The 5 greenest cities in the U.S.

Apr 16, 2013 at 9:09 a.m. ET

What does it mean for a city to be “green”? With Earth Day approaching, let’s take a look at the greenest cities in the US — and what they’re doing differently!

 The 5 greenest cities in the U.S

Being a green city is more than just having a recycling program in place and reducing waste — it involves using energy more efficiently, planning eco-friendly developments, enacting green transportation guidelines and more. It's also something that can take years to show the results. Find out if you're living in a green city and see what you can start doing to make a difference!

The 5 greenest cities in the U.S. include:


Oakland, California

Oakland California

Much of Oakland's food is grown locally — which reduces waste and carbon emissions that other cities use in order to get their food from some other location. New building developments in Oakland meet high green standards and Oakland is currently home of the nation's cleanest, freshest tap water.


Chicago, Illinois

Chicago Illinois

For such a large city, it's surprising that Chicago is actually one of America's greenest cities. With sustainability being one of Chicago's biggest goals, the city strives to provide a green, environmentally-friendly place for residents to live, work and play. A permanent "greenbelt" surrounds the metropolitan area and half a million new trees have been planted recently.


San Francisco, California

San Francisco California

Did you know that San Francisco reuses 80 percent of its waste? They're well on their way to achieving their goal of having zero waste. That coupled with their pivotal role in solar energy and their ban on plastic bags make San Francisco a leading green city in the U.S..


Seattle, Washington

Seatle Washington

Seattle is aggressive in being green — and it shows with their increased focus on air quality, green building, water quality, transportation regulations and more. Almost 90 percent of the city's power comes from hydroelectric plants, making the air quality one of a kind. Add in their commitment to wind energy and you have one green, sustainable city.


Portland, OregonPortland Oregon

Portland is continually nominated as being one of the greenest cities in America. Their transit system is impeccable — featuring a light rail, aerial tram and most recently, a streetcar system. Portland promotes local food production, extensive recycling programs and green building developments, and it encourages urban bicycling.

What can you do to be more green?

There are many things you can start doing today to help make your city a more environmentally-friendly place to live. These include:

  1. Always recycle. This includes at home and at work. Get your family and co-workers involved.
  2. Don't drive as much. If your destination is two miles or less from your home, consider walking or riding a bike. Public transportation is a great way to reduce gas consumption, as is carpooling.
  3. Pick up trash. This includes your trash and other people's trash. When hiking or walking through a shopping plaza, help the environment by picking up (and recycling) any trash you see.
  4. Light smart. Turn off the lights when you leave a room and choose energy-efficient bulbs.
  5. Don't use the AC. When you're not home, turn your thermostat up a couple of degrees to prevent the AC from coming on and wasting energy. Use fans instead of cranking the AC at night.
  6. Eat locally. Visit your local farmers market as often as possible instead of purchasing fruits and veggies at chain grocery stores.

More on being green

Top 10 U.S. farmers markets
Easy ways to go green in the kitchen

Top “green” mobile apps