Solving Cities

Purcellville: America's most sustainable city?

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Three U.S. cities were awarded for their strong sustainability initiatives.

I'm going to be honest with you. When I think of the most sustainable cities in the United States, not once has Purcellville, Va. been anywhere near my radar.

But when it comes to sustainability, the town of 7,727, located about 50 miles from Washington, D.C., is one to keep an eye on.

That's according to the 2012 Sustainable Community Awards, given out annually by Siemens and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), to three cities that have shown economic, environmental, and quality of life successes in the past year.

Purcellville received the honor in the small city category, Santa Monica, Calif. won the mid-size city category, and Chicago was recognized as the most sustainable large city.

The judges of the award cited these reasons for honoring the three winners:

  • Chicago: The Chicago Climate Action Plan (CCAP) – The city’s sustainable action plan, launched in 2008 with the intent of reducing greenhouse emissions by 80% by 2050, has set the standard for large-city environmental planning, inspiring and supporting community engagement through highly successful grassroots movements by local Chicagoans, including: The Green Office Challenge, My Action Plan (the web-based sustainability planning tool); and The Energy Action Network.
  • Santa Monica: Local programs have redefined the way communities engage their residents to meet local sustainability needs. Some favorite components include: I Am Santa Monica – an interactive program to engage local businesses and their employees; The Bicycle Center – the nation’s largest ever bike center; and the Green Building Program, which promotes high standards of sustainability for Santa Monica’s built environment.
  • Purcellville, Va.: The “Go Green Purcellville” campaign has been developed to meet the highest standards for  all levels of sustainability planning for a small community; from ensuring clean drinking water with minimal waste, a bold open-spaces protection plan, LED lighting throughout the community and streamlined recycling programs.

Finalists for the award included Boston, Las Vegas, Jersey City, Riverside, Calif., Middleton, Wis., River Falls, Wis. The list isn't exactly comprehensive, though. Only 135 cities applied for the award. So while you can't say Purcellville (or the others two winners) is the most sustainable city, it's definitely a leader in its category. Still, it's always good to see cities being recognized for making sustainability a top priority.

“More and more cities are realizing that sustainability initiatives are important levers for economic growth and competitiveness today,” said Alison Taylor, Siemens’ Chief Sustainability Officer for the Americas.  “People and businesses want to grow in sustainable environments, and the cities are now working hard to provide this.”

Photo: mr_wahlee/Flickr

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure