The Greener Guide to Seeing Portland More Sustainably

The Portland Japanese Garden is a peaceful place to explore on foot
The Portland Japanese Garden is a peaceful place to explore on foot | © Davidgn /
Photo of Imogen Lepere
22 November 2021

Vegetarian restaurants, tranquil Japanese gardens and beauty stores where Mother Nature might go to stock up – all in a day’s work for this eco-minded Oregon city.

Plastered on bumper stickers and shining out from murals, the city slogan “Keep Portland Weird” does a lot to capture its particular brand of indie charm. Each neighborhood feels like a village with its own distinct crowd, from hippie Hawthorne to the well-heeled Pearl District. Given that Portland is directly at risk from climate change – hugged by two rivers, draining into the rising Pacific Ocean – it’s hardly surprising that it’s tackling things head-on. Urban growth boundaries declared in 1979 protect the glorious countryside around it and encourage innovation within the city, and it’s also on a mission to run exclusively on renewable energy by 2050.


Cafe, Restaurant, Healthy, $$$
A vegan salad with broccoli, shredded carrots, mushrooms, avocado and more
© Maddi Bazzocco / Unsplash

The best weekend mornings start with brunch at Harlow, a homey vegetarian restaurant. Pull up a mismatched chair at one of its upcycled wooden tables and tuck into the tofu scramble, vegan biscuits with gravy, home-made granola, or comforting bowl food. There’s also a large fresh juice menu, perfect for savoring while you watch the artsy types in Hawthorne pop in and out of thrift shops from the window.

The Nines

The Urban Farmer Restaurant at the Nines, complete with wood floors, colorful patchwork seating and lots of greenery
Courtesy of The Nines / Expedia

In a building dating back to 1909, with a lobby papered in silver and houndstooth wallpaper, this hotel exudes refined glamour. Rooms feature billowy drapes and leather headboards, as well as sweet-smelling, ecofriendly BeeKind toiletries. Other green initiatives include energy-efficient lifts, beehives on the roof and donating leftovers from the restaurant to local charities.

World Forestry Center Discovery Museum

A close-up view of a colorful totem pole
© Fotowalk /

Within the greenery of Washington Park, this quirky museum and education center is a 20,000sqft (1,858sqm) homage to trees and their management. Inside, you’ll find a 5m-year-old petrified tree stump, totem poles, exposed root tunnels and a series of videos showing how people around the world manage their local forests sustainably. It also hosts regular lectures about what the timber industry might look like in the future.

Heathman Hotel

A luxurious two-story library in shades of black and gray and lots of wood with comfy seating and thousands of books at the Heathman Hotel
Courtesy of Heathman Hotel / Expedia
The little black dress of the Portland hotel scene, this classic hotel never goes out of style. Expect chandeliers, wood paneling, doormen dressed in sleek teal-and-goldenrod uniforms, and coffee from Water Avenue Coffee Company in every room. The hotel subsidizes transport passes for the staff, encouraging them to leave their cars at home, and as a guest, you’ll have access to a fleet of bicycles.

Portland Japanese Garden

Botanical Garden
Fall foliage by the Moon Bridge in the Portland Japanese Garden on a foggy morning
© YAYImages /
When former Japanese ambassador Nobuo Matsunaga visited this garden, he described it as “the most authentic and beautiful Japanese garden in the world outside Japan” – a description that really sums it up. These 12 tranquil acres (5ha) of Washington Park are filled with ferns, fountains and Japanese maples that appear to blaze come fall – an ideal setting for a few hours of thinking or journaling time.

Kimpton RiverPlace

A stylish living area in a suite at the Kimpton RiverPlace, complete with patterned carpet, a black-and-white circular coffee table, and a plush sofa
Courtesy of Kimpton RiverPlace / Expedia

This riverside hotel has the feel of a luxury mountain lodge thanks to burlap wallpaper and wood-burning stoves in bigger rooms. However, fun touches, such as tiger-stripe lapels on robes and regular craft-beer-themed events, stop things from feeling stuffy. Kimpton was the first hotel brand to achieve Green Key sustainability ratings across its entire portfolio, too.


A plant leaf against a white background
© Sarah Dorweiler / Unsplash

If Mother Nature had bathroom cabinets, chances are they would be full of Blendily creams, soaps and herbal remedies. Every product is made by hand in the shop, using plants grown in the organic Blendily gardens or foraged in the Pacific Northwest forests. With products for your face, hair and body, consider it a one-stop shop for a green glow-up.

Noble Rot

Bar, Restaurant, American, $$$

Soak up the bright lights of Portland from the top floor of an environmentally pioneering LEED Platinum building while sipping a sensational selection of natural wines. This wine bar and restaurant is practically an ecosystem, drawing water from an 8,000-year-old aquifer under the building and harvesting many vegetables from a 3,000sqft (279ha) rooftop garden. Menus change almost daily but are always fresh, flavorful and beautifully presented.

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