can help reduce the amount of air pollution generated from electric power production," reduce acid rain and smog, as well as reduce the amount of health-harming fine particles released in the air. Any homeowner who decides to opt for solar cells (or any other clean, renewable energy source) plays a part in this reduction, and the more of us there are, the bigger the difference it will make!