The Most Eco-Friendly Cities in the United States

What makes a city eco-friendly? The definition will vary depending on who you ask, but commonly considered characteristics include well-designed public transportation systems, water quality, utilization of renewable energy sources, and the city’s relative level of air pollution. Other standards may also include the number of bike paths in a city, ordinances related to the building of new structures, an even the number of eco-friendly events held in each city.

As a result of the fluctuating criteria, each list of the top eco-friendly cities will be slightly different. However, there are cities that seem to make the cut every year, regardless of standards used. Here is a list of three cities that understand what being eco-friendly is all about.

San Francisco

The Urban Land Institute says that San Francisco beats out every other large city on the matter of per capita greenhouse gas pollution.  A number of factors contribute to San Francisco being placed at the top of the list, including its dense population, moderate to warm temperatures, and its world-renowned public transportation system.

Other eco-friendly characteristics of the ‘City by the Bay’ include its dedication to bicyclists. San Francisco has 263 miles of dedicated bike paths and lanes, a strong public and government bicycling advocacy core, as well as a wildly successful bike share program.

Additionally, in 2007, San Francisco became the first city to ban plastic bags in large supermarket and pharmacy chains. In 2012, the ban extended to all retail stores, restaurants and bakeries, and customers now must be charged ten cents for each paper or compostable bag provided by the store. The city’s goal? They want to see all consumers switch to reusable totes, and it is working. Some stores report as many as 90% of their customers load up using their own bags.


Sustainability in Chicago started back in 1909 when Daniel Hudson Burnham, the forward thinking city planner, built into his plans a permanent greenbelt around the city’s metropolitan area. As a result, there are now over 2,500,000 square feet of plant life on the city’s roof tops (including city hall and Willis Tower). In addition, about a half million new trees have been planted around the Chicago.

Just as in San Francisco, the public transportation system in Chicago is lauded as one of the nation’s best. The city also has a walk score of 75, which easily puts it in the top ten of walkable U.S. cities. Of course, pedestrian dangers are a concern, just like everywhere else, but awareness and vigilance go a long way in reducing risk of injury.

Chicago’s ‘2015 Sustainable Chicago’ plan is an aggressive strategy that focuses on every aspect of potential improvement in its citizen’s quality of life. The city’s ongoing efforts in areas, including energy, waste and recycling, and transportation, as well as Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, means that it is moving forward with continued development in a way that honors the environment.


The city of Cleveland, Ohio makes the list for a number of reasons, most notably their Sustainable Cleveland 2019 program, which includes a Climate Action Plan. The plan focuses on nearly every conceivable way a city can become more eco-friendly (ex: land use, renewable energy, community involvement, resource conservation). A highlight of Cleveland’s plan is their community aggregation program which allows citizens and small businesses to receive 100% of their energy from renewable sources, with a bonus incentive of a 21% savings on the market rate for electricity. Since its inception in June 2013, more than 65,000 households and small businesses have signed up for the program.

Cleveland is also holding its own city government accountable with its Sustainable Cleveland Municipal Action Plan. Highlights of the plan include reducing the city’s fleet motor fuel costs and emissions, lowering water consumption, and constructing high performing-low energy use buildings, among other initiatives. The city’s goal is to incrementally lower its level of greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030.

The city is also currently assessing the viability of a bike share program, and has plans to add an additional 70 miles of bike paths to its already expansive network of bike paths and lanes. Just as with any more of transportation, though, there is a potential for injury. So, be sure to follow all rules of the road. If worse comes to worse and you are injured while riding your bike, don’t hesitate to call a Cleveland personal injury lawyer!

The three cities that are listed above are examples of government taking positive and aggressive actions to make their cities more eco-friendly. Community involvement, including promoting recycling and reduced waste efforts, as well as bicycling, walking and the use of public transportation, is at the heart of each plan. So, what are you and your city doing to make your town more eco-friendly?



Your Name:
Your Comment:
Please enter the text from the image in the box below: