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The Wonderfully Green Portland, Oregon

By September 16, 2012December 29th, 2016Healthy Living, Inspiration, Interesting Places

Portland_Japanese GardensDriving the congested streets of my hometown, more often than not, I’m likely faced with gridlock and a frustrating lack of traffic flow. No matter what time of day I choose to take to the streets. I often try to imagine living in a city where both walking and biking are not only welcomed but are actually the norm. Where traveling and mobility, whatever method you choose, are both easy and environment-friendly. As it turns out, you don’t have to look too far to find such a place.

Welcome to Portland, Oregon, a city of just over 500,000, that has been home to a progressive environmental culture pretty much before ‘being green’ became hip and very marketable. It’s been on the top of my list of places to visit for a long time, so when I was fortunate enough to get a ticket to the  World Domination Summit taking place there, I was elated. The event itself was awesome! A gathering of people all committed to living a remarkable life in a conventional world. And for me, so was the city of Portland itself.

Proud Reputation

Portland’s reputation is certainly one to be proud of. It’s known as one of the most ecologically conscious places in the world. Hundreds of grassroots environmental organizations are based in and around the city. They don’t just pitch this as a possibility, they genuinely live it and value sustainable growth. And that’s what I found as I walked the streets. I actually smiled every time I saw the BigBelly® solar-powered garbage receptacles on the street corners.

The city is incredibly bicycle friendly, and it might even seem that cyclists get priority on the roads. Unlike many metropolitan centres, Portland motorists are very accommodating. It’s estimated that at least 7 percent of their population commute to work by bicycle. This is one of the highest numbers of cycling commuters in all the U.S.

Taking it to the Streets

Bicycling_Portland, OregonThere are over 315 miles of developed bikeways, plus both designated bike and skateboard lanes. Seems everyone walks or cycles in Portland, including unicyclists and dogs, whose owners have bikes custom-made with pet carriers. Very cool. Although I didn’t cycle, I did take public transit and was amazed at how easy it was to get around the city in a short amount of time.

Considering that greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming come to a large extent from fossil-fuel-based transportation, the initiatives Portland has implemented to both reduce or eliminate hydrocarbons, is extremely impressive. Through a grant with the Climate Trust, Portland has committed to re-timing traffic lights to reduce fuel consumption. Traffic signal optimization studies traffic patterns and re-calibrates signals to minimize the amount of time cars spend idling and accelerating. “Now that would be incredible here”, I think each time I drive around town where traffic lights seem to be timed exactly opposite to that, creating an on-going stop and start gridlock.

This initiative alone is calculated to have already cut fuel consumption in Portland by 1.75 million gallons. This is equal to more than a 15,000-ton reduction in CO2 emissions. Other cities would certainly do well to study and implement their model. I got to experience this smooth traffic flow first hand. I hopped on and off the city streetcars that post real-time arrivals that are spot on to the minute.

Smart Parking Meters

The city also has ‘smart’ parking meters which are solar powered, accept credit cards and stand one per block. Interesting that Portland is also the birthplace of car-sharing in the U.S. Their Flexcar members have access to a fleet of vehicles that are located throughout the metro area. Every Flexcar replaces an estimated six cars on the road.

Everything about Portland is delightfully green and makes for the perfect place to have an eco-friendly vacation, too. Their Light Rail and Streetcar system continues to expand, making it both easy and aesthetically pleasing to travel the city. Where else can you travel from the airport to the heart of the city on Light Rail and only pay $2.50?

Portland Values Beauty

Portland_Waterfront Portland values beauty too. The evidence is everywhere. From their cobbled and richly textured streets to their visually lovely bus shelters. Plants flourish and trees abound, creating gentle shade. It was fun to walk the twelve South Park Blocks stretching through the heart of downtown Portland, to see how each is unique and features its own interesting artwork.

The downtown waterfront area, home to the 40-mile loop trail system, is also a favorite place for jogging, bicycling and walking, as the trail weaves for miles along the Willamette River. As I sat quietly in a beautiful lush waterfront park, I was grateful to have a chance encounter with an engaging downtown parks horticulturist, who gave me lots of interesting information about the city and its horticulture history.

