Portland, Maine: Green Living in a Small City


The news is out: Portland, Maine (pop. 66,000) is a hot little city. Big city dwellers move here for the walkable, livable scale and good schools. Small town folks are attracted by our density of entertainment options, from music clubs to minor league sports. Outdoor lovers can ski, boat, hit the beach, climb a mountain, or kayak to an island, all within an hour of downtown Portland. Of course, our foodie and beer culture are well-known, for good reason.

Perhaps the thing that ties it all together is Portland’s green sensibility. Residents appreciate the natural beauty and resources of Southern Maine and Casco Bay. We celebrate and protect it. We put our money and volunteer hours into it. Many of us incorporate green living into our lifestyle.

Here are a few things that make Portland a green little city:

Portland’s Farm-to-Table Game is Strong

Most surrounding towns have weekly farmers markets. Portland Farmers’ Market sets up shop seasonally on Saturdays in Deering Oaks and Wednesdays in Monument Square – the heart of downtown Portland. There’s also a winter market. Portlanders like to eat fresh local food, whether at home or dining out.
Portland’s world-class restaurants and grocers celebrate fresh seafood and locally grown produce and meat. We even have potato donuts. Forbes says Portland ranks #1 in the U.S.  for microbreweries per capita. Many more breweries dot the region just outside the city.  The New York Times documented Portland’s locavore culture. But the secret was out long before that.

We Buy Local

The cool kids in Greater Portland support local merchants and locally-owned business. Sure, we have our share of big box retailers and chain restaurants near the highway. But as you wander the neighborhoods of Portland, you’re struck by the lack of homogeneous “I could be anywhere” sprawl. Even our downtown buildings advertise names recognized here, but not everywhere.
Popular business groups like Portland Buy LocalSouth Portland Cape Elizabeth Buy Local and the Portland Downtown District lead the charge of local business owners. In addition to the usual supermarket chains, Portland has many produce stores, butcher shops, fish mongers and bakeries. Ethnic markets and bodegas offer Asian, Halal, and Central American specialties.

Portland’s Green Non-Profits and Government Cooperate

Non-profits like Portland Trails (70 miles of nature trails in the city), Maine Island Trail Association (America’s first water trail, linking 200 islands), Bicycle Coalition of Maine and Friends of Casco Bay are well-connected to city and regional governments. Organizations like Cape Elizabeth Land Trust work to protect and preserve wild spaces. We have an award-winning private community composting service, Garbage to Garden. Portlanders even discuss green living over beer every month at Portland Greendrinks.
Government is committed to being green, too. Bike corrals and bike lanes are visible and growing on city streets. Both Portland and South Portland have sustainability coordinators on staff. Both cities are converting landfills to solar farms. The City of South Portland has a small fleet of electric cars. Portland’s Metro buses run on natural gas and have bike racks. Hadlock Field, where the Portland Sea Dogs play baseball, has convenient bike racks, and is right on the bus line.

In Portland It’s Easy Being Green

Most of Portland’s business, dining and entertainment is on the downtown peninsula, 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. That makes it easy for downtown dwellers to leave the car at home and walk or bike (albeit with a few hills). It’s easy to walk from work to dinner to a show without breaking a sweat (thank you, Casco Bay breezes!). Even our finest restaurants and theatres are quite casual; you’ll fit right in with your sensible shoes and outerwear.

Buses, car-shares and taxis cover the city effectively. High school students ride the Metro Bus to school, allowing some families to avoid getting a separate vehicle. Portland’s neighborhood elementary schools are within walking distance for most students.

It’s even easy to get out of Portland without a car. Our airport (PWM) is 4 miles from Monument Square (30 min./ Metro, 12 min. / taxi). Concord Trailways and Amtrak offer several trips daily to Boston. Concord also operates 2 trips a day to midtown Manhattan. Both leave from the Portland Transportation Center, 2 miles from the city center.


If you’re looking to live in a city big enough to keep you entertained (and employed) and small enough to live a low-impact lifestyle, it’s tough to find a better place than Portland, Maine.