2017’s Greenest Cities in America
Green living is a conscious choice we make every day, albeit not an easy one for some. But everyone, regardless of political affiliation, has a responsibility to protect Mother Earth for future generations.
Today, nearly three in four Americans would agree with that statement. Some worry, however, that “going green” would cost the economy too much green and result in major employment cuts. But the Union of Concerned Scientists counter-argues that “more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.” The union further points out that fossil-fuel technologies tend to be capital-intensive, whereas the renewable-energy industry depends more heavily on labor. The Solar Foundation, for instance, reported that the solar industry created jobs nearly 20 times faster than the national rate in 2015.
Apart from employing Americans, clean energy and other “green” practices, such as recycling programs and urban agriculture, benefit the environment and public health, all of which contribute to America’s bottom line, according to many experts. Recognizing those advantages, cities across the U.S. have aligned their sustainability efforts with their economic goals and in turn have received handsome returns on such investments.
To determine the cities promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 largest cities across 22 key “green” indicators. Our data set ranges from greenhouse-gas emissions per capita to number of smart-energy policies and initiatives to green job opportunities. Read on for our findings, expert insight from a panel of researchers and a full description of our methodology.
Greenest Cities in America
‘Energy Sources’ Rank
‘Lifestyle & Policy’ Rank
|1||San Francisco, CA||74.24||6||7||19||1|
|2||San Diego, CA||72.90||7||12||12||8|
|5||San Jose, CA||68.86||10||19||13||23|
|15||North Las Vegas, NV||60.68||5||84||29||38|
|16||New York, NY||60.16||29||26||25||35|
|17||San Bernardino, CA||60.09||49||55||1||22|
|18||Chula Vista, CA||59.91||56||47||1||30|
|19||Los Angeles, CA||59.33||59||36||14||48|
|25||Long Beach, CA||57.35||73||23||1||43|
|27||St. Paul, MN||56.11||21||35||22||80|
|38||Santa Ana, CA||51.83||70||64||1||98|
|40||New Orleans, LA||51.77||12||31||64||91|
|44||Jersey City, NJ||51.23||11||28||99||84|
|45||Colorado Springs, CO||51.22||50||70||34||57|
|54||Virginia Beach, VA||49.63||4||96||89||20|
|59||Las Vegas, NV||48.82||85||34||27||53|
|61||San Antonio, TX||48.14||64||46||41||81|
|62||El Paso, TX||48.08||26||43||68||92|
|68||Fort Wayne, IN||46.11||44||75||83||75|
|71||St. Louis, MO||45.22||54||83||82||42|
|73||Fort Worth, TX||44.95||62||71||54||85|
|79||Kansas City, MO||44.18||84||22||66||73|
|91||Oklahoma City, OK||39.57||94||58||44||87|
|96||St. Petersburg, FL||38.57||82||77||96||97|
|99||Baton Rouge, LA||36.43||92||97||95||86|
|100||Corpus Christi, TX||36.41||97||72||46||88|
Ask the Experts
Environmental sustainability is one of the biggest challenges of our time. For additional insight, we asked a panel of experts to share their advice on the ways and benefits of reducing our carbon footprint. Click on the experts’ profiles below to read their bios and responses to the following key questions:
- Should cities invest in “going green”? What are the benefits of doing so?
- What types of “green” policies or investments offer the biggest bang for the buck?
- How can state and local authorities attract renewable-energy companies and other “green” businesses?
- What effect might recent changes at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Trump administration have on the environmental health of cities?
- What are some easy ways individuals can “go green” without much cost or effort?
- In evaluating the greenest cities, what are the top five indicators?
In order to determine the greenest cities in America, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 100 most populated cities across four key dimensions: 1) Environment, 2) Transportation, 3) Energy Sources and 4) Lifestyle & Policy.
We evaluated those dimensions using 22 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 greenest practices and policies. For metrics marked with an asterisk (*), we used the square root of the population to calculate the population size in order to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across cities.
Although recycling is vital to the sustainability efforts of each city, the types and sizes of recycling facilities vary widely by city. We therefore were unable to include — due to the lack of comparable city-level data — metrics that either measure the availability of recycling programs or the amount of waste recycled in each city.
Finally, we determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its total score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the cities in our sample. In determining our sample, we considered only the “city proper” in each case and excluded surrounding cities in the metro area.
Environment – Total Points: 40
- Median Air-Quality Index: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Greenhouse-Gas Emissions per Capita: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
- Urban Heat Island Effect: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average daily urban-regional temperature differences over a 10-year period.
- Green Space: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the percentage of parkland.
- Water Quality: Full Weight (~8.00 Points)
Transportation – Total Points: 25
- Share of Commuters Who Drive: Double Weight (~4.55 Points)
Note: This metric includes commuters who do not carpool, walk, ride public transit or bike.
- Average Commute Time by Car: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Walk Score: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Bike Score: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Miles of Bicycle Lanes: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Presence of Bike-Sharing Program: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Annual Excess Fuel Consumption: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
Note: This metric measures gallons per auto commuter and was used as a proxy for “congestion level.”
- Intersection Density: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
- Accessibility of Jobs by Public Transit: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
Note: This metric measures the number of jobs that are accessible by a 30-minute transit ride per 100 civilian employed population.
- Alternative-Fuel Stations per Capita: Full Weight (~2.27 Points)
Energy Sources – Total Points: 20
- Share of Electricity from Renewable Sources: Double Weight (~10.00 Points)
- Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installations per Capita: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
- Number of Smart-Energy Policies & Initiatives: Full Weight (~5.00 Points)
Lifestyle & Policy – Total Points: 15
- Farmers Markets & CSA Programs per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
Note: “CSA” refers to community-supported agriculture.
- Community Garden Plots per Capita*: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
- “Green” Job Opportunities: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
- Number of Local Programs Promoting Green-Energy Use: Full Weight (~3.75 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, Trust for Public Land, County Health Rankings, U.S. Department of Energy - The Alternative Fuels Data Center, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Environment America, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, Walk Score, Alliance for Biking & Walking, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Bikeshare.com, Indeed, Climate Central and Yelp.
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