There’s a big difference between a city with a metro area of millions of people and a small city of 100,000 people or so – and that difference makes it both interesting and challenging to answer the question, “Where are the most eco-aware and eco-friendly places to live in the U.S.?”
It’s a question many people are asking, though. And the good news is that the green movement is now so widespread that it can be found, with gusto, in places both large and small.
Almost 1,000 city mayors have joined the Mayors Climate Protection Center, a 2-year-old addition to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Its major goal is to provide mayors with the guidance and assistance they need to lead their cities’ efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are linked to climate change. Participating mayors are in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and represent a population of approximately 82 million people. Whether representing cities the size of Los Angeles, Toledo, or Bisbee, each member of this group is committed to reducing emissions in their cities to 7% below 1990 levels by 2012.
Eco Times ranks the top 5 eco cities with this caveat: “There are a plethora of environmental rating systems out that measure various criteria to decide the ‘greenness’ of a city, from urban congestion and water quality to energy policy and land use. We have extrapolated information from a cross section of different reports. It is often difficult to compare cities that face such dramatically different challenges. For example, how can a resource-starved area like Arizona be measured against the agriculturally-rich basin of California? And how can a city of 12 million like New York City be compared to Eugene, Oregon with a mere population of 137,000? To be fair, five U.S. cities with populations of more than 300,000 have been selected, and not only their environmental policies, but also their commitment to social responsibility through community programs and low-income housing have been taken into account.”
In the Eco Times’ article featuring these cities, each one is highlighted with city-specific commentary that shows both strengths and weaknesses in its greening progress.
Sustain Lane ranks its top-rated cities for 2008 as:
- San Francisco
- New York
- Energy Use
- Water Quality and Usage
- Air Quality
- Green Building
- Traffic Congestion
- Land Use
- Housing Availability and Affordability
- Government Initiatives
Whether you live in a large urban area or a smaller city or town, you can learn a lot by understanding the eco issues at the macro level of large cities. Most of the considerations will be the same for any city or town, and with more awareness about the factors that contribute to an “eco city,” you’ll be well prepared to do some further scouting regarding places that have particular appeal for you.