Solving Cities

Top 25 greenest cities in the U.S.

Top 25 greenest cities in the U.S.

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Which region in the U.S. has the largest number of sustainable cities?

Having a green city isn't just about how many people you can get to carry reusable bags to the grocery store (though that doesn't hurt). It's about smart development, land use, and transportation policies. It's about waste reduction, energy efficiency, and so much more.

Corporate Knights, a publication that promotes "clean capitalism," checked in on the biggest cities across the United States to see if they have policies in place to help them be more sustainable. As Huffington Post points out, the list is not about results but which cities are making the most effort.

They looked specifically at the largest 54 U.S. cities, along with Pittsburgh. Each city was analyzed based on 38 policies and programs in eight categories: smart growth activities; land-use planning programs and policies; transportation planning programs and policies; pollution prevention, reduction and remediation; energy and resource conservation/efficiency; Sustainable Indicators Project; and organization/administration/management/coordination/governance. The full list of criteria is here.

Here's the top 25 along with their total score, out of 38, in parenthesis:

1. Portland, Oregon (35)

1. San Francisco (35)

1. Seattle (35)

4. Denver (33)

5. Albuquerque (32)

5. Charlotte (32)

5. Oakland (32)

8. Chicago (31)

8. Columbus (31)

8. Minneapolis (31)

8. Philadelphia (31)

8. Phoenix (31)

8. Sacramento (31)

14. New York City (30)

14. San Diego (30)

14. San Jose (30)

17. Austin (29)

17. Dallas (29)

17. Fort Worth (29)

17. Nashville (29)

17. Tucson (29)

17. Washington, D.C. (29)

23. Boston (28)

23. Los Angeles (28)

23. Kansas City (28)

By the nature of the study there's a lot of clustering in the rankings, but what's clear is that the Pacific Northwest is the green city leader among big cities in the U.S. with the top three cities hailing from that region.

In fact, the western part of the U.S. leads the way with more than one-third (9) of the 25 on the list, including the top four cities. The totals for other regions break down like this: six are in the Southwest; four in the Midwest; four in the Northeast; and two in the Southeast.

But to put the numbers into perspective, the Northeast placed 67 percent of its elegible cities on the list, while the West placed 56 percent, the Southwest with 46 percent, the Midwest with 40 percent, and the Southeast with 20 percent.

Despite setbacks, more cities are continuing to incorporate sustainability initiatives, as the report points out:

Cities typically do not make huge programmatic changes from one year to the next, and this is especially true when their budgets are strained by declining revenue growth. Yet when we compare this year’s rankings to those of last year, some cities stand out as making impressive progress. A number of cities fell slightly, but only because other cities moved ahead of them.

But, at least this year, the West and Northeast are where it's at for big green cities.

Photo: Flickr/sfcityscape

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure