The Most (and Least) Eco-Friendly US Cities

You might try to live an eco-friendly lifestyle at home. But how green is your community?

According to a Pew Research Center survey, roughly 59 percent of U.S. adults say climate change is affecting their community in some way — through weather, temperature changes, etc. And that point of view is even stronger in those who live near a coastline. Plus, according to another Pew survey, the majority of respondents think the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to protect the environment, including preventing water pollution, ensuring safe air quality and protecting animals and their habitats.

But not all communities are equal when it comes to being environmentally friendly. WalletHub recently released a study of the 100 largest U.S. cities, comparing 26 “green indicators” — i.e., factors that made the city more or less eco-friendly. It broke these factors into four main categories: environment, transportation, energy sources and lifestyle/policy. And each city received an overall green score based on points applied to the green indicators.

These are the 10 cities WalletHub found to be the most environmentally friendly, the 10 that could use some green improvements and some tips to make your own community a little more eco-friendly.

The Most Environmentally-Friendly Cities

Here are the top 10 greenest cities in the U.S., according to WalletHub.

10. Portland, Oregon

Bike commuter in Portland, Oregon

Credit: RyanJLane/Getty Images

Portland cracked the top 10 with a solid performance in some categories and a mediocre showing in others. It ranked 18th in energy sources and 59th in the environment category — which measured factors, such as air quality, green space, water quality and light pollution. But Portland boosted its overall green score with an eighth-place finish in the transportation category — in which it received the fourth highest bike score. And it took third in lifestyle/policy, in which it also came in third for the most farmers markets per capita.

9. Sacramento, California

Sacramento fared a little better than Portland in the environment category, coming in 38th place. It also took 19th for energy sources and ninth for lifestyle/policy. But its best showing was its fourth-place finish in the transportation category. That category included factors, such as the share of commuters who drive alone, the average commute time, the city’s walk and bike scores and the accessibility of jobs by public transit.

8. Seattle, Washington

Seattle just edged out Sacramento’s green score for eighth place overall. The city ranked 25th in the environment category, 21st in energy sources and 12th in transportation. And it was near the top of the pack for lifestyle/policy, finishing fourth. Metrics in that category included farmers markets and community-supported agriculture per capita, community garden plots per capita, green job opportunities and the number of local programs that promote green energy.

7. Fremont, California

Fremont was fairly average in two of the categories and stellar in the other two. It came in 52nd for transportation and 32nd for lifestyle/policy. But it took second place for environment — and within that category it came in first for the highest percentage of green space. Plus, it was No. 1 in the energy sources category — which included metrics, such as electricity from renewable sources, solar installations per capita and amount of smart-energy initiatives.

6. Honolulu, Hawaii

Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater including the hotels and buildings in Waikiki, Honolulu, Oahu island, Hawaii

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Who doesn’t love the environment of a Hawaiian island? Honolulu’s worst category rank was its 24th-place finish in energy sources. But it made up for that by taking fifth in environment, fifth in lifestyle/police and second in transportation. Within the categories, the city had the fifth lowest greenhouse gas emissions per capita. Plus, it tied for first (with Fremont and Alaska) for the highest percentage of green space. And it also tied for first for the most farmers markets per capita.

5. San Jose, California

San Jose’s overall green score just barely put it in front of Honolulu for its fifth-place finish. The city did fairly well in the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories, coming in 24th and 21st respectively. It took 13th for energy sources. And San Jose’s best category rank was its 10th-place finish in environment.

4. Irvine, California

Continuing California’s domination of the top 10 greenest cities, Irvine’s overall score was just a few tenths of a point better than San Jose’s — landing it in fourth place. The city’s only category rank out of the top 10 was its 27th-place finish in transportation. It took seventh in both the environment and lifestyle/policy categories. And it came in at No. 1 for energy sources.

