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Top Environmentally Conscious Cities in the United States

Austin, Texas

Widely acknowledged as environmentally conscious, Austin prides itself in being a bike-friendly city. The Yellow Bike Project, a collectively run bike repair shop in Austin, promotes not only sustainability but environmentally friendly travel and tourism. Additionally, a Green City Times article revealed that “10 percent of Austin’s land is designated for parks, urban forestry, and other open, green spaces.” Compared to most cities in the U.S., this amount of devotion to green space is incredibly significant, adding to the environmental health of the city. Like many other green cities, Austin aspires to be net-zero carbon by 2050. A 2022 UT News article reports that decarbonizing will bolster Austin’s economy, which will hopefully incentivize further decarbonization efforts in Austin.

Denver, Colorado

Ranking fifth in the Green Cities Index that encompasses both the U.S. and Canada, Denver’s use of sustainable practices as an environmentally friendly city are unrivaled in the nation. On a more international level, NatGeoUK ranked Denver as the fourth most sustainable destination in the world! This was primarily built through the employment of sustainable practices such as “doubling down on emissions-reducing tactics [that include] improved bus service, safe bike networks, shared mobility, electric vehicles and building efficiency” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Denver has quickly become a city that is jumping on a sustainable trend to promote environmental consciousness in the U.S. and North America at large.

Portland, Oregon

Portland created a Climate Action Plan in 2015 that includes achieving net-zero carbon emissions in all new buildings and homes and sequestering carbon through increased green infrastructure by 2030. Additionally, 25 percent of city workers in Portland commute by carpool, public transportation, or even bikes! In fact, there are around 250 miles of bike trails throughout Portland. The city also prioritizes the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, especially as some of Oregon’s electricity mix already consists of hydropower, wind, and solar power. Furthermore, Portland continues to invest in green infrastructure, such as green streets and ecoroofs, to protect water quality.

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is a trailblazer in making cities eco-friendly. This city recycles 77 percent of its municipal waste and was one of the first cities to ban the use of plastic bags, preventing over 1.6 tons of waste from reaching landfills annually. City buses run on biodiesel fuel, and public service vehicles employed by the city are required to buy the most fuel-efficient options. Since 2009, San Francisco has had the largest composting program in the U.S., leading to a 12 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels. The program also provides nutrient-rich compost that local farmers can utilize.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle has a strong commitment to sustainability and has implemented several initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint and promote green energy. The city currently has several parks, green spaces, and bike lanes that promote outdoor activities that protect the environment. Seattle's goal is to become carbon-neutral by 2050. To achieve this, Seattle has made significant investments in renewable energy, promoted energy efficiency in buildings, and developed a robust public transportation system. Having established itself as a leader in recycling and composting, the city aims to divert 60 percent of the waste from landfills.



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