This List of the Most Sustainable Cities in the United States Will Shock You

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Find out how sustainable your favorite cities are.

Ever wondered just how green it is where you live? We’re not talking colors, folks — we’re talking about climate change, and what the city nearest you is doing to combat this existential threat. As it turns out, the most sustainable cities in the country might not be the ones you think they are, and you definitely won’t be able to guess all the creative strategies these cities are taking to get a little greener in the years to come.

RocketHomes partnered with to conduct a nationwide survey into the sustainability practices of the 60 largest cities in the country. These 60 cities represent over half of the U.S. population!

As for what the survey looked for in a sustainable city, the simple answer is…everything. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for how a city can or should go green, and (as you’ll see below) different cities have taken different steps depending on what their greatest threats are. For example, a city in Arizona might have totally different climate change fears than a city in Massachusetts, so it makes sense that those two cities would have wildly different solutions to climate change, too.

The great thing about this survey is that it highlights all of the various strategies cities can take to become more sustainable, and it does so by providing specific details like these:

  • Phoenix, Arizona, is one of the fastest-warming cities in the country, with water scarcity as a top concern for the future. It’s working to combat this threat by aiming to increase tree coverage by 25 percent by 2030, and it already ranks in the top 5 percent of the country for green space per capita.
  • Sacramento, California is tackling vehicle fuel emissions head-on, with a goal of having 75,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road in the next several years. This goal has been aided by a $44 million pledge by Electrify America to help provide infrastructure for these vehicles, including charging stations and electric bus and shuttle systems.
  • San Francisco, California, has enforced a strict recycling and composting mandate for years now, which has led to a shocking 80 percent trash diversion rate. This means that 80 percent of San Francisco’s trash is diverted from landfills, and instead recycled or composted.
  • Portland, Oregon, recently embarked upon an ambitious energy reduction program by converting 45,000 streetlights to LED technology, which requires 66 percent less energy than traditional lightbulbs. It’s also on track to have a 90 percent trash diversion rate by 2030. 

Without further ado, here’s the full list of the 15 greenest cities in America: 

15 Most Sustainable Cities in America
1. Portland, OR8. Denver, CO
2. Seattle, WA9. Sacramento, CA
3. St. Paul, MN10. Los Angeles, CA
4. San Diego, CA11. Silver Spring, MD
5. Washington, D.C.12. New York, NY
6. San Francisco, CA13. San Bernadino, CA
7. Boston, MA14. Honolulu, HI
15. Phoenix, AZ

If this list was of interest to you, you might want to check out our list of the happiest cities in America — spoiler alert, not all of them are the most sustainable, and not all of the most sustainable cities are the happiest!