3. Washington, D.C.

Even though many people wish the government would do more to combat climate change (or even admit it exists), the nation’s capital still is one of the greenest cities in the U.S. Washington, D.C., ranked 35th for environment and 17th for energy sources. It took sixth in the transportation category, in which it had the third lowest percentage of commuters who drive. (Not everyone gets a motorcade to stop D.C. traffic.) And, somewhat ironically, D.C. took No. 1 for lifestyle/policy — despite the ongoing political arguments on policies that would help the environment.

2. San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California

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We head back to the West Coast for the top two greenest cities. San Francisco took 20th for energy sources, ninth for transportation and sixth for environment. Within the transportation category, the city had the fourth lowest percentage of commuters who drive, and it received the second highest bike score, only behind Minneapolis. Plus, San Francisco ranked second for lifestyle/policy — tying for first (with Honolulu) for the most farmers markets per capita.

1. San Diego, California

San Diego took home the title for 2019′s greenest city in the United States — and underscored California’s dominance on the list. It ranked 19th in both the transportation and lifestyle/policy categories. And within lifestyle/policy, it came in fourth for the most farmers markets per capita. Plus, San Diego’s best category rank was its fourth-place finish in environment.

The Least Environmentally-Friendly Cities

Louisiana capitol building in Baton Rouge

Credit: felixmizioznikov/Getty Images

These 10 cities ranked at the bottom of WalletHub’s list.

10. Gilbert, Arizona
9. Cleveland, Ohio
8. Mesa, Arizona
7. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky
6. Detroit, Michigan
5. Memphis, Tennessee
4. Toledo, Ohio
3. St. Louis, Missouri
2. Corpus Christi, Texas
1. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Of those cities, Corpus Christi — along with Houston; Denver; Oklahoma City; Louisville, Kentucky; and Tulsa, Oklahoma — had some of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Plus, Baton Rouge and Lexington — along with Fresno, California; Laredo, Texas; and Hialeah, Florida — had very little green space compared to the other cities.

How to Be a Greener Member of Your Community

People Planting Tree In Park

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Regardless of where your city falls on this list (or whether it’s even on here at all), there are still several ways you can help to make your home a more eco-friendly place. Here are some tips to go green in your community.

Support local establishments

Instead of shopping at big box stores, support your community’s establishments that sell products made from local materials. A prime example of this: Eat at restaurants that source food from the area, and shop at farmers markets whenever possible.

Carpool

You know carpooling (and using public transit) is eco-friendly, but do you practice what you preach? Start a carpool group for school, work or even trips to the store. Even better, choose more sustainable methods of transportation whenever possible, such as walking and biking. Lobby your city for bike lanes and walking paths if you don’t already have them.

Organize Recycling Drives

Some communities have very accessible recycling and donation drives. But others make it difficult to sustainably get rid of items you no longer want. If your community falls into the latter camp, step up as an organizer. Learn what’s necessary to hold donation drives — as well as recycling events for items, such as toxic waste and electronics. Your community will thank you.

Connect with Community Members

A strong team can get things done more efficiently than a lone person. Find other members of your community who also care about building a more eco-friendly environment. Learn from each other, and band together to organize events, such as area cleanups, a community garden or even a Food Not Lawns initiative.

Bring issues to Local Government

You and your other eco-friendly community members will likely have to work with local government on many green initiatives. Do your homework, so you’re prepared to lobby for your causes. Ask your government about issues, such as reducing pesticide use, enacting greener building practices, expanding the recycling program or implementing a community solar project. Progress might be slow, but don’t let that discourage you from putting your voice out there.

Main image credit: Ron_Thomas/Getty Images

41 comments

Gino C
Gino C6 hours ago

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Peter Byesterday

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Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson9 days ago

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Lesa D
Lesa D12 days ago

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Richard B
Richard B19 days ago

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Christophe B
Christophe Bazin21 days ago

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Daniel N
Daniel N23 days ago

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Leo Custer
Leo Custer25 days ago

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Alice L26 days ago

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Leo C
Leo Custer26 days ago

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