By Kelly Rondeau
Green Right Now

Move over Seattle, Portland, and Austin and other green heavyweights — make room for some like-minded¬† newcomers.

Columbus, Ohio; New Orleans, La., Syracuse, N.Y., and Louisville, Ky., residents might not be wearing Birkenstocks and basking under solar tubes. But they are living in some of the growing number of mid-sized American cities that are making impressive green strides, changing their attitudes and getting smarter about eco-choices.

Syracuse, led by Mayor Matthew Driscoll,¬† is becoming a greener “Emerald City” of New York with its sustainability website, partnerships with area universities and an impressive number 17 placement for 2008 on Popular Science’s list of the 50 Greenest Cities in the U.S..

“Going green makes sense — we’re the third largest collegiate community in America — we have major research institutes all right here. We’re a plethora of green activity, making green-collar jobs available,” Driscoll said. “Just ten years ago, I was talking about going green and people didn’t really get it. Now, with people paying four bucks a gallon in gas at times, people are listening. They’re very much in tune with conservation and transitioning into a green city.”

Also looking at a greener horizon, Mayor Michael B. Coleman is easing Columbus toward the earth-friendly forefront. “There are many, many green initiatives going on right now. We have an award-winning green fleet program, and we are making our city buildings green. We have a new “Green Spot” program with over 650 businesses and community groups signing up so far to make sure our city is making greener choices,” he says.

“I was an early supporter of going green in Columbus. I believe we must tackle our environmental issues head on, and I’ve created “The Green Memo”, which lays out a plan for making our air and water cleaner, and for attracting new, green jobs in our city,” he said.

With conservation becoming a must, and urban areas trying to find ways to save money like never before, going green is presenting simple and attractive solutions. Here are the most buzzed-about green happenings for these four locations, some of which are garnering national attention:

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus didn’t make the Popular Science list, but it’s got its own ambitious list of green initiatives and could develop into an unlikely green champion of the Rust Belt.