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In a new survey sponsored by Siemens and the Economist Intelligence Unit, San Francisco outpaced 27 other major metropolitan areas to win bragging rights as the greenest city in North America. Vancouver, New York City, and Seattle followed in the overall rankings, while Detroit finished last, just behind St. Louis, Cleveland, and Phoenix. Nine categories, ranging from land use and carbon emissions to air quality, transportation, and buildings, were used to calculate which urban hubs were doing the best job of cleaning up the environment.
A powerhouse on the eco-scene, San Francisco came by its first-place win fair and square. The city recycles 77% of its municipal waste, mandates composting, and boasts the longest public-transportation network in America. Retrofitting residential and commercial properties with water-efficient plumbing fixtures has been mandatory in the city since 2009, and San Francisco offers free low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators as well as rebates on toilet replacements-measures that will potentially save the city up to four million gallons of water daily by 2017.
Not only was San Francisco the first American metropolis to ban plastic bags-stores stock certified compostable bags, reusable totes, or bags made from recycled content instead-the city successfully diverts more than 1.6 million tons of waste (that's double the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge!) from its landfills each year.
In terms of air quality, San Francisco's on a roll. City managers must purchase the cleanest, most fuel-efficient vehicles available when updating municipal fleets. And, thanks to the Green Taxi Law, cab companies have until 2012 to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to below 1990 levels. A full 60% of the city's taxis already run on alternative-fuel, too.
To see how a big city near you fared in the Green City Index, click here. You can also learn more about sustainability initiatives taking place in your own home town by visiting GreenTowns.
For more on how you can make your home and life more “green”, consider:
Easy Ways to Green Your Home
Quick Tip: How to Create a Recycling Center at Home
Smart Water: Faucets, Heaters and Systems