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Grist: How Sustainable Neighborhoods Could Reshape Cities

Author: Greg Hanscom
November 29, 2011

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Greg Hanscom uses an eco-district in Denver to show how community involvement in sustainable living could generate large energy savings.

I once worked for a New Yorker who loved to wisecrack that the only difference between Denver and yogurt was that "yogurt's got culture."

Looking at the Mile High City's endless sprawl of lookalike, Anywhere, U.S.A. subdivisions, it's easy to understand where he was coming from. But in a former warehouse district just off of downtown, an innovative experiment in neighborhood-level sustainability is underway that could show New York and the rest of the country what really rocks the house when it comes to eco-centric living.

The project, and others like it around the country, started with a simple observation: While cities have been leaders in the effort to combat climate change, much of the action within cities occurs at the neighborhood level. "The neighborhood is a geography, a scale that resonates with people," says Rob Bennett, executive director of the nonprofit Portland Sustainability Institute. "Neighborhoods have always been a powerful and important part of how we view city-building, and how we view ourselves as citizens."

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