Submitted by Lauren Patton
Student, Masters in Urban and Regional Planning
Portland State University
My first experience with First Stop Portland gave me a glimpse of what cities need to be successful: individuals who care about true progress. Organizations may proclaim their green inclinations, but the everyday actions of individuals who make up those organizations are far more important. The Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy Network (ELEEP) is a self-selected group of leaders who want to influence policy within their organizations. The delegation I worked with consisted of Americans and Europeans living all over the
world who have taken it upon themselves to push for a green
revolution within their organizations. I met a lawyer working for the EPA, an Austrian working on transportation in Mexico City, and a dozen other professionals from a variety of locations and organizations.
While riding the Yellow Line MAX train with them, I realized that the world needs people in every profession looking for game changing solutions. Getting off at the next stop, we came across one small example. We learned that the chains that act as a barricade at the MAX stations are actually made of recycled milk jugs instead of metal. The practice saved the project a ton of money, not to mention conservation of resources. The ELEEP delegation wanted to know where that idea came from-- at what point in the development process did someone think of that? It was not an order from someone at the top of the project, our tour guide told us, but rather someone involved in the construction process in touch with the day-to-day details.
It all comes back to discrete actions taken by individuals; we can all continue to do our jobs as normal or we can find ways to incorporate innovative green solutions.
The ELEEP delegation was in Portland to learn about our successes, but in reality there were just as many things that we could learn from them. Their time in Portland was really a two-way dialogue: they spent a day giving presentations to Portland's leadership at City Hall and spent another day hearing from our experts. I was fortunate to spend a day with them, because now I have a better idea of what it takes for cities to succeed. Cities need professionals who will take it upon themselves to innovate because bottom up solutions can mean just as much as top down ones.