Personal Finance

The 20 Most Sustainable Cities in 2021

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on LawnStarter.

Driving an electric car, drinking from compostable cups, growing food in our own gardens — making sustainable choices will help save our planet.

Some cities, though, are better at promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle, while others belch smoke and throw away recyclables. Which cities are the leaders and laggers of our Earth-friendly future?

LawnStarter ranked the most sustainable cities by comparing the 200 largest U.S. cities across 24 key sustainability indicators.

Among the metrics we looked at are the:

  • Number of incentives and policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency
  • Number of zero-energy buildings
  • Share of green commuters
  • Prevalence of community-supported agriculture.

Following are our rankings of the most sustainable cities in the U.S.

1. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco
Maridav / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 61.55

Policy rank: 1

Infrastructure rank: 25

Pollution rank: 104

Transportation rank: 3

Food production rank: 61

2. Boston, MA

Boston skyline summer day.
Danica Chang / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 59.58

Policy rank: 12

Infrastructure rank: 28

Pollution rank: 75

Transportation rank: 5

Food production rank: 6

3. Sacramento, CA

Sacramento, California
Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 59.55

Policy rank: 7

Infrastructure rank: 4

Pollution rank: 41

Transportation rank: 66

Food production rank: 21

4. Washington, D.C.

U.S. Capitol
Orhan Cam / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 57.72

Policy rank: 77

Infrastructure rank: 10

Pollution rank: 83

Transportation rank: 1

Food production rank: 2

5. Baltimore, MD

Baltimore, Maryland
Hethers / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 55.62

Policy rank: 13

Infrastructure rank: 33

Pollution rank: 48

Transportation rank: 26

Food production rank: 5

6. Rochester, NY

Rochester New York
TarnPisessith / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 55.36

Policy rank: 10

Infrastructure rank: 11

Pollution rank: 26

Transportation rank: 30

Food production rank: 47

7. San Diego, CA

The skyline of San Diego, where median rent is well below median mortgage payments
Dancestrokes / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 55.33

Policy rank: 1

Infrastructure rank: 2

Pollution rank: 117

Transportation rank: 99

Food production rank: 92

8. Oakland, CA

Oakland, California
yhelfman / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 54.14

Policy rank: 4

Infrastructure rank: 111

Pollution rank: 70

Transportation rank: 14

Food production rank: 79

9. Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City, Utah
Joe Guetzloff / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 52.5

Policy rank: 63

Infrastructure rank: 3

Pollution rank: 46

Transportation rank: 24

Food production rank: 84

10. Seattle, WA

Lake Union in Seattle, Washington
oksana perkins / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 52.49

Policy rank: 18

Infrastructure rank: 19

Pollution rank: 147

Transportation rank: 6

Food production rank: 25

11. Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia cityscape
Tupungato / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 51.75

Policy rank: 25

Infrastructure rank: 155

Pollution rank: 77

Transportation rank: 8

Food production rank: 10

12. Syracuse, NY

Syracuse New York
Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 51.74

Policy rank: 10

Infrastructure rank: 67

Pollution rank: 84

Transportation rank: 34

Food production rank: 40

13. Portland, OR

Aerial view of Portland with Mount Hood in the background.
josemaria-toscano / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 51.52

Policy rank: 69

Infrastructure rank: 6

Pollution rank: 93

Transportation rank: 13

Food production rank: 15

14. New York, NY

couple walking in New York City
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 51.16

Policy rank: 9

Infrastructure rank: 135

Pollution rank: 192

Transportation rank: 2

Food production rank: 37

15. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 50.92

Policy rank: 54

Infrastructure rank: 8

Pollution rank: 110

Transportation rank: 16

Food production rank: 27

16. St. Paul, MN

Park in St. Paul, Minnesota
Dan Thornberg / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 50.47

Policy rank: 14

Infrastructure rank: 85

Pollution rank: 42

Transportation rank: 31

Food production rank: 45

17. Providence, RI

Providence, Rhode Island
Nagel Photography / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 50

Policy rank: 59

Infrastructure rank: 121

Pollution rank: 111

Transportation rank: 9

Food production rank: 14

18. San Jose, CA

The skyline of San Jose, which has a lower median rent than median mortgage payment
stellamc / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 49.73

Policy rank: 1

Infrastructure rank: 100

Pollution rank: 105

Transportation rank: 70

Food production rank: 91

19. Honolulu, HI

Honolulu, Hawaii
MNStudio / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 49.58

Policy rank: 64

Infrastructure rank: 66

Pollution rank: 19

Transportation rank: 19

Food production rank: 26

20. Sunnyvale, CA

Sunnyvale, California
Sundry Photography / Shutterstock.com

Overall score: 48.47

Policy rank: 16

Infrastructure rank: 36

Pollution rank: 108

Transportation rank: 37

Food production rank: 64

Methodology

Man using too much data on his phone, tablet and laptop
Bacho / Shutterstock.com

We ranked the 200 largest U.S. cities from most to least sustainable based on their overall scores, averaged across all the weighted metrics listed below.

The city that earned the highest overall score — out of a possible 100 points — was ranked No. 1, or “most sustainable.”

  • Number of Incentives and Policies Supporting Renewables and Energy Efficiency
  • Presence of Local Clean City Coalitions
  • Rating of State Waste Regulations and Measures
  • Number of Electric Vehicle State Laws and Incentives
  • Number of Zero-Energy Buildings
  • Share of Roads in Poor Condition
  • Alternative-Fuel Stations per 100,000 Residents
  • Greenhouse-Gas Emissions per Capita
  • Annual Excess Fuel Consumption
  • Median Air Quality Index
  • Water Quality Violations
  • Population Density
  • Share of Workers Who Walk, Bike, Carpool, or Ride Public Transit to Work
  • Average Commute Time
  • Transit Score
  • Walk Score
  • Bike Score
  • Bike-Rental Facilities per 100,000 Residents
  • Farmers Markets per 100,000 Residents
  • Local Food Hubs Within 100 Miles
  • On-Farm Markets Within 50 Miles
  • CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
  • Number of Community Gardens per 100,000 Residents
  • Farm-to-Consumer Food Sales

Sources: American Community Gardening Association, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, DSIRE, LawnStarter, New Buildings Institute, Texas A&M Transportation Institute, TRIP, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Walk Score, Yelp

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


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