This week, NRDC released the “2010 Smarter Cities” list of 22 municipalities that are leading the way in green power, energy efficiency, and conservation. These cities are already testing out the solutions that will launch America into the 21st century clean energy future.

I have long viewed cities as incubators of environmental innovation. While I love to spend time in the Adirondack woods or Rocky Mountains, I have lived in New York City for decades and appreciate the green opportunities it presents.

On the individual level, I can ride the subway to work, buy local food at farmers markets, and purchase renewable power from my utility—all of which help me shrink my carbon footprint.

On the citywide level, New York is strengthening building codes to support efficiency, waiving city sales tax on the cleanest, most efficient vehicles, and introducing biodiesel into the city’s truck fleet. All these incentives help drive investment into cleaner energy sources.

These initiatives—and many of the other measures included in PlaNYC—helped land my hometown on the “2010 Smarter Cities” list.

But the list also includes some cities that might surprise you.

Take Columbus, Ohio, for instance. You might not expect to see clean energy measures taking root in a Rust Belt city, but Columbus has realized that cutting down on energy costs and reducing dangerous pollution will help the economy and improve life for its residents.

Back in 2007, the city signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, committing Columbus to reduce global warming pollution by 40 percent by 2030.

To meet that goal—and to save money—the city has focused heavily on reducing energy use. It is retrofitting city buildings, promoting public transit and bike routes so that 10 percent of all commutes are done without a car, and offering an efficiency program for manufacturers that has slashed participating business’ annual energy spending by a total of $1.7 million.

With measures like these, Columbus—and all the other cities on the “2010 Smarter Cities” list—is quietly finding answers to some of our toughest energy questions.

The lessons they learn offer a concrete road map for how the nation as a whole can reduce global warming pollution and generate millions of green jobs for Americans.

But that is not all American cities are learning. Energy is just one of a dozen “sustainability factors” that NRDC’s Smarter Cities project is using to identify places that are paving the way with best practices and model legislation. Stay tuned to the Smarter Cities website for news on more urban environmental leaders.