Portland group proposes eco-districts plan

One of the city’s leading advocates of sustainability is floating a plan to create eco-districts that could lower power costs for businesses while protecting the environment.

The proposal, by the Portland Sustainability Institute, calls for the creation of five pilot eco-districts around the city to test the notion that community-scale planning and infrastructure can be both "green" and cost effective.

The institute’s EcoDistrict Initiative defines eco-districts as a neighborhood or city district with a commitment to sustainability, including features such as community-scale energy generation, recycling schemes and the resources to support low-carbon transportation options.

The targets for performance of the eco-districts include:

  • • Community vitality based on resident well-being and built conditions.
  • • Air quality benefiting from minimal carbon emissions.
  • • Goal of net-zero energy use by employing efficiency and renewable energy options.
  • • Access facilitated by clean and affordable transportation options.
  • • The sustainable use of water.
  • • The integration of natural and built environments.
  • • Goal of zero waste.

Rob Bennett, executive director of the Portland Sustainability Institute said, he compares the launch of the eco-district initiative to the launch of Portland’s green building plan in the late ’90s.

“If we get good at this, if we use Portland as a sandbox, this is an expertise we can export,” Bennett said. “It’s an economic advantage.”

Bennett cited the example of Copenhagen. After 30 years of investing in small-scale energy schemes, the Danish city uses community generating systems for 95 percent of its electricity needs.

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