- Not all US cities care equally about the environment.
- To find the most eco-conscious destinations across the country, we consulted a range of sources, from Siemens’ Green City Index for the US and Canada, to WalletHub’s list of the greenest cities in America.
- From vegetarian food truck eats to thrift store threads, Portland, Oregon, isn’t just hip – it’s sustainable, too.
- Atlanta, Georgia, has spearheaded initiatives ranging from a program that educates city employees about energy consumption to an ordinance that ensures new buildings funded by the city are silver LEED-certified.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
To find the most eco-conscious destinations across the country, we consulted a range of sources, including Siemens’ Green City Index for the US and Canada, which measures and rates the environmental performance of 27 cities in North America, and WalletHub’s list of the greenest cities in America, which compares 100 of the largest cities in the US across 26 “green” indicators like median air-quality and number of jobs accessible by public transit.
Keep reading to learn about 25 of the most eco-friendly US cities, from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Chicago, Illinois.
Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, topped The Daily Beast’s 2014 list of the greenest cities in the US. The site based its findings on government data and research conducted by Experian Marketing Services, a market research firm that has tracked the greening of America for more than 50 years.
According to The Daily Beast – which analysed several categories of data ranging from “The percentage of people who think and act in an eco-conscious way” to “The number of energy efficient commercial buildings per capita, as recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency” – 66.1% of Honolulu residents are very eco-conscious.
Given that Honolulu boasts numerous beaches, lush vegetation, and incredible volcanic landforms that make it one of the prettiest cities in America, it makes sense that the people who live there are dedicated to preserving natural resources.
Portland earned the top spot on Travel + Leisure’s 2015 readers’ survey of the greenest cities in America. The magazine asked readers to rank destinations based on eco-friendly offerings like mass-transit options and restaurants that source ingredients locally.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco came in first on WalletHub’s 2017 ranking of America’s greenest cities, and second in 2018. The personal finance website compared 26 eco-focused data points for the 100 largest cities in the country such as median air-quality index and number of jobs accessible by public transit.
In 2011, Siemens named San Francisco the greenest city in the US and Canada on its Green City Index. From a law that requires residents and businesses keep recycling and compost material separate from normal trash to widescale dedication to solar energy (including 60,000-square-foot solar paneling on the roof of the San Francisco Convention Center), the Golden City demonstrates how metros can do their part to save the planet.
Austin is the greenest city in the US according to ListShack, which compiled data on eco-friendly features such as bike lanes and farmers’ markets.
Washington, District of Columbia
Placing 3rd overall on WalletHub’s 2018 greenest cities list, Washington, DC, is known for its eco-friendly initiatives.
According to census estimates, 17,000 people in America’s capital routinely commuted to work via bicycles in 2016.
With nearly 500 parks, it’s easy to see why Seattle consistently ranks high on greenest city lists. From the wetlands and hiking trails at Golden Gardens to the tranquility of Kubota Garden, which combines Japanese design and Northwestern horticulture, there’s an urban oasis at every turn.
If you do the maths, Madison’s greenery amounts to 11.6 parks per 10,000 residents – and that’s without counting the city’s arboretum.
Siemens ranked Denver fifth in its Green Cities Index for the US and Canada. From prioritising brownfield cleanup projects to encouraging the use of electric vehicles and alternate fuel sources, the Mile-High City does its part for the planet.
Next year, Denver – which has an outstanding park system comprising 240 urban parks and 14,000 acres of mountain parks – will host Greater & Greener, an international urban park conference.
Boston – which is home to the oldest subway system in America – is also one of the most walkable cities in the US. On Walk Score’s 2017 ranking of the top cities for pedestrians, Boston came in third after New York and San Francisco.
In 2017, Condé Nast Traveller named Boston the second-greenest US city, citing its walkability and access to public spaces like Boston Common and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway.
Chicago has more than 600 parks – including Millennium Park, where you’ll find the famous “Cloud Gate” sculpture (aka the Bean), and Garfield Park, home to one of the largest greenhouses in America. In fact, Chicago’s official motto is “Urbs in horto,” which is Latin for “City in a garden.”
