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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Phone: 503-823-7700

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1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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From BPS Director Susan Anderson: What if every city recycled like Portland?

A response to The New York Times' "The Reign of Recycling" opinion piece by John Tierney.

You may have seen a recent opinion piece in the Sunday New York Times entitled, “The Reign of Recycling.” The author, John Tierney, suggests that the cost of recycling is too high and not worth the environmental benefits. While it’s true that global prices for scrap paper currently are very low, and recycling isn’t the financial slam-dunk that it was a few years ago – it still makes great economic sense!

Here in Portland, it still costs much less to collect and recycle paper, metal, other recyclables, food scraps and yard waste than it does to truck them to the landfill and pay to bury them in the ground. And that’s just the financial calculation – it doesn’t include the environmental benefits.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that current levels of recycling in the U.S. offset emissions equal to the carbon pollution from 39 million cars. (That’s about 15 percent of the total cars on the road.)

But what if every city in the U.S. recycled as much as Portland does?

The average city in the U.S. recycles about 34 percent of its waste, but here in Portland, we recycle more than twice that amount. So if everyone recycled the Portland Way, we’d cut carbon emissions equal to the pollution from nearly 80 million cars.

And just what is the Portland Way?

Well, by 2030 we plan to:

  • Recover/recycle at least 90 percent of all waste generated.
  • Reduce food scraps sent to landfills by 90 percent.
  • Help reduce the carbon and energy-intensity of products used in business supply chains.
  • Reduce emissions by helping residents consume smarter – (e.g. products that are more durable and use less energy).

The New York Times was right when it said that recycling is just one part of taking action on climate change, but those actions do add up. And imagine how much more could be achieved, if the entire country recycled at the same rate as we do. Keep up the good work, Portland!


Susan Anderson Signature

Susan Anderson, Director

City of Portland
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

P.S. > Further reading: Many environmental organizations and advocates have published in-depth rebuttals to John Tierney’s piece. Here are a few worth checking out:

BPS hosts free energy performance reporting information sessions for owners and managers of large commercial buildings

Energy Performance Reporting Policy team completes administrative rules process and hosts a free introduction to the new policy and ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager.

Update 13 NOV 2015: *SOLD OUT* The information sessions are sold out, however, seats in the office hours session are still available.. Please e-mail to be placed on a wait list for the information sessions. Please indicate if you would like Tuesday, November 17 1:30– 4 PM OR Information session 2 Wednesday, November 18 9 – 11:30 AM OR either.

BPS has finalized administrative rules to implement the Commercial Building Energy Performance Reporting Policy. Visit to view the new rules.

The administrative rules provide detailed compliance requirements for commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet to:

  • Track energy use with the ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager web tool, and
  • Report energy performance information annually to the City of Portland.

ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is an interactive resource management tool developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that enables tracking and assessment of energy use across an entire portfolio of buildings – all in a secure online environment.

More importantly, it can help implement an energy management program, from setting a baseline to setting goals and tracking improvements. It’s also the tool for getting nationally recognized as an ENERGY STAR certified building by EPA.

Want to learn more?

Join us in November for a FREE information session to:

  • Hear about the City’s new requirement for office buildings, retail spaces, grocery stores and hotels over 20,000 square feet.
  • Meet staff from local utilities that can help you access energy data.
  • Connect with the Energy Trust of Oregon to find ways to save money on energy bills and improve your building’s performance.
  • Learn from EPA experts about ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager web tool.

Choose from one of two identical sessions:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m

 — or—

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 from  9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Want to go deeper? Bring your questions and a computer to go in-depth with ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager experts during an “office hours” session on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

All sessions will be held at the Doubletree Hilton Portland, 1000 NE Multnomah St. in Portland. Light refreshments will be served, and there will be prize drawings at each session!

Visit to read more and register for the November event. 

Apply for the Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan Project Advisory Committee

Committee members will advise City staff on new citywide plan for off-road cycling trails and facilities.

The Portland Off-road Cycling Master Plan will provide a citywide vision and plan for a system of off-road cycling trails and facilities where kids, adults and families can ride for fun, exercise and to experience nature in the city. It will make recommendations for the future improvement and management of these trails and facilities, based on community needs and input, site opportunities and constraints, and best practices in design, development and management.

In addition to a broad community outreach and engagement process, the project will be guided by a project advisory committee made up of community representatives, including trail and park users and Portlanders with interests, skills, knowledge and expertise in the areas of off-road cycling, environmental stewardship, trail design or management, outdoor recreation, business, tourism and health. The City is particularly interested in including committee members who might be able to contribute perspectives or experiences from historically under-represented or under-served communities, such as communities of color, Portlanders with limited-English proficiency, low-income residents, youth and people with disabilities.

Committee meetings will be held approximately once a month on weekday evenings. Specific meeting dates and times will be selected based on committee member availability. Translation, accommodations and childcare will be provided with advance notice.

To apply, complete the Statement of Interest no later than Monday, November 16, 2015 at 5 p.m.

Sign up for email updates to stay up-to-date on the Off-road Cycling Master Plan project.

Join Portland businesses leading the way on climate action

Visit to see which businesses have taken the challenge.

Mayor Charlie Hales challenges Portland businesses to take action on climate change. To join the fight, commit to implement at least two of these actions by Earth Day 2016:

  1. Meet at least 50 percent of business electricity needs from renewable sources.
  2. Install LED bulbs in all lights that are on for extended periods.
  3. Provide incentives to employees to commute by transit, carpool, bicycle or on foot.
  4. Power at least 20 percent of company vehicles by electricity or low-carbon fuels.
  5. Provide at least one on-site EV charging station for employees.
  6. Participate in food-scrap collection.

Thank you to Elephants Delicatessen, Pacific Continental Bank, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Indow, Trillium Asset Management, CH2M Hill, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Moda Health for kicking off the challenge!

Sign on to the challenge and see all participating businesses at