How ‘Green’ is Your State?

How green is your state?

To find out, surf on over to and check out their 2016 analysis. The group compared all 50 states in terms of 17 key metrics that look at the health of the current environment as well as the environmental impact of people’s daily habits.

They grouped the metrics into three specific categories:

Environmental Quality: Researchers took stock of how much solid waste was generated per capita as well as the quality of the air, soil and water.

Eco-Friendly Behaviors: WalletHub measured the number of LEED-certified green buildings per capita, as well as the state’s transportation infrastructure and number of alternatively-fueled vehicles, as well as consumption of energy, gasoline and water.

Climate Change Contributions: This category focused on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per capita, along with emissions of other greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated greenhouse gases.

The research team then crunched data from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, American Chemistry Council, County Health Rankings, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the U.S. Green Buildings Council, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey and the World Resources Institute.

Their findings?

The ten greenest states were primarily in the Northeast, with the exception of one midwestern outlier and two states in the Pacific Northwest. Interestingly, California did not make the top ten greenest states list, coming in at number 12. On the other end of the spectrum, you might have expected a state like Texas to be the least green, but it was ranked #36—in the lower half of the country, definitely, but not the worst.

Greenest States

Vermont (greenest overall)
New York
New Hampshire
New Jersey

Least Green States

West Virginia
North Dakota
Wyoming (least green overall)

Perhaps not surprisingly, states considered politically “blue” are almost three times more environmentally responsible than red states.

Citizens of Missouri throw away the least amount of trash while Hawaii citizens throw away the most! And Maine recycles the most at 48 percent while Louisiana recycles only 1 percent, the least.

What value is this if you’re trying to improve the environmental quality of your own state? You can use WalletHub’s approach to compare counties in your own state and identify opportunities for improvement. (Cities might be too difficult to compare because they share so many county services, whereas county services do vary quite a bit.)

Of the 17 metrics WalletHub used, these five might be a good starting point for more specific analysis in your state:

Municipal Solid Waste: How much trash are citizens in each of your state’s counties throwing away? What enables people in a particular county to throw away less trash and recycle more? Are there plastic bag fees that encourage people to take reusable bags to the grocery store? Do curbside recycling programs make it easier for citizens to divert trash from the landfill? Have bans been put in place to prohibit use of polystyrene foam at fast food restaurants?

Gasoline Consumption: The amount of gas citizens use may vary widely from county to county. In WalletHub’s study, people living in New York consumed the least amount of gas of any state, which should be no surprise, given how densely people in the 5 boroughs of New York City live and how comprehensive the mass transit system is there. On the other hand, people in North Dakota consumed the most gasoline per capita, a reflection of the long distances folks drive from one part of the state to the next. Comparisons may be similar in rural vs urban counties in one state.

Energy Consumption: This comparison could be highly informative and might indicate the level of awareness people have one county to another when it comes to using electricity and natural gas. For example, some electric utilities might be particularly aggressive in educating consumers about the importance of energy conservation. The utility might also offer a package of incentives to get its customers to replace energy-wasting appliances with newer models. Knowing what strategies encourage residents of one county to save energy could be very valuable to managers of other counties as they strive to cut energy consumption and the carbon dioxide emissions that go along with it.

Water Consumption: The WalletHub analysis examined water quality, not consumption. But like energy consumption, analyzing the amount of water consumed in some counties compared to others in the same state could provide valuable insights into how to motivate people statewide to use water more wisely.

Number of LEED-Certified Buildings: Any time a new building is built, it should be able to meet at least the basic criteria for saving energy as established by the U.S. Green Building Council. Once a tally is made of all LEED-Certified buildings in a county, counties could start a friendly competition to see which ones build the most new LEED buildings over a certain period of time.

If these categories don’t correspond to the most pressing environmental challenges your state faces, choose some other categories that are more relevant. The key is to use comparisons  both to take stock of where things stand, and to use those comparisons to make things better. The comparisons will create useful benchmarks to measure its own progress over time, making both the planet and the people happier and healthier.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Jessica K.
Jessica K2 years ago

Am not too surprised by the findings. In my state people are trying to agitate for stricter disposal standards so at least there's hope. Thanks.

Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawn2 years ago

western australia and northern territory are worse enviromentally than us in new south wales, and tasmania and victoria would be better environmenatlly.......................i don't know how south australia and queensland fares in environment

Natasha salgado
Past Member 2 years ago

Not American tho a couple surprises i see on there.

Ruth S.
Ruth S2 years ago

NY, now that is a surprise! NY City must have been ignored!!

Ruth S.
Ruth S2 years ago