Top 5 Greenest U.S. Cities

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Kermit the Frog famously said, “It’s not easy being green.” Easy or not, though, many U.S. cities are working hard to be as green as possible. Recycling, public transportation and alternative energy sources like bio-fuels, solar and wind power are among some of the indicators used to determine how green a city is. Other factors include parks and trees, consumption of local foodstuffs, water quality and sustainable building techniques. Cities doing the best job of meeting these criteria are the greenest cities in the United States.

5 Eugene, Oregon

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Boston may have to represent for the whole East Coast, but the Pacific Northwest is heavily represented. With Portland in second place, Eugene and Seattle, Washington vie for fifth place. Eugene just edges out Seattle, though, with 150 dedicated biking miles—almost as many as Portland. For those who don’t bike, Eugene has an award winning hybrid public transit system. At home and at work, residents of Eugene reap a significant amount of their power needs from wind farms—a rarity for a city.

4 Oakland, California

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Right across the bridge from San Francisco, Oakland, California is next on the list, with the cleanest tap water in the U.S., according to “Mother Nature Network.” Like San Francisco, Oakland residents benefit from California’s climate and many organic farms to enjoy locally sourced foods. With food and water in great shape, Oakland managed to cut pollution significantly with hydrogen-powered transit, despite its many freeways. The birds that take advantage of the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge in Oakland probably appreciate the smog reduction.

3 Boston, Massachusetts

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Boston, Massachusetts represents the East Coast as its greenest city. The East Coast’s seasonal climate allows Boston’s plan to use 50,000 tons of fall leaves, as well as grass clippings, for power and fertilizer. Solar panels, turbines for wind power, hybrid vehicles and recycling trash to power homes are all current or planned. Boston also boasts the most used public transportation system in the U.S. Additionally, like in Portland and San Francisco, bike usage is high. Adjacent Cambridge, Massachusetts is also on many lists, and has been called the “best walking city,” by “Prevention” magazine.

2 Portland, Oregon

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The second greenest city in the United States, Portland’s green credentials include 200 miles of street bicycling lanes; a full quarter of the population takes advantage of the bike lanes or uses public transportation. For those who do drive, carpooling is encouraged and free plugs are available for electric cars. Portland certifies green buildings, and half of its electricity comes from renewable energy resources. City planning sets aside green space and leaves land for farming, allowing residents to enjoy local sustainable foods.

1 San Francisco, California

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It’s not surprising that San Francisco tops the list of green cities; it’s been a bastion of progressiveness for a long time. In fact, the whole Bay area did well with Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose on many top lists. With a zero waste policy in place, recycling and composting are compulsory. There’s even an artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s recycling center. Green rooftop spaces are mandated for certain new buildings, and bicycling is encouraged. Businesses can receive green certification if they meet the criteria, and local farms provide much of the food for the city. San Francisco’s banning of plastic grocery bags in 2012 and its subsidized solar panel program in 2013 pushed San Francisco to the top of the list.

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