Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Austin, and Pittsburgh took top prize in Sierra Magazine’s first-ever “Green Streets” awards, which recognize communities for putting great ideas into action, from supporting local farms to reducing municipal waste, from investing in clean energy to creating more transportation choices. Profiles of the winners can be found in the July/August issue of the magazine.

“These top cities show how being greener saves money, attracts businesses,
and improves the quality of life for residents,” explains Jennifer Hattam,
Senior Associate Editor of Sierra Magazine. “Our winners each demonstrate
smart, common-sense solutions that can easily be replicated in other

The following is a short description of the top award winners:

Although it only opened its first light-rail line in 1999, Salt Lake City’s
19-mile Trax line is currently drawing 58,000 riders a day. That’s well
more than double the ridership that city and transit officials expected to
see by 2020. The even better news is that nearly half of the system’s
initial riders were new to mass transit. “That means that almost half of
those people got out of their cars and jumped on the train,” says the
Sierra Club’s Marc Heileson. “If you can do that in Salt Lake City, you
can do it anywhere.”

In a country that wastes 300 million tons of construction and demolition
materials each year, Minneapolis is a trailblazing exception. The Twin
City’s ReUse Center, which is run by a local nonprofit, provides jobs in
struggling neighborhoods, saves landfill space, and preserves architectural
character by finding new homes for vintage doors, windows and other
fixtures. Minneapolis also runs a model curbside electronics recycling
program, one of the few in the nation.

Texas is widely considered oil country, but dont tell that to the City of
Austin, which has carved out a niche as a leader in energy efficiency and
renewable power. In addition to its first-in the-nation green-building
program, which provides free consultations to builders and homeowners,
Austin’s municipal utility also retrofits schools, pays for insulation and
shading devices in low-income housing, and offers free energy audits and
rebates to residents and businesses that make improvements. All told, the
city has saved 600 megawatts of power, more than a new coal-fired power
plant could have generated in the same time. And resident save about $200
a year on energy bills.

The home of the National Football Champion Steelers has another claim to
fame. Pittsburgh ranked number one in’s nationwide survey
of farmers markets and community gardens per capita. It boasts no fewer
than 31 farmers markets and farm stands, many of which even accept food
stamps. The Steel City is also a leader in sustainable construction, with
the country’s first green convention center and a high number of new
energy-efficient buildings.