Top 5 Greenest Cities in the U.S.

Cities across America are taking initiative to improve green infrastructure and encourage residents to lead environmentally-conscious lifestyles, and some are truly leading the pack. To find the most earth-friendly cities in America, we turned to a variety of rankings, from Siemens to a study by NerdWallet, and noticed a few cities that kept popping up. Read on to see what consistently places these cities in the top rankings for greenest American cities.



Washington, D.C.

It’s no surprise that the nation’s capital is also a leader in green initiatives, appearing in the top 10 of most rankings of eco-friendly American cities. The city is home to DC VegFest, an annual celebration for vegetarians and vegans; restaurants serving up organic and sustainable foods; and plenty of shops selling eco-friendly goods such as sustainable bamboo kitchenware.
Other reasons why Washington, D.C. is a leading green city:

  • efficiency of the Metro system and the relatively low use of wood and coal as energy sources
  • more than 230,000 acres of park space
  • ranked #1 in the country for green roofs – saw the installation of 1,207,115 square feet of green roofs in 2014
  • lowest carbon emissions per capita in the nation



 Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has gained a reputation for being focused on reconnecting with nature and promoting sustainable eating, and with that, a reputation as one of the greenest cities in America. The city consistently receives high ratings for air and water quality, and in 2008, Portland recycled 56.8% of all waste generated.

Here are a few more reasons why Portland is one of the first cities that spring to mind at the mention of “green city”.

  • uses 20 percent more renewable energy than the national average
  • was one of the first cities to ban plastic bags
  • 25% of the city’s workforce commutes to work by bike, carpool, or public transportation



 San Francisco, CA

San Francisco has long been at the forefront for green initiatives among large U.S. cities. In 2009, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to require that all residents and businesses separate waste and compost material from normal trash. The city was the first in America to ban plastic bags.

  • 80% recycling rate is the highest in the U.S.
  • 1/10 of the city’s commuters walk to work
  • 13.8 of every 10,000 homes rely on solar energy–more than double the national average


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 New York City, NY

With nearly 30,000 people per square mile, New York City is by far the most densely populated city in the U.S., and probably not the average person’s first thought associated with “eco-friendly city”. But population density and smart use of space lends itself to many environmentally friendly advantages, such as heavy use of mass transit, energy and water efficiency, and limited waste – all coming together to lower the average New Yorker’s carbon footprint.

  • 56 percent of commuters use its vast public transit network
  • 2nd lowest carbon emissions per capita, right after Washington, D.C.
  • has goal to reduce citywide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent by 2030
  • underwater turbines in East River harness river current for hydropower energy



Seattle, WA

Also known as the “Emerald City,” Seattle lives up to this name by setting the bar for green buildings and energy efficiency. Seattle’s publicly owned utility, Seattle City Light, was the first electric utility in the nation to become carbon neutral, and the city has set a goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Seattle is home to the world’s greenest commercial building, the Bullit Center, and more than 20 other certified green buildings.

  • hydropower supplies 92 percent of Seattle’s electricity
  • 59% increase in cyclists and 27% increase in pedestrians since 2011
  • Volunteers with the Green Seattle Partnership are restoring more than 1,000 acres of parkland in the city

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  • …there’s something else they all have in common, obscenely high rents. Portland in fact has the fastest rising rents in the nation without a major economic base which the others have.

    So “green” in this case also has another darker meaning.