America’s greenest cities

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The environment is an ever-increasing consideration for travelers. And that got us thinking: Which U.S. cities boast the best eco-credentials? Here’s our rundown of America’s greenest cities.

The environment is an ever-increasing consideration for travelers. And that got us thinking: Which U.S. cities boast the best eco-credentials?

In the eyes of many, San Francisco is the overall greenest city in the U.S. Our featured image of the city is by David Paul Ohmer.

Here we rundown the nation’s cities that score highest in each category of Treehugger.com’s 10 Things That Make a Great Green City.

Plentiful parks

As the old adage goes, parks are the “Lungs of the City.”

San Francisco is ranked number one in ParkScore, a comprehensive rating system measuring whether or not the country’s 40 largest cities are meeting their need for parks.

Crissy Field, Golden Gate National Park (Image: -Marlith-)
Crissy Field, Golden Gate National Park (Image: -Marlith-)

Efficient and comprehensive public transportation

Per passenger journey, mass transit systems are proven to be less damaging to the environment than cars.

Portland, Ore. came in at the top of the public transportation and pedestrian friendliness category in Travel + Leisure magazine’s 2012 reader survey.

Portland’s streets are organized for buses and cyclists (Image: Ian Sane)
Portland’s streets are organized for buses and cyclists (Image: Ian Sane)

Quality public space

Outside places providing safe hangouts away from roads not only encourage folks to travel on foot, but also reduce the need for energy-hungry, large, enclosed communal spaces.

New York has the largest number of entries (10) on plantizen.com’s list of the Top 100 Public Spaces in the U.S. and Canada.

Bryant Park was the top ranked of New York’s 10 entries (Image: Ed Yourdon)
Bryant Park was the top ranked of New York’s 10 entries (Image: Ed Yourdon)

Bike lanes

More bike riding equals less traffic. The most bike-friendly cities look after their cyclists with dedicated lanes, parking and bike-sharing programs.

With its “120 miles of on and off-street bicycle facilities, plus indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities,” Minneapolis, Minn. comes out on top of Bicycling Magazine’s list of America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.

Nice Ride, the Twin Cities’ public bike sharing system (Image: JimFenton)
Nice Ride, the Twin Cities’ public bike sharing system (Image: JimFenton)

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

Eco-conscious developments and renovations are a highly visible symbol of a city’s commitment to going green.

The District of Columbia – the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. – has the highest environmentally friendly designed building space per resident in the United States.

Efficiency begins at home, no matter where you live (Image: HarshLight)
Efficiency begins at home, no matter where you live (Image: HarshLight)

Comprehensive recycling and composting programs

Recycling is the quintessential individual eco-act. The greenest cities facilitate and support their citizens’ efforts with large-scale programs.

“In 2009 San Francisco recycled 72 percent of its waste, already far ahead of any city in the U.S. and Canada,” according to a comprehensive report by the Economic Intelligence Unit.

Recycling and composting is enshrined in San Francisco’s by-laws (Image: Franco Folini)
Recycling and composting is enshrined in San Francisco’s by-laws (Image: Franco Folini)

Mixed-Use and Infill Development

Recycling of existing space reduces sprawl and enhances people’s experience of the land that’s already in use. Planning for mixed-use space and developing (or ‘filling’) otherwise unused spaces are key components of that recycling process.

Sacramento, Calif. has won praise for its ‘Alley Activation’ infill program.

Not all alleyways are made equal (Image: Monica's Dad)
Not all alleyways are made equal (Image: Monica’s Dad)

Green leadership

Whether it’s a grand scheme directed from a mayor’s office, or a grassroots initiative, making a city greener requires innovative and strong-willed leadership.

New York’s Michael Bloomberg was named the most green-leaning mayor in the country by environmental news site Grist for his ambitious 127-point initiative called PlanNYC 2030.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Image: ImagineCup)
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (Image: ImagineCup)

Renewable energy use and efficiency measures

Drawing from renewable energy sources and aggressively reducing energy use are two ways a city can vastly reduce its environmental impact.

Austin, Texas is “the nation’s top seller of renewable energy” according to the Mother Nature Network.

Austin – solar city (Image: Kumar Appaiah)
Austin – solar city (Image: Kumar Appaiah)

Green lifestyle

Access to products and services like farmers’ markets, organic restaurant food, eco-conscious music festivals and ecologically-oriented art all put the fun into going green.

Oakland, Calif. is rated highly by Mother Nature Network for its abundance of fresh, locally sourced organic food.

Going green can be fun (Image: avrene)
Going green can be fun (Image: avrene)

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

America’s greenest cities was last modified: April 10th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (523 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.