In everything from emissions control to environmental stewardship, cities across the country are far ahead of the federal government, and they’re achieving their successes with ready-made technology. Austin has pledged to meet 30 percent of its energy needs with renewable sources by 2020, aided by planned wind-power installations that will surpass their predecessors in efficiency. Seattle has retrofitted its municipal heavy-duty diesel vehicles with devices that will reduce particulate pollution by 50 percent. Boulder has enacted the country’s first electricity tax to pay for greenhouse-gas emission reductions. Something about the comparative speed of city government—a city-council member can greenlight a project and be cutting the ribbon a year later—leads to bold action, and as cities trade ideas, a very positive sort of mimicry is spreading.
The 10 trailblazing civic projects profiled in our list of the top green cities in America are among the most impressive success stories to date—examples of what’s possible when elected officials and local business leaders back up their green visions with scientific know-how, clout and creative funding.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.