Once you start emphasizing greener living, it’s easy to get hooked. Recycling leads to rainwater collection which leads to biking to work, and before you know it, you’re ready to pack up and move to a new city based on its environmental cred.
Whether you’re thinking of relocating or just vacationing in a city that’s committed to the green life, there are destinations in all regions of the U.S. that are ready to welcome you. We’ve picked out a few top contenders from all across the nation.
1. Portland, Oregon
Starting on the West Coast, Portland has been at or near the top of eco-friendly city surveys for years. It’s well known among cyclists as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S. and boasts an extensive public transit system. The city even has a major bridge, Tilikum Crossing, that is only accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and public transit vehicles.
The majority of Portland’s energy comes from renewable sources, and the majority of its waste is recycled. Farmer’s markets dot the city, bringing locally-grown produce right to the neighborhoods where people live. And since 2001, Portland has imposed strict eco-friendly guidelines on new construction.
2. San Francisco, California
A few hundred miles south, San Francisco is often Portland’s main competition for the West Coast’s greenest city. It’s also extremely bike-friendly (if you can climb the hills) and is a hub of innovation for green building practices, with prominent local businesses often leading the way. San Francisco is a top-tier food city in its own right, but is perhaps the best food destination in the U.S. for vegans, vegetarians and gourmands who appreciate sustainable farming.
San Francisco bans plastic bags, operates a mandatory curbside recycling and composting program and has plans to make its public transit system emission-free by 2020. And it’s also home to one of the country’s most popular environmental museums, The California Academy of Sciences.
3. Chicago, Illinois
The Midwestern metropolis of Chicago is one of the leading green cities in the region, and is the nationwide leader in green building in its downtown spaces. It has more LEED-certified buildings than any other American city, and numerous buildings have earned the highest possible rating from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Chicago is literally green, as well — despite the concrete jungle it appears to be from a distance. The city has 570 parks and is one of the nation’s leading cities in the number of green roofs.
4. Austin, Texas
Texas’ hipster haven, Austin, has environmental cred that rivals larger competitors like Chicago. There are green spaces everywhere — some of them enormous — including more than 200 parks and 26 greenbelts.
Austin is home to one of the largest Earth Day celebrations in the nation, and for eco-tourists who are interested in large-scale sustainable building, the Austin neighborhood of Mueller was designated in 2016 as the world’s largest neighborhood to receive LEED gold certification.
5. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is a standout for environmental friendliness on the Eastern Seaboard. It’s surprisingly walkable for a large city and features a world-class public transit system. Boston’s residents and business owners also get a helping hand with energy efficiency through the Renew Boston program, which offers free LED bulbs, discounted insulation, heating rebates and other services that make everyday life greener.
6. Honolulu, Hawaii
If it’s green space you’re looking for, you can’t do it bigger than Honolulu. It has the highest percentage of green space of any major U.S. city, and one of the most spectacular American natural wonders — Diamond Head State Monument — is right in the backyard.
The top tourist destination’s business owners are also getting in the green spirit with increasing numbers creating advanced recycling programs and doing away with things like plastic bags, styrofoam and plasticware. And to top it off, Honolulu produces more solar energy per capita than any other American city.
What’s your favorite green city in the U.S.?