Walking out of Portland’s City Hall, my Royal Rosarian contact – one of the city's official goodwill ambassadors – stopped to chat with the Occupy Portland folks camped out near the curb. “Was the food OK we dropped off last night?” she asked. The exchange was friendly and genuine, like they knew each other already. After a reception for sister cities the night before, the event's organizers took the leftover food out to the Occupy protestors. These were Portland’s business and civic leaders helping out what some consider homeless hippies. I shook my head, thinking this would never happen in San Antonio.
That was just one of a series of “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moments throughout my visit. I was in Portland on behalf of Fiesta San Antonio to see how the winner of last year’s IFEA Environmental Gold award handled sustainability. You have to learn from others if you want to improve, and I was ready to roll up my sleeves and pick up some trash in Portland.
But Portland doesn’t just stop at putting on a green festival. It’s considered a benchmark city in many categories.