For last week's Earth Day, we received a press release regarding titled, "America's 10 most polluting mountain towns." It is not a list that Bend wants to see itself on, but there it is: seventh worst polluting "mountain town" in America.
The report is troubling, and hopefully one that Bendites will fully consider.
It came from Teton Gravity Research, a Jackson Hole-based organization that primarily produces ski, surf, and snowboard films—meaning, Teton Gravity is not based on some political ideology, but instead, these are people cut from the same Gor-Tex fabric many Bendites are, and that's why their report was so keenly punishing.
What is also particularly difficult to stomach is that their report is not a subjective examination of environmental habits, but is strictly ranking cities based on household carbon emissions output—and, in that regard, Bend is doing very poorly.
In the notes accompanying the ranking, one of the Teton Gravity researcher states: "Now, my first impression of Bend isn't necessarily that of an environmentally neglectful ski town." But he goes on to explain that Bend generates 46.2 metric tons of CO2 pollution per household annually. "Considering that Bend is one of the fastest growing communities in Oregon, with over half of its residents having moved in in the last 15 years, it's no surprise that they have struggled to accommodate their rapidly growing population," the report continues.
The report separates carbon emissions into primary sources—transportation, housing, food, goods, and services. Like the other nine cities on the list, in Bend, "transportation" is the primary contributor to carbon emissions.
But, in Bend, those numbers are particularly bad—and without much hope for redemption. Transportation emissions account for roughly one-third of all emissions here and are as bad as all but three of the other cities, including the Hood River area, which is a particularly bad offender (overall, fourth worst on the list and the worst for transportation-generated emissions, with households in that region owning an average of three vehicles).
The report goes on to point out that other cities—like Jackson Hole, which ranks 10th worst on the list—are putting in place specific and direct transportation systems to curb these emissions—and that their residents are responding.
"Unlike Bend, Stowe, and Truckee," says the report, "nearly a fifth of Jackson's population utilizes the valley's public transportation system."
But in Bend, bike commuting and public transportation remains negligible.
Bend needs to take a hard look at its habits—and recognize that being an outdoor enthusiast does not necessarily translate to being a good steward of the environment.
Yes, there are remarkable ski trails, mountain lakes, hiking trails and stretches of river to kayak, but do you ask how far most people drive to reach those activities?
Yes, Bend has a robust public park system, but have you ever asked whether those are maintained pesticide free?
Yes, there are obvious ironies—and, yes, in real numbers, Bendites are polluting.
What did you do for Earth Day?
America's Most Polluting Mountain Towns
Source: Teton Gravity Research
10. Jackson Hole, WY
9. Truckee, CA
8. Aspen, CO
7. Bend, OR
6. Park City, UT
5. Stowe, VT
4. Hood River, OR
3. Steamboat Springs, CO
2. Missoula, MT
1. Salt Lake City, UT