First on the list is the university town, Eugene. Garnering a score of 9.0375, with population of 137,893. Eugene is well-known as a powerhouse of green industry, clustering sustainable businesses like an environmentally minded Silicon Valley.
It is known as the Plywood Capital of the Known Universe. Its economy has been dominated by the timber industry since Day One, and lumber is still king of the local economy, not “green industry.”
Portland is known as the “Silicon Forest” — there are lots of computer businesses in the sprawling western suburbs – but Eugene has one major computer business (Hyundai). There are some smaller high-tech businesses that are in part spinoffs from the University of Oregon.
Eugene may become a center for the emerging nanotechnology industry (via a University research center) but this is not a “green” industry, since there has been very little health research on nanoparticles, although some early research suggests severe brain damage from carbon-60 “buckyballs.”
Nestled in the Willamette River Valley with views of the Cascade Mountains, residents enjoy numerous bike trails, clean air and water, parkland and outlying wilderness areas.
The air in Eugene is clean when it is raining. In the winter, cold temperatures lead to inversions that trap pollutants. In the spring, grass pollen counts soar to astronomical levels. In the summer, smoke from grass seed burning makes “no smoking” rules seem absurd. In the fall, timber companies burn acre after acre of slash piles from their clearcuts – usually with plastic tarps over the piles (they get burned, too). And nearly everywhere in rural Lane County gets sprayed by the timber companies with herbicides, since clearcutting forests is a great way to grow invasive weeds and the timber companies are not interested in selective forestry that avoids this problem.
A mention of vast sea of clearcuts between the City and the “outlying wilderness areas” would paint a less flattering picture.
These clearcuts are so enormous they are easily seen on satellite photos. The wilderness areas are also easily seen – they are the only areas that do not have any clearcuts. Most of the wilderness areas are high elevation forests that have smaller trees and slower growth that the lower elevation zones with longer growing seasons.
Hydroelectric and wind power contribute over 85 percent of Eugene’s power, reducing greenhouse gas emissions considerably. A little over 16 percent of Eugene is green space, including athletic fields, city parks, public gardens, trails and waterfront. The city has over 2,500 acres of publicly owned wetlands, and its West Eugene Wetlands Program includes a mitigation bank, a native plant nursery, protected wetlands and educational features.