Roses + Japanese Gardens

Rose Garden/PortlandOne thing that was a must see for me was the historic International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. A little bit of heaven and without a doubt, an absolute highlight. Founded in 1917, the garden is the oldest official continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. With over 500 varieties, mostly in full bloom when I visited, the beauty of this garden is almost beyond words. The range of colors and fragrances was breathtaking.

Just across the street, I found serenity and calm in the Japanese Garden. My very quiet and peaceful walk offered another wonderful way to commune with nature. A lovely stone Jizo (a bodhisattva or enlightened being) accompanied me home from the garden’s shop, as he is a protector of travelers. A gentle reminder to me of my desire to continue traveling to places that call to me.

Book Lovers Heaven

For a confirmed book lover like myself, visiting the bustling Powell’s – City of Books on Burnside, was another great reminder of how many people still love to browse and  buy real books. Approximately 3000 people walk in and buy something every day. Offering new, used and out-of-print books on the same shelves, this location fills a complete city block, (at 68,000 square feet, it’s the largest bookstore in the world) and represents the ultimate in recycling! And did I mention that Portland (all of Oregon actually) is a sales tax-free zone!

There are so many things that stayed with me from my visit to Portland.  I sense there’s much more for me to explore there. So, until I have the opportunity to return, I’ll hold these memories and continue to spread the word about what an incredible place Portland is to visit.

On a final note…it’s truly amazing when you visit somewhere you’ve wanted to see and find you are even more impressed and touched by it than you could have ever imagined.

Where have you visited that you absolutely can’t wait to return to?

postscript 2016: In revisiting my trip to Portland and having recently returned from my trip to Sedona, I realize how traveling to somewhere that uplifts and reenergizes us, contributes to our overall health and well-being. And how our health and vitality are very influenced by every lifestyle choice we make for ourselves.

Don’t have a trip planned, but could use a change-of-season vitality boost? You’re invited to a complimentary health and wellness consultation where together we’ll create a customized, individualized health plan designed for you. Begin with the True Health Assessment and find out how healthy you are with your lifestyle and nutritional choices. Look forward to talking with you soon!

Beverley Golden

Beverley Golden is a writer, storyteller, peacenik and health & vitality consultant, who loves testing unconventional ways to shift paradigms in the playing fields of health and wellness, storytelling and creativity as a path to world peace. Her passion is turning the “impossible” into the possible, using her own experiences with a lifetime of health issues, to inspire and support others to live their life to the fullest. You're invited to a Complimentary Health Consultation, starting with the True Health Assessment that offers a customized personalized snapshot of how healthy you are in the areas of lifestyle, heredity and nutrition. Contact me to get started!


  • Joyce Hansen says:

    I really got caught up in your description of Portland. I’ve never been there, but you’ve made it very enticing to visit. There’s nothing like getting outside to feel re-energized and being able to do it in a city that is so environmentally friendly is a wonderful opportunity.

    • Happy my description of Portland, piqued your curiosity, Joyce. It really is a lovely place to visit and I would recommend it to everyone who loves a healthy environmentally friendly environment. I agree with you about being outside to re-energize and I was fortunate the two times I visited Portland, to be there at the time of year when the weather is just perfect! Hope you get to experience it for yourself.

  • Lorii Abela says:

    Thanks for reporting about Portland. I have always wanted to go there but never had the chance to. I looks beautiful. After you said that is “green,” it reminded me of Slovenia as it is one of the greenest country in the world.

    A country that I would go back to anytime is UK. I have been there 3 times and would not mind going back again. However, my husband is planning to go to Scandinavia next spring.

    • Thanks for sharing that info about Slovenia, Lorii! I had no idea it was such a ‘green’ country. That’s fascinating, as it doesn’t necessarily show up in the ‘green’ country lists that I’ve seen. Portland really does personify what a green city is all about.

      I have been to the U.K. twice and would love to go back too. I hope you are joining your husband in Scandinavia, as I hear that it is very progressive and inspirational as well.

  • Karen Grosz says:

    Portland is beautiful. I do know they have great places to buy books. For me, I want to go back to St. Lous, MO. I want to spend more time going to the churches to see the beautiful architecture.

    • Happy you’ve had the chance to experience Portland, Karen. It is beautiful and yes to buying books there too. I haven’t been to St. Louis, but it sounds like a lovely place in the U.S. to explore church architecture. Hope you get to visit there again soon.

