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7 Of The Most Eco-Conscious U.S. Cities

Cities around the country are pushing for tougher sustainability standards and building more renewable energy infrastructure. A recent analysis by SaveOnEnergy ranked 200 U.S. cities based on their efforts to become eco-conscious cities. The organization analyzed each city's carbon footprint, walkability, bikability, and the number of recycling centers, electric vehicle charging stations, organic grocers and farmers markets, among other factors.

Here’s how the top seven ranked.

New York City

Central Park

Total Score: 93.4

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 36.6 tons

Walk Score: 89

Park Score: 86.5

Bike Score: 65

New York City topped the charts with the highest scores for parks, walkability, organic grocers and farmers market and also posted the second-highest number of electric vehicle stations with 209. Mayor Bill de Blasio initiated a plan in 2014 to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. The state also is pushing municipalities to decrease emissions 35% by 2025. Since 2014, New York tripled solar energy installations and plans to add 2,000 electric vehicles to its citywide fleet by 2025.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles Skyline in front of San Gabriel Mountain
Los Angeles skyline in front of San Gabriel mountains

Total Score: 86.9

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 34.1 tons

Walk Score: 66

Park Score: 82.5

Bike Score: 56

Despite Los Angeles having the reputation of being a smog city, Los Angeles’ annual carbon footprint per household is the lowest of the top cities. It also has the most EV charging stations with 294. It ranked as the most water efficient and has the highest recycling rate. Los Angeles is undergoing a massive public infrastructure project with $40B to expand rail and bus lines.

San Francisco

San Francisco painted ladies skyline
credit: Samuel Wantman

Total Score: 62.5

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 39.5 tons

Walk Score: 86

Park Score: 81

Bike Score: 75

San Francisco has the highest bike score and second-highest walk score of the entire study, but its tree canopy, the percentage of trees seen when photographed from above, was among the lowest with 13.7%. San Francisco is pushing for more greenery through its Urban Forest Plan, which will turn rooftops into green spaces. The Green Connections project also plans to create a 115-mile network of 24 pathways to better connect people to parks and open spaces.

San Diego

7 Of The Most Eco-Conscious U.S. Cities

Total Score: 55.2

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 41.7 tons

Walk Score: 50

Park Score: 76.5

Bike Score: 46

As a coastal city, San Diego has focused on improving water quality through campaigns like Think Blue, which focuses on preventing stormwater pollution, and the Green Port initiative, a long-term environmental and sustainability plan. The city has built two water reclamation plants and wants to reduce its dependence on imported water. By 2035, the city aims to use 100% renewable energy.


Chicago skyline

Total Score: 54.9

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 43.5 tons

Walk Score: 78

Park Score: 77.5

Bike Score: 70

Chicago has been focusing on reducing carbon emissions from municipal buildings, which represent 71% of the city’s emissions. In 2010, it reached 22% of its 2020 goal of reducing building emissions by 10%. Chicago also has become the second most bike friendly city through its bike-share program Divvy for Everyone, which offers low-income commuters a $5 annual fee and no usage fee if a bike is returned within a half hour.


7 Of The Most Eco-Conscious U.S. Cities

Total Score: 48.2

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 42.9 tons

Walk Score: 73

Park Score: 76

Bike Score: 63

Seattle aims to reduce emissions by 64% by 2030 compared to 2008 levels. The city has added more energy-efficient cars, targeted increased energy efficiency in buildings and more residents now live in lower energy intensive multifamily buildings. It will need to reduce emissions by 4.5% annually through 2030 to achieve its goal.


7 Of The Most Eco-Conscious U.S. Cities

Total Score: 47.6

Carbon Footprint Estimate Per Household: 48.4 tons

Walk Score: 39

Park Score: 74

Bike Score: 52

Austin’s sustainability efforts include reaching zero waste by 2040, which targets a 90% reduction of waste sent to landfills. The GreenChoice program from Austin Energy resulted in 100% renewable energy powering city facilities, reducing carbon emissions by 163,000 metric tons in 2011.