selected Eugene, Ore., as the "Top Green City in the U.S." Portland's little sister to the South beat out 250 other metropolitan areas large and small, across the country — and that's no surprise.
Named after Eugene Franklin Skinner, who built the first cabin and trading post in the area in 1846, Eugene is located in the lush Willamette Valley, sandwiched between the ocean to the west and mountains to the east. Eugene is also home to the
University of Oregon
, which houses one of the biggest environmental studies programs in the country. Finding sustainable resources in a place with so much natural beauty — not to mention a reputation for attracting
— is like shooting wild salmon in a barrel (not that you'd want to do that.)
Vegans, locavores and sustainable foodies of all kinds can eat like kings and queens in Eugene, which boasts two eco-friendly pizza shops: the vegetarian
Pizza Research Institute
, which delivers pies in reusable boxes. (The delivery guy actually takes the box back after dropping off your dinner!) Vegan biscuits and gravy abound at
Morning Glory Cafe
, the meat-free
Holy Cow Cafe
maintains a popular outlet on the U of O campus, and
serves up tasty organic fare. Residents in need of a caffeine fix can head to the
, which doubles as a sustainable, fair-trade roasting company and coffee shop. For more places to sup in style,
Eugene is the unofficial home base of sustainable food companies — or at least it seems that way. Locally loved eco-companies like Rusty's Handbuilt Cookies,
, and national brands like
all call Eugene home.
These tasty, locally made treats can be found at
, a natural and health food store that survived the threat of an
Whole Foods, which never materialized.
In Eugene, the great outdoors is only as far as the front door. Locals like to bus or bike up to
, a beautiful park named after the city's founder. The Douglass fir-covered
is also popular and features the trailheads for several nice hiking paths. The
fleet comes equipped with bike racks, and the
, miles of walking and biking trails, and the Willamette River waterfront are all readily accessible without leaving city limits.
The University of Oregon is also home to the unique
— a resource used by students and residents alike. Through the OP, individuals and groups can "choose their own adventure" by organizing or joining a hiking, biking, rafting or climbing trip in the gorgeous national forests surrounding Eugene and throughout the Willamette Valley. Outdoor skill building classes and equipment rental are available as well.
Every Saturday from April through mid-November, downtown Eugene lights up with locally made crafts, live music, fresh vegetables and a tasty, internationally inspired food court at the
. Founded in 1970, this outdoor fair draws locals and visitors alike to purchase handmade soaps, pottery, jewelry, recycled wares and other crafts, or just to be part of the scene.
Residents of the Willamette Valley who want to reduce their homes' environmental footprint can consult
, a Eugene-based green building company. Focusing on creating symbiotic relationships between buildings and their surrounding environment, it helps homeowners and businesses create the most sustainable structures possible. The city of Eugene also created a
Solid Waste and Green Building Program
that aims to "reduce greenhouse gas production, promote sustainable economic development, and support local self-sufficiency activities."
Eugene is an ideal place to get involved with your cause of choice, whether you're into
fighting toxic pollution
. For hands-on volunteer opportunities, the Eugene
coordinates restoration days and tree planting at local watersheds. Find more volunteer opportunities
Meanwhile, organizations looking to print recycled fliers and postcards for their next public rally or campaign can head to
. This sustainable printing company believes that recycled paper and Earth-friendly inks shouldn't cost more than their less environmentally friendly counterparts. Better yet, in honor of Earth Day in 2009, the company planted a tree for every order it received.
(MNN homepage photo:
Destination of the Week: Eugene, Ore.
Famous for its green landscapes and even greener citizens, Oregon's Emerald City is an environmental wonderland.