Sustainability is rapidly becoming one of the most esteemed values in recent years. Local and state governments are putting more and more emphasis on developing collective eco-friendly communities, as they ban the use of plastic bags and businesses commit to net-zero energy emissions. Individually, people are more aware of the effects their actions have on the environment, and sustainable lifestyles are more common than ever before. What you wear, what you drive, and even where you live are chosen with sustainability top of mind.
Believe it or not, your ability to achieve a greener lifestyle can depend heavily on the city you live in. Your neighborhood’s environmental legislation will impact anything from the way you recycle to the transportation you use. Whether you’re in a city that’s missing the mark on sustainability and you’re ready to take action, or you’re searching for energy-efficient houses on the market in any of the greenest cities in the fifty states, it’s important to consider that city’s sustainability efforts to determine if it’s the right place for you to live.
That said, here is a list of some of the top 10 US cities studied and ranked in terms of sustainability, factoring in policy, lifestyle, environment, transportation, and more.
San Francisco, CA
The study ranked San Francisco most sustainable overall, which may not come as a surprise to many, as environmental efforts have been consistently apparent here for years. The popularity of the vegan movement fuels its sustainable food endeavors, evident in the abundance of safely-grown and harvested local produce. The city uses less than half the average amount of water than the rest of California, and public transportation is committed to low- or zero-emission, making it a great place to live for those looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Honolulu stands proudly at the front of the pack based on its high scores in the environment category. The region pays close attention to water pollution by taking advantage of permaculture gardens that lessen stormwater runoff, while maintaining the highest use of solar power of all US cities. The city has also dedicated efforts to reducing its waste production, with several non-profit organizations leading the charge to limit single-use plastic and push for proper disposal of each category of waste. Residents of Honolulu can appreciate and utilize its unique geography to achieve self-sustainability.
San Diego, CA
Yet another one of many Californian cities tops the list, ranking impressively in all the core areas of sustainability. This coastal city is known as one of the cleanest US cities, and one of the first to commit to 100% renewable energy. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan states that it plans to be 50% below its 2010 greenhouse gas levels by 2035 and transition all public transportation to electric vehicles. The city is also dedicated to addressing and resolving issues regarding rising sea levels, endangered wildlife, coastal erosion, and stormwater education.
The capitol is known for its eco-friendly public transportation methods and LEED-certified infrastructure. Its walkability makes it easier to achieve low emissions. In fact, 58% of commutes are completed by bike, on foot, or via public transportation. A city-wide bikeshare system also helps residents avoid using personal vehicles. In addition, restaurants in D.C. are quite sustainable as well. Many restaurants adamantly use fresh local produce, practice composting, and some even run entirely on solar power. Its environmental values are clearly embedded into the culture of the city, which is dedicated to becoming the most livable, sustainable, and healthy place in the states.
This northwestern city is another city with a clear plan of action for achieving true sustainability. Similar to the plans listed above, Portland has set goals to champion a sustainable food program and energy and green building initiatives. Not only that, but the city has what they have dubbed “fix-it fairs”, in which homeowners can attend to learn how they can make their own homes more energy-efficient. Much of the success in their efforts is obtainable through policy, as buildings are required to meet a certain set of sustainability standards to help the city achieve its goals.
Altering your lifestyle to be more environmentally conscious can be a challenge, but making small changes to your own daily habits is the first step in helping society as a whole become more sustainable. Sustainability is driving our future, so if you’re looking to relocate to fit your green lifestyle, or even simply get educated, learn about what strides other cities are making and apply them to your own neighborhood.