Jessica Dailey

What is a Sustainable City? Four Influential Green Mayors Discuss During the Festival of Ideas

by , 05/09/11

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Greg Nickels – Former Mayor of Seattle

During his time in office, Nickels became known as America’s green mayor. His plans for Seattle were the impetus for cities across the nation to set green goals and become more sustainable. In 2005, Nickels announced a plan for Seattle to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to meet or beat the levels outlined in the Kyoto protocols, which the United States does not follow, but the rest of the world does.

Nickels’ “aha” moment came in the winter of 2004-05 when Seattle experienced a particularly mild winter. Cascade mountain snow is Seattle’s natural reservoir and such little snow fell that year that the entire ski season was canceled. Without a “snowpack,” Seattle would have no water — the city was directly experiencing the effect of a warmer climate, and Nickels knew something had to be done.

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The sustainable agenda included energy-efficient public transportation, include electric streetcars, changing the building code to allow for high density in Seattle’s downtown, and creating green jobs. Seattle has since reduced emissions by 60 percent, far surpassing its goals.

+ Inhabitat’s Festival of Ideas Coverage

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