Known for its architecture, Chicago also has one of the highest number of green roofs of any US city, with over 5 million square feet of coverage.
New York City, New York
Greenery might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you picture New York, but the largest city in America is pretty eco-friendly.
On the Siemens Green City Index for the US and Canada, New York came in third overall, and ranked first for land use and transportation.
According to Walk Score, the Big Apple is the most walkable urban hub in the US, plus it has an extensive subway system and a popular Citi Bike bicycle sharing program.
On Travel + Leisure’s readers’ poll of the most eco-friendly urban locales, the Twin Cities placed second. Through the Nice Ride MN bike share program, Minnesotans can rent bikes at more than 200 stations.
Minneapolis was also one of the top 10 greenest cities on the Siemens Green Cities Index.
San Diego, California
With an overall score of 72.53, San Diego earned the top spot on WalletHub’s 2018 greenest cities list. It came in second in 2017.
On Travel + Leisure’s readers’ survey of eco-friendly cities, people lauded San Diego’s green hotels, which are committed to recycling and cut back on energy with features like aerating showers.
Anchorage ranked second on NerdWallet’s list of the greenest US cities.
Southern charm may be one of the best things about living in Georgia, but the state’s capital, Atlanta, is also known for being eco-friendly.
On its Green City Index for the US and Canada, Siemens reported that Atlanta has spearheaded initiatives ranging from a program that educates city employees about energy consumption to an ordinance that ensures new buildings funded by the city are silver LEED-certified.
Atlanta also has the third-highest number of farmers’ markets per capita in America according to a 2017 ranking by the discount travel service RewardExpert.
Phoenix, which has been hailed as the next Silicon Valley, is also on the cutting edge when it comes to saving the environment.
From Energize Phoenix – an initiative to transform ten miles of the city’s Valley Metro light rail line into a Green Rail Corridor – to extensive nature preserves, Arizona’s capital is committed to being eco-friendly, according to Siemens’ Green City Index.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
While it may be famous for its annual hot air balloon festival, there’s plenty to see on the ground in Albuquerque, which boasts more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails.
New Mexico’s largest city also gets eco-friendly kudos for the Downtown Growers’ Market, a solar-powered farmers’ market.
Charlotte, North Carolina
In its Green City Index, Siemens reports that Charlotte’s environmental initiatives span from free water audits – which allow homeowners to gauge their water usage – to single-stream recycling (all recycling goes in one bin and is then separated by the waste company).
There are several ways in which Reno is environmentally friendly, from the energy efficient LED bulbs that illuminate the city’s iconic arch to its solar-powered parking meters.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City, where 61.4% of residents claim to be eco-conscious, placed seventh on The Daily Beast’s list of the greenest cities in the US.
With more than 900 acres of public parks to explore, it’s easy to enjoy nature in Utah’s capital.
New Orleans, Louisiana
In New Orleans, an organisation called LifeCity helps local businesses increase their sustainability. And with a strong antique and vintage scene, there are plenty of shopping opportunities for the eco-conscious consumer.
The Big Easy – where you’ll find more than 2,000 acres of public parks – is also big on green space.
On its Green City Index, Siemens reports that Miami has rolled out a handful of eco-friendly initiatives over the years. These range from a curbside recycling program to a greenhouse gas emissions inventory.
57.4% of the city’s residents are eco-conscious, according to The Daily Beast.
In 2012, Cincinnati, which made WalletHub‘s and NerdWallet‘s greenest city rankings, became the largest US city to offer its residents 100% renewable electricity. With a park system that comprises more than 5,000 acres, greenery is also abundant.
Buffalo, New York
Although it’s better known as the birthplace of the eponymous wings, Buffalo – which appears on WalletHub‘s and NerdWallet‘s lists of the greenest cities in America – was once known as the “City of Trees.”
The City of Brotherly Love is also home to Fairmount Park, one of the world’s largest urban park systems.
- Read more:
- The 50 least environmentally friendly cities in the US
- ‘Greenwashing’ is the latest tourist trap – here’s how to avoid it
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