Vermont City Nabs Eco-Friendly Honor

The home of Ben & Jerry's, Phish and the University of Vermont now has a new claim to fame — America's most eco-friendly place.

So says Country Home magazine, which ranked Burlington, Vt., tops among 379 metropolitan areas in a "Best Green Places" survey that rated cities based on air and watershed quality, mass transit use, power use and number of organic producers and farmers' markets.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Green Building Council, the survey rated Ithaca, N.Y., second; Corvallis, Ore.; third, Springfield, Mass., fourth; and Wenatchee, Wash., fifth.

Charlottesville, Va.; Boulder, Colo.; Madison, Wis.; Binghamton, N.Y.; and Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; rounded out the top 10.

"We thought to ourselves, 'If we could live anywhere in the U.S., where would be the best green place to live?"' said Grant Fairchild, managing editor. "That was the kicking-off point. We thought it would be a fun thing for the readers and fit right in with our theme."

The survey will be published in the magazine's April issue, which hits newsstands March 20. Country Home, with a circulation of about 1.25 million, is a sister publication to Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal.

"It reflects efforts on the part of the city and the people who live here to move in the right direction in terms of being green," said Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss. "It's great to have third parties making those assessments recognize it."

Burlington got high marks for the way its people, businesses and government value a green lifestyle and make it a priority, the magazine said.

Among its green assets:

  • A compost facility that collects food scraps from restaurants, supermarkets and food manufacturers and sells the compost to farmers, gardeners and landscapers.
  • The Burlington metropolitan area's 16 farmers' markets, five organic producers and three food co-ops.
  • Although mass transit use isn't big, car pools are — 12.3 percent of Burlington-area commuters use them, according to Bert Sperling, a research consultant who worked on the rankings for Country Home.
  • About 5.6 percent of the work force walks to work, and 4.6 percent work at home, which also played into the city's high ranking, Sperling said.

    "It's certainly an honor to be called the greenest city in America," said Betsy Rosenbluth, project director for Burlington Legacy, the city's sustainable city initiative.

    "Burlington, like Vermont as a state, really understands the connection between our environment and our economy and our social health," she said.

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