Top 10 Greenest Cities in the U.S.

By Tom Schueneman, Green Options

The Mother Nature Network has just published their list of the ten greenest cities in the United States.

MNN considered key areas to measure the effectiveness of a municipality’s efforts at carbon footprint reduction, including air and water quality, efficient recycling and management of waste, percentage of LEED certified buildings, acres of land devoted to green space, use of renewable energy, and easy access to green products and services.

And the MNN winners are:

10- Austin, Texas: Austin Energy is the country’s largest provider of renewable energy. The city has an ambitious goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2020. Austin’s green space includes 206 parks, 12 nature preserves, 26 greenbelts, and more than 50 miles of trails.

Next: Greenest City #9

9 – Chicago, Illinois: Chicago adopted a long-range plan for land sustainability as far back as 1909, when pioneering city planner Daniel Hudsen developed a land use plan for the lakefront that balanced urban growth and created a permanent greenbelt around the city. Today, the city pursues an aggressive green roof agenda through the Chicago Green Roof Program with more than 2.5 million square feet of city roofs supporting plant life. The city has also recently planted about 500,000 new trees.

Next: Greenest City #8

8 – Seattle, Washington: More than 20 public buildings in the city are LEED-certified or under construction for LEED certification. An incentive program encourages residents to install solar panels, and Sustainable Ballard, a green neighborhood group, offers ongoing workshops teaching folks how to live in better harmony with the environment.

Next: Greenest City #7

7 – Berkeley, California: A recognized leader in innovation in clean energy technology and development, Berkeley also has an abundance of organic and vegetarian restaurants. The city is known as a leader in sustainability.

Next: Greenest City #6

6 – Cambridge, Massachusetts: Prevention Magazine deemed Cambridge the “best walking city” in 2008. The city is home to research and education powerhouses MIT and Harvard. In 2002 the city implemented a climate protection plan and today most city vehicles are fueled with B20 biodiesel or electricity. All new construction or major renovations must meet LEED standards. The “Compost that Stuff” program collects and processes organic waste from residents, restaurants, bars, and hotels.

Next: Greenest City #5

5 – Eugene, Oregon: Otherwise known as the Emerald City, Eugene has been in touch with its green self since the 1960s. In 2007 Eugene inaugurated a hybrid public transit system, winning a Sustainable Transport award in 2008. Bicycling is the preferred mode of transportation, with over 30 miles of off-street bike paths and 29 dedicated bike routes, Eugene sports an impressive 150 miles of smog-free transportation throughout the metropolitan area.

Next: Greenest City #4

4 – Oakland, California: The city currently gets 17 percent of its energy from renewable sources, with plans to be both oil-independent and have zero waste by 2020. Oakland has the country’s cleanest tap water, access to an abundance of fresh, locally-grown, organic food, and a hydrogen-powered public transit system. The country’s oldest wildlife refuge is in Oakland.

Next: Greenest City #3

3 – Boston, Massachusetts: In 2008 the city held its first annual Down2Earth conference designed to help educate residents on living a more sustainable lifestyle. Other green efforts include a “Green by 2015″ goal aimed at replacing all traditional taxi cabs with hybrid vehicles, recycling trash to power homes, getting more solar panels in operation, and encouraging the use of electric motorbikes for getting around the city.

Next: Greenest City #2

2 – San Francisco, California: San Francisco’s mayor Gavin Newson has declared “The City” as the nation’s solar power leader. San Francisco has an innovative recycling program and has its own “artist-in-residence” that uses his work to inspire residents to conserve and recycle. The first U.S. city to ban the use of plastic bags, San Francisco plans to divert 75% of its landfill waste by 2010.

Next: The #1 Greenest City in the U.S.

1 – Portland, Oregon: Number one in sustainability, Portland has been named the most bikable city in the United States for its over 200 miles of dedicated bike lanes. The city offers classes for such do-it-yourself sustainability pursuits as container gardening, cheese making, beekeeping, and chicken-keeping, to name a few. Portland is also home to Powell’s Books, one of the few remaining independent booksellers in the United States.

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Dolores M.
Dolores M6 years ago

This is such good news. It wonderful to see that the BIG cities are going green. Love Oregon....a clean, "green" and beautiful state.

Matilda H.
Past Member 6 years ago

Yay, go green cities! =)

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

Very nice. Thanks.

Kay O.
Kay O7 years ago

I would love to visit Austin and Portland, they are on my list.
The other cities I've been to and admire. Would it be possible
to have an international list? Thanks.

Dan S.
Dan S.7 years ago

Great to see San Francisco in there, it's my favorite city on the planet.
Web Marketing

Nancy Forler
Past Member 7 years ago

What a great way to get homeowners and business thinking of changing their energy needs. All cities and all states should be thinking about an incentive program now, especially with the problems in the Gulf. My hat goes off to any city who has faced the reality that oil has to go. Can you imagine all the new jobs that will be created - people back to work!!!!! Now is the time

gail d.
gail dair7 years ago


Nadia Ann
Past Member 8 years ago

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

FILM 2012


Larry B.
Larry B8 years ago

Imagine having federal funding bonuses tied to these rankings as an incentive?

Pris D.

I really enjoyed this info.
I traveled to portland oregon last summer and loved every minute of it. This city rocks.
I was surprised to read that sf does not allow plastic bags, good for them.