  • Beverley, I absolutely LOVE Portland, OR. I’ve been there a few times and really love the energy and the environment. In a recent episode of “What Would You Do?” I got to see firsthand just how serious people are there about the environment. We could all learn some things from what Portland has created.

    Sedona is one of my favorite places! I’m glad you visisted:-)
    Tandy Elisala recently posted…Self-Care, Goals and the Concept of TimeMy Profile

    • Thanks for your shared enthusiasm for the west, Tandy! Love Sedona and loved Portland too. Although they are very different, they do have an interesting similarity in their energy and lightness. And yes, people are very, very serious about the environment and in many ways, it is a hub for furthering the environmental movement. When you’re there, you ‘feel’ it too.

  • Love Portland! Like Seattle, there is so much creativity there, especially among the young people and now the Millennials. I haven’t been there for a few years and maybe it’s time to go back! Washington State and Spokane where I live is really beautiful and nature filled as well! Hope you visit our beautiful city some time.
    Candess Campbell recently posted…The Bully ArchetypeMy Profile

    • Having visited Seattle, I agree with you about how much you feel the creativity in the young and highly energized Millennials, Candess! One of the reasons I love the west coast is exactly this reason. I’d love to return to Washington State and experience the natural world and it’s beauty! Thanks for the reminder of how wonderful both Washington and Oregon states are.

  • Portland is absolutely beautiful. We have friends who own a winery there, so naturally, we LOVE to visit! It’s so green, and the sunsets are just stunning.
    Jennifer Quisenberry recently posted…Fences – An Interview with Denzel WashingtonMy Profile

    • How amazing to have friends in Portland, offering you the opportunity to visit there often, Jennifer. Sounds like you know the city well and I agree with you about LOVING how green and vibrant it is. I agree that western sunsets really are exquisite.

  • I have never been, but it’s on my list. I became enamored with it when I saw the movie, “What the Bleep Do We Know.” Great book, great city. One of these days…
    Jackie Harder recently posted…Are you focused on the right thing?My Profile

    • Glad you have some familiarity with Portland, Jackie! It is definitely worth the trip. Vibrant and alive and progressive in so many ways. I don’t think I remembered that “What the Bleep Do We Know” was shot there. Hope you get to visit one of these days…

  • Alene Geed says:

    Wow. I have never been to Portland but was so enthralled by your description. Love that biking is so prevalent.. sounds more like a European city in that regard. The book Mart is something I would LOVE to visit. Thanks for this tour
    Alene Geed recently posted…Meows of WisdomMy Profile

    • I think you would love Portland, Alene! It really is such a vibrant and alive city and there is so much to see and do. Yes, the book store is phenomenal and I agree with you about it having the feeling of a European city. Glad you enjoyed the tour!

  • Robin says:

    I have traveled most of the US, with the exception of the northwest. You definitely whet my appetite for a planned visit. The pictures are stunning.

    • I love the west and I think you would really enjoy the northwest too, Robin! Especially if you have travelled a lot of the US but haven’t been there yet. Glad you enjoyed the photos too! It really is beautiful there.

  • Hi Beverley 🙂

    What a very informative and interesting post on how special Portland, Oregon is to visit. Beautiful pictures 🙂 I especially loved the rose garden. I have never been to Portland….I just may have to now, after reading your wonderful post! Thanks for the awesome share!

    • Thanks so much Joan! Glad you enjoyed the visuals I shared to support this Portland post. The rose garden is exquisite and is liking entering a blanket of gorgeous colours and fragrances. I think you would really enjoy it there. So much to do and I felt really healthy there too! A perfect reason to visit for sure. 🙂

  • Lisa Swanson says:

    I’ve never been to Oregon and honestly it wasn’t even on my radar but the article got me thinking about it.

    • Just the little I know about you Lisa, I think you would really love Oregon, and Portland specifically. It is very progressive and there is sincere concern about the health of the environment and of people.

  • Sonya Kolodziejska says:

    Portland sounds like an absolute dream place to live. I love colour. Living in the UK we have a lot of green, lush field, a lot of trees etc. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • It sounds lovely where you live in the U.K. Sonya! We often think of the U.K. as very dreary and rainy, so I am happy to hear that there is lots of colour and a green lushness. Hopefully sun too. Portland is everything and more that I was hoping it would be. I would return again for sure.

