|Grand Rapids, MI
In 2011, when The Daily Beast included Grand Rapids in a slideshow of “America’s dying cities,” Mayor George Heartwell responded with an open letter to editor Tina Brown listing the ways in which he says his city is very much alive. Many of Grand Rapids’ accomplishments were related to the city’s sustainability programs: “Would a dying city have more LEED certified buildings per capita (2009) than any other American city?” Heartwell wrote to Brown. “Would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have awarded its Siemens’ Award for America’s most sustainable mid-sized city (2010) to a dying city?” Since then, Heartwell has overseen the launch of a new recycling program that allows Grand Rapids residents to put all recyclables — paper, plastic, cardboard, glass — into a single bin, leaving sorting to the city. The program has increased recycling by 80 percent, and saves the city $100,000 because there is less trash to incinerate.