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The Top 10 Greenest Cities

Top 10 Greenest Cities


In the face of rising global temperatures, reducing your environmental impact has become more important than ever. However, it can be difficult to manage your footprint, especially when you  live in a big city. The fact is that most cities just aren’t focused on making their infrastructure more environmentally friendly because other more pressing issues often take precedence. For environmentally conscious cityfolk, this can pose a dilemma; should you live in the city despite the environmental repercussions, or move away and live more sustainably?


For those that do make the decision to move to a more green city, where should they go? To answer that question, we crunched the numbers and assembled a list of the Top 10 Greenest Cities in the US so that you can choose to live in a city and keep your environmental footprint at bay.



To determine the greenest cities in the US, we ranked all metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with a population of over 1 million people based on the following categories -


  • The Number of LEED Certified Buildings per Every 1,000 Residents

    • A measure of the how environmentally friendly the infrastructure in the city is, the LEED certification is only given to buildings that are sufficiently efficient.

  • The City’s Parkland as a Percentage of the City’s Land Area

    • Parks not only provide recreation space for outdoorsy individuals, but can also help filter polluted air and provide habitats for native species.

  • The Miles of Bike Lanes per 10,000 Residents

    • Cycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and stay healthy, so measuring miles of bike lanes is an effective way of gauging whether an MSA is capable of supporting a greener mode of transportation.

  • The Number of Farmers Markets per 10,000 Residents

    • Locally sourced food not only eliminates waste caused by shipping and transportation, but also rewards more sustainable growing techniques among farmers - both are ways to reduce your environmental footprint.

  • The Number of Electric Car Plug-Ins per 10,000 Residents

    • The science is real, combustion engines contribute a colossal amount of greenhouse gas to our atmosphere - a great way to curb those emissions is by going electric. This category measures each MSA’s commitment to greener transportation techniques.


Categorical Comparison of Each MSA

Top 10 Greenest Cities

Each of the 5 factors played into the overall ranking of the 10 greenest cities. Austin, TX scored heavily in the number of LEED certified buildings, helping it place head and shoulders ahead of the competition. Cities 2-10 were much closer, but scored high enough to land them in the top 10 cities overall.


Comparison of the Honorable Mentions

Honorable Mentions Cities 11 20


If none of the cities in the top 10 suit your fancy, there are still other options. While these cities aren’t as green as the previous, they still qualified as 20 of the greenest cities in the United States.

Each MSA’s Categorical Breakdown

Austin Round Rock, TX

 Austin leverages its number of LEED certified buildings (making up 79.3% of its total score) to jump into the overall lead in the greenest cities ranking.



Portland  Vancouver  Hillsboro, OR WA

Portland strikes a solid balance of factors, and capitalizes on its number of LEED buildings and electric car plug-ins to secure 2nd in the overall rankings.



Washington  Arlington  Alexandria, DC VA MD WV

Washington takes a significant amount of its total score from its number of LEED buildings.



Boston  Cambridge  Newton, MA NH

Falling short of Washington, DC by a mere .026 points, the Boston MSA will have to settle for 4th in the final rankings.



San Jose  Sunnyvale  Santa Clara, CA

The San Jose MSA makes use of its high number of electric car plug-ins to secure its top 5 ranking in the greenest cities.



New York  Newark  Jersey City, NY NJ PA

Similar to Boston, MA and Washington, DC, New York takes a large portion of its total score from the number of LEED certifications held by its buildings.



Hartford  West Hartford  East Hartford, CT

Another top 10 contender from the North East of the U.S., Hartford, CT shows its stripes with a respectable 7th place in the overall rankings.



Providence  Warwick, RI MA

A very similar overall breakdown to Hartford, CT, Providence falls just short of 7th and settles into 8th place in the overall ranking.



San Francisco  Oaklnad  Hayward, CA

Another close call, San Francisco, CA is close to both 8th and 10th in points, but, in the end, takes 9th overall thanks to a well rounded set of results and a small bump from its miles of bike lanes.



Cincinnati, OH KY IN

Squeaking in with 10th place, Cincinnati, OH needs a more rounded display of results to move up in future rankings.

Definition of Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

The U.S. Census Bureau defines a MSA as an “area [that] contains a core urban area of 50,000 or more population.” To create a MSA, you take a core urban area, like Austin, TX, and add outlying counties that are socially and economically integrated with the urban core, like Round Rock, TX in this example. Together, the urban core and the outlying area create a MSA. The MSAs are more helpful than individual cities because they provide a more cohesive picture of the cities and the people that interact in those cities.