Friday, June 18, 2010

The 20 minute neighborhood and other ideas for Fredericton

Groups as different as Mother Nature Network, Popular Science, and Grist have ranked Portland Oregon as the most sustainable city in the US (though Portland was ranked 3rd by the Natural Resources Defense Council).

In a recent interview, Portland mayor Sam Adams talked about his new initiative -- the 20 minute neighborhood.
We're also working to make every section of Portland a complete 20-minute neighborhood to strengthen our local economy. Two-thirds of all trips in Portland and in most American cities are not about getting to and from work. So if I can offer quality, affordable goods and services, eliminate food deserts, have neighborhoods with schools and parks and amenities--if I can create these 20-minute complete neighborhoods all over Portland--it strengthens our local economy. We drive 20% less than cities of comparable size, and because we don't manufacture cars, produce oil, or have car insurance companies, every dollar that we don't spend elsewhere, will stay in Portland's economy. There's about $850 million that stays in Portlanders's pockets because we drive less. With a 20-minute neighborhood, also reduce congestion and meet our climate action plan goals.

It's interesting the way the idea is framed in terms of the local economy. I recently returned from a visit to the other Portland (Maine) where I was really impressed with the strength and sophistication of their 'Buy Local' initiative. They aim to get everyone to shift 10% of their spending to local stores pointing out that "For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $45 stays in the local economy, creating jobs and expanding the city's tax base. For every $100 spent at a national chain or franchise store, only $14 remains in the community." Part of their success comes from the merger of local farms and the restaurant industry. Bon Appetit labeled Portland "America's Foodiest Small Town." They use some interesting electronic technology to help inform locals and tourists about food related matters. And the food is simply amazing. While I like our local Greek food at Dimitri's, it pales in comparison to what you get at Emilitsa. Probably the best meal of my life and definitely the best baklava!

Perhaps a better comparison for Fredericton is Bellingham, Washington (a university city of 67,000 people where I did my BA) and ranked Number 1 by the NRDC as the Greenest Small City in the US. They have an active Transition Towns movement.

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