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Top 10 Cities for Green Living

Not all cities are created equal. As part of Scientific American's "Cities" special topic issue, for the next five days we will feature recently compiled lists ranking cities across the U.S. on aspects of green living, pollution, health and technology. Today, we feature rankings of cities based on green living, Part 1 of 5



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Many Americans root for their hometowns, whether they do so by supporting a sports team, participating in local government or just bragging about their origins and environs. Even those who have lukewarm feelings about where they live would agree on one thing: not all cities are created equal. As part of its "Cities" special issue, Scientific American has gathered lists ranking metropolises across the U.S. on aspects of green living, pollution, health and technology. 

Today we feature lists that rank cities based on their green living opportunities, and then add up each city's rankings to find the best overall green living cities. Admittedly, this summed result may be invalid. (For starters, what if other lists were generated and added in to change the outcome or what if the methods across each list are inconsistent?) We think, however, it still offers a benchmark worthy of consideration.

Greenest Thinking

  • New York City
  • Las Vegas
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Albuquerque, N.M.
  • Boston
  • Gainesville, Fla.
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Baltimore

The Daily Beast compiled this ranking based on residents' survey responses. To make the "greenest thinking" list, each city had to contain more than 100,000 citizens, a high percentage of whom self-identify as eco-conscious. A relatively high number of residents also had to state that they recycle, ride public transportation regularly and use solar power. Each city's score, however, dropped when citizens responded that they were unconcerned about environmental issues.

Most Energy-Efficient Buildings

  • Los Angeles
  • Washington, D.C.
  • San Francisco
  • Denver
  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Lakeland, Fla.
  • Dallas–Fort Worth
  • Atlanta
  • New York City

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency created this ranking of American cities. These energy-efficient commercial buildings had to reduce energy use although still perform well in comparison with similar buildings. (From The Huffington Post)

Best Public Transportation Systems

  • Denver–Aurora, Colo.
  • New York City-Newark, N.J.
  • Los Angeles–Long Beach–Santa Ana, Calif.
  • Boston, Mass.–New Hampshire–Rhode Island
  • Portland, Ore.
  • San Jose, Calif.
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • Honolulu

 

To qualify for this U.S. News & World Report list, cities had to have public transportation systems that stood out from the crowd. The magazine based its ranking not only on how many people used any given system, but also on that system's quality. For example, cities that provided multiple travel options (buses, light rail, metro, elevated trains and so on) could increase their score.

Most Bikeable

  • Minneapolis
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Boulder, Colo.
  • Seattle
  • Eugene, Ore.
  • San Francisco
  • Madison, Wis.
  • New York City
  • Tucson, Ariz.
  • Chicago

Bicycling.com based its list on how the city's streets and community treated bikers. Having segregated bike lanes and public bike racks helped a city's rank, but these cities also support bike culture and possess good stores for bicycles and biking equipment.

Most Walkable

  • New York City
  • San Francisco, Calif.
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Philadelphia
  • Seattle
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Miami, Fla.
  • Minneapolis
  • Oakland, Calif.

To find the most walkable cities in the U.S., Walk Score started small, by analyzing the score of each individual city block. A block's walkability depended on its proximity to amenities such as grocery stores, weighted by the local population density. Blocks combined to help Walk Score find neighborhood walkability, which in turn added up to a city's total walkability.

Top 10 Overall Green Living Performances

  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Seattle
  • Minneapolis

These cities rank highly on more than one of the above green-living lists.

Not all of the above lists were created using conventional statistical or scientific methods, therefore their validity should be suspect. Scientific American gathered the lists from several online sources. To earn a place on the "overall performance" list, cities had to make repeat appearances on multiple lists, and earned points based on their rankings. Each city's points were added up to arrive at the overall score.

Tomorrow: Part 2—The Top 10 Healthiest Cities

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