The Greenest Cities in the U.S.


If you’ve ever wondered which cities are the most environmentally friendly, you’re not alone. To answer that question, a list of the greenest cities was recently developed. The list ranks metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs*) with a population of over 1 million people based on these 5 factors:

The number of LEED certified buildings per each 1,000 residents

LEED buildings are certified to meet sustainability standards in energy efficiency, water consumption, and emission reductions. Measuring the number of LEED buildings allowed us to look at the city’s dedication to environmentally conscious infrastructure, and thereby determine if the city was moving in the right direction.

The city’s parkland as a percentage of the city’s land area

This data gave insight to a city’s dedication to maintaining parkland. Parks serve as habitats for wildlife, methods of removing CO2 from the atmosphere (improving air quality), and ways to keep people invested in the environment.

The miles of bike lane per 10,000 residents

Commuting by car is a notoriously inefficient and environmentally costly way to travel. By measuring bike specific infrastructure, we were able to gather data on how easy it is to avoid using cars to get around. Bikes are extremely efficient, and as an externality, promote more condensed development, further reducing a city’s environmental footprint.

The number of farmers markets per 10,000 residents

The farm-to-table movement has caught on for a reason; not only do local producers get food to you with less less transportation costs, but they also use sustainable practices. This combination makes a local farmers food, on average, a far more environmentally friendly option. Measuring farmers markets is a great way to see how prevalent these farmers are, and judge how receptive city-dwellers are to buying their food.

The number of electric car plug-ins per 10,000 residents

As one of the most telling metrics, the number of plug-ins helped us read the city’s ability to move away from fossil fuels. A higher number of plug-ins showed us that the infrastructure for electric cars was place, reducing the residents’ barrier to using an electric car. Electric cars are far more efficient than gas or diesel, especially in cities, making this data set a great way to forecast a city’s movement towards sustainability.  

Austin, TX, the clear winner, fared especially well in the ‘LEED Buildings’ category. The remainder of the ‘Top 10’ and ‘Honorable Mentions’ were much closer. Take a look at the rankings and breakdowns, it may not be what you expected!

Top 10 Greenest Cities

Honorable Mentions_Cities 11-20

Austin-Round Rock, TX

Portland- Vancouver- Hillsboro, OR-WA

Washington- Arlington- Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

Boston- Cambridge- Newton, MA-NH

San Jose- Sunnyvale- Santa Clara, CA

New York- Newark- Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA

Hartford- West Hartford- East Hartford, CT

Providence- Warwick, RI-MA

San Francisco- Oaklnad- Hayward, CA

Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN



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