We recently celebrated the 20th annual BEST Awards and the success of Portland’s greatest green businesses with an energizing event at Portland’s The Nines Hotel. When we hosted the first BEST Awards in 1992, our intention was to showcase the best new ideas that would help businesses understand how sustainability and resource efficiency could benefit their employees, their bottom line and the environment. This video shows just how far Portland businesses have advanced in the last 20 years.
Reflecting on the dizzying rate of progress made me realize that many cutting-edge green efforts are now part of the mainstream, and local companies understand that incorporating sustainable practices is good for business. That’s why, after 20 years of celebrating Portland’s pioneers, we’re forging a new partnership with Sustainable Business Oregon’s (SBO) annual innovation awards. Read more about this here.
So how do pioneering practices become the norm? We can point to a few reasons: Strong vision from community leaders, innovative businesses, and an engaged community all working together. It also requires less obvious things like creative financing, compelling communications, public-private partnerships, and forming accessible, replicable programs that allow us to share best practices with others. Some more examples include Clean Energy Works Oregon and the neighborhood Solarize campaigns. Both of these programs scaled up quickly and are now operating in communities throughout Oregon.
What’s next in Portland? While we’re often recognized as a leading U.S. city for urban planning, the mayor challenged us to think beyond past successes and create a new citywide plan with a focus on people and advancing equity. City leaders from around the U.S. are taking interest in this new, more holistic and collaborative approach.
Sharing technology, financial and program expertise with other cities is part of how we learn and grow. I participate regularly in meetings with planning and sustainability directors from other cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, New York and elsewhere. Our work several years ago on policy options for improving performance in commercial buildings helped shape similar efforts in New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, and their experiences are now informing our emerging building efficiency partnership with BOMA, PDC, and others.
As we plan for Portland in 2035 – and take action today – I’m inspired by the multitude of creative public and private partnerships and our capacity for growth and innovation in the city and the region. I look forward to seeing what’s around the corner.
All the best,
Bureau of Planning and Sustainability