Eco-friendliness and personal finance are related. Our environmental and financial needs are the same in many areas: providing ourselves with sustainable, clean drinking water and food, for example. We also spend money through our own consumption and taxes in support of environmental security.
On top of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the U.S. also had a record number of natural disasters that did at least a billion dollars in damage, at 22. While some disasters are unavoidable, others are exacerbated by humans. For example, one big factor in the high amount of hurricanes in the past year was unusually warm Atlantic waters. It’s possible that living more sustainably and using greener energy sources could prevent us from having quite as bad hurricane seasons in the future – and saving a lot of money in repairs as a result.
We should all try to do our part to save the world for future generations. In order to highlight the greenest states and call out those doing a poor job of caring for the environment, WalletHub compared each of the 50 states on 25 key metrics. Our data set ranges from green buildings per capita to the share of energy consumption from renewable resources.
Most Environmentally Friendly States
Note: *No. 1 = Greenest
With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Red States vs. Blue States
For more insight into eco-friendliness at the household, government and global levels, we asked the following questions to a panel of environmental and economic experts. Click on the experts’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
- What policies can state and local authorities pursue to make their communities more environmentally friendly?
- Is there an inherent tradeoff between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth?
- Research indicates that the current decade will be crucial for slowing heat-trapping emissions. In your opinion, how will the policies proposed by the Biden administration fare in combating climate change?
- What is the single most impactful thing an individual can do to reduce their effect on the environment?
- Has the global disruption caused by the COVID-19 had any impact on the environment and climate?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the greenest states, WalletHub compared the 50 states across three key dimensions: 1) Environmental Quality, 2) Eco-Friendly Behaviors and 3) Climate-Change Contributions.
We evaluated those dimensions using 25 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest level of eco-friendliness.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.
Environmental Quality – Total Points: 35
- Air Quality: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average exposure of the general public to particulate matter of 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or less in size.
- Water Quality: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
- Soil Quality: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Note: This metric measures the difference between the median soil pH level and the optimal soil pH level.
- Energy-Efficiency Score: Full Weight (~8.75 Points)
Eco-Friendly Behaviors – Total Points: 35
- Green Buildings per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita.
- Total Capacity of Solar PV Systems Installed per Household: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: “PV” is an acronym for photovoltaic.
- Share of Renewable Energy Consumption: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Energy Consumption per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Gasoline Consumption (in Gallons) per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Daily Water Consumption per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Share of “Smart” Electricity Meters: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: Smart meters are energy meters with enhanced, two-way communication technology that provide information to energy providers and consumers about prices, usage patterns, and inefficiencies. The deployment of smart meters is an excellent example of better technology and better data being used to conserve energy, save money, and grow the economy. The total number of meters with advanced metering infrastructure (i.e., smart meters) across residential, commercial, and industrial sectors is divided by the total number of electricity meters across residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.
- Alternative-Fuel Vehicles per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides data for the number of alternative-fuel vehicles for these four fleets only: federal government agencies, state government agencies, transit agencies and fuel providers.
- Alternative-Fuel Stations per Capita: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Green Transportation: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of the population who walk, bike, carpool, take public transportation or work from home.
- Average Commute Time by Car: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
- Certified Organic Farms per Capita: Double Weight (~3.89 Points)
- Corporate Clean Energy Procurement Index Score: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: The index ranks all 50 U.S. states based upon the ease with which companies can procure RE (renewable energy) for their operations located within each state. The index consists of 15 indicators, broken into three categories:
- UTILITY PURCHASING OPTIONS, which ranks states based upon the opportunities available to procure RE through utilities in the state, as well as looking at electric utility market factors;
- THIRD-PARTY PURCHASING OPTIONS, where states are ranked by how readily companies can procure RE through third-party (i.e., non-utility) developers and other organizations;
- ONSITE/DIRECT DEPLOYMENT OPTIONS, which analyzes states based upon how effectively companies can deploy RE onsite (such as rooftop solar panels) or through other direct purchasing options.
- State Renewable Portfolio Standards: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This binary metric considers the presence or absence of renewable portfolio standards in the states. Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) requires that a specified percentage of the electricity that utilities sell comes from renewable resources.
- States with Electronic Waste Recycling Programs: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of e-waste recycling programs in the states.
- States with Multifamily Recycling Policies: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This metric measures the presence or absence of multifamily recycling policies in the states.
- Water Efficiency and Conservation & Climate Points: Full Weight (~1.94 Points)
Note: This composed metric is based on data from Alliance for Water Efficiency’s “2017 Water Efficiency and Conservation State Scorecard” report.
Climate-Change Contributions – Total Points: 30
- Carbon-Dioxide Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Methane Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Nitrous-Oxide Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
- Fluorinated Greenhouse-Gas Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~7.50 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, United Health Foundation, International Plant Nutrition Institute, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Green Building Council, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Department of Energy, United States Department of Agriculture, Information Technology Industry Council, National Conference of State Legislatures, Environmental Finance Blog, Alliance for Water Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, Energy Information Administration and U.S. Geological Survey.