  • Never been, does sound lovely. We, here in Galveston as well as the last time (June) I visited Virginia Beach, they had the parking meters that you can pay at the corner or log into an app, pay for your parking space number… pretty cool. Virginia also had the lightrail too which could be used to get around downtown. I haven’t see it in downtown Houston, though I know they have one… so that’s cool too. Glad you enjoyed your time.
    Kristen Wilson recently posted…Show Appreciation For Those Who Help You SucceedMy Profile

    • Love the parking meters you can pay for from your phone too, Kristen. They have them in Florida and I used them when I visited. What I love about Portland, is that so much is solar powered, which really aligns with my concern for the environment. Sounds like all major cities are making big advances in the green movement, it is just that Portland seems to have been at the forefront in showing how it can all be done.

  • Tamuria says:

    Portland sounds absolutely wonderful, Beverley. I haven’t been there but friends who have visited have shared a similar love for the beautiful environment. The traffic signal optimisation is such a brilliant idea. And the cheap transport – it’s so expensive to use public transport in Australia. Love your pictures, especially you with the roses. I want to go there.
    Tamuria recently posted…FOUR FUNTASTIC GIFTS TO MAKE FOR CHRISTMASMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Tami! Happy you enjoyed this ‘virtual’ tour of Portland. It really is as wonderful as you can imagine, with such an integrity in it’s commitment to the environment. Yes, to the traffic signal optimization and the cheap transportation. Someone everything works so well there. The rose garden is breathtaking and I am happy you enjoyed the photos I shared. Hopefully they offer a little bit of a sense of the essence of Portland!

  • Lori English says:

    A great article and learned so much about Portland. It’s such a pretty city to see and so much to do. It looks like that is a city in my road trip that I would like to see soon.

    Lori English

  • What a beautiful place, Beverley! And while of course the book store calls to me, oh, I love those roses too! I’m putting Portland on my list.
    Susan Mary Malone recently posted…Do You Hear What I Hear?My Profile

    • Thanks so much Susan! The book store really is an indescribable experience. One could get lost for hours or days in there. It’s a wonderful place to meet people too. Yes, as a rose lover, I was struck by the incredible community effort to keep the rose garden thriving. Having visited there twice now, I know I will return there each time I visit Portland. It’s definitely a wonderful place to visit and I do hope you get to experience it for yourself.

  • Hi Beverley,
    What an informative post about Portland. This is a place we don’t hear much about so I thank you for educating us. Portland sounds like a peaceful and environmental friendly place. One of my favorite places to visit is Ft. Washington, Maryland. I enjoy the architect and it’s near DC if I want to travel to the big city.
    Sharise Hemby recently posted…Test postMy Profile

    • It’s interesting how east coasters often think of Portland, as in Maine, Sharise. I had always wanted to visit Portland so WDS was my opportunity and as you read, I was not at all disappointed. It is a fabulous clean, peaceful and environmental friendly example of a great city. I’ve not heard of Ft. Washington, Maryland but based on your description, it sounds lovely, as I also enjoy seeing interesting architecture and being close to a bigger city. Enjoy your trips, wherever they take you.

  • Hi Beverley,
    I love the west coast – especially northern California; now you have me adding Sedona AND Portland to my wish list for travel. Ideally I’d like to visit that whole coast – all the way up to Vancouver Canada. Plus it will be fun to meet in real life some of my social media friends who live in Portland. Thank you for sharing your city with us!

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    • So happy to hear you are also a west coast person, Tamara, as I also love California, from top to bottom. And I’m delighted that you might add both Sedona and Portland to your list of places to visit. Both are very different, however, so worth it in their own ways. And Vancouver is definitely another place to add to your trip up the coast. I have an article about it too, so maybe I should share it again soon. 🙂 Glad you are enjoying my travelogues and that they are inspiring some west coast thinking in you.

  • Deb Nelson says:

    Expectations exceeded – yay!! Portland, Oregon is on my list of places to visit, and your post makes me move it up a few spots. Sounds like a beautiful spot to spend some time.
    Deb Nelson recently posted…Are Your Goals as Sweet as Halloween Candy?My Profile

    • Thanks Deb! Happy this post gave you an impetus to put Portland, Oregon on your must visit list. It definitely met and exceeded my expectations. Next visit I plan to head to the coast and do some hiking and site seeing the coastal beaches. Oregon is quite a wonderful playground for anything you want to do! Look forward to hearing about your adventures then too.

  • Hi Beverley,

    Thank you for introducing us to Portand! I’ve never had the opportunity to visit, and after reading this, I would love to one day. I agree with Roslyn. You should write for the Portland, Chamber of Commerce.

    The one place that I have visited that I would love to return to is the tiny village of Jettenbach that is located in the once kingdom of Württemberg. My husband’s ancestors lived there and immigrated to the U.S. in 1881. I love genealogy and found a distant cousin and his wife living in the area years ago. We corresponded by postal mail for many years. In 2009, my husband and I visited and were finally able to meet them in real life! What a wonderful adventure. I do hope we can return one day.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Beverley, and for inspiring a wonderful memory!
    Robin Strohmaier recently posted…Website Horror Stories and How to Prevent ThemMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Robin! I appreciate that both you and Roslyn think this piece is representative enough that the Portland, Chamber of Commerce might enjoy it. 😉 I so appreciate you sharing your story about your husband’s long-lost family in Württemberg. Finding and connecting with family is such an amazing gift. I imagine it was incredible for everyone involved. Definitely an adventure and it sounds like it was so wonderful that you’d like to return. I hope you are staying in touch with his distant cousin and wife. That is the challenging part. I know I have distant cousins in South Africa. We connected a long time ago and lost track now and have no way to find them again.

      Happy this piece brought back some great memories for you, Robin! And happy you enjoyed learning more about Portland, Oregon too.

  • I’ve been to the west coast many times and up north along the coast, just never thought to visit Portland, Oregon. For me, an eastener, when I hear Portland- its Maine, where I’ve been to many times.Its a place you would love as it is on the coast, has an amazing national park, Acadia with different types of walking and hiking.
    You should write for the chamber of commerce because after your descriptions and experience, I want to hop on a plane and go to Portland, Oregon.

    • Firstly, thanks for saying I should write for the Portland, Chamber of Commerce and that you’d love to get on a plane and visit Portland, Oregon after reading this piece, Roslyn. I always appreciate your support of my writing! I have heard wonderful things about the east coast, especially Maine, and somehow always think of flying to the west coast when I travel. Friends of mine did an east coast driving tour this summer and loved Maine. I know how much you enjoy your travels there! The national park and the coast sound very inviting. Maybe when we meet up we can take a girls road trip to explore it together!

  • I can see Portland takes it green initiatives seriously. No wonder you love the place, Beverley. There is a special lane for cyclists in Copenhagen and other Scandinavian cities and recently in the last 2 months, Delhi and adjoining regions are also taking up the initiative of car-free days to help reduce pollution. Time alone will tell how successful it will be, but this is a start.

    Love the Rose and Japanese garden!
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    • Portland does take it’s green initiatives very seriously, Vatsala and attracts a wide range of people there because of that. I loved everything about the city. The energy is open and you can feel the pride the people who live there have for both the city and the state. Very progressive.

      I am excited to hear about special lanes for cyclists in both Copenhagen and in Delhi and other cities that adjoin both of these cities. It is always interesting to watch what happens when a city makes a change and how people either resist it, or take to it. Toronto has implemented some bike lanes and so far, the bikers seem to think they own the roads. All major world cities need to implement changes to reduce pollution as you mention and we owe it to the planet to make our own contributions. And yes, the Rose garden and the Japanese gardens, were spectacular!

  • What a fun read – and what beautiful pictures! I’m impressed by Portland. 🙂 I need to go visit sometime!

    • Thanks so much Kimber! Glad you enjoyed this piece on Portland. I had wanted to visit there for so long and it is honestly everything I imagined. I hope you also get to travel there, as it is truly a wonderful city with so much to offer. 🙂

  • Lorii Abela says:

    I appreciate how you shared your experience at the wonderfully green Portland, Oregon. Thanks,
    Beverley, for posting!
    Lorii Abela recently posted…Should You Stop Dating And Let Yourself Be Wooed?My Profile

    • Portland is one of those cities that is truly amazing to visit because of its “green” initiatives. Having been there twice, I would recommend it to anyone who loves the west coast, Lorii.