The Green City: 5 Ways to Make Your City More Sustainable

What defines the green city of today? We explore the most sustainable cities in the U.S., and how you can make your local neighbourhod more eco-friendly.


By 2025, almost 85% of the world’s population is expected to live in an urbanized area (Statista). While this could drastically increase cities’ carbon emissions it also gives people the power to make a difference in the eco-friendliness of the city they inhabit. More and more people are becoming environmentally conscious, driven by their desire to protect themselves from the dangers of climate change and preserve the world.

But it can be hard to understand where to start. In a new study from Rocket Homes, these 5 cities were named the most sustainable cities in the U.S. By understanding what these cities are doing right, it has the opportunity to be applied to cities across the U.S.

Defining the Green City: What Exemplifies the 5 Most Eco-Friendly Cities of the U.S.?

Bridge in Portland, considered The Green City
The Green City: Portland, by J Lopes on Unsplash
  1. Portland, Oregon

Portland is known for its environmental sensitivity. It ranks among the top 1% in the country for the amount of renewable energy it generates. Converting 45,000 streetlights to LED technology is one of their greatest energy efficiency initiatives to date. Portland’s streetlights and traffic signals now consume 66% less energy than they did in 2006, saving the city $1.5 million per year. Portland recovers 81 percent of all trash produced by city operations via recycling and composting, and is on target to recover up to 90 percent by 2030.

  • Metro population: 2,492,412
  • Percent of renewable energy: 49.1%
  • Square feet of green space per person: 472.5
  • Percent of energy-efficient commuters: 19.6%
Seattle, Washington from above
Seattle, by Luca Micheli on Unsplash
  1. Seattle, Washington

Seattle is known as the Emerald City because of its year-round greenery, but with the city’s considerable environmental efforts, the term is even more fitting. Seattle City Light, the country’s first carbon-neutral utility. The city is among the top 2% of the country for renewable energy because to the hydroelectric dams. 

  • Metro population: 3,074,865
  • Percent of renewable energy: 46%
  • Square feet of green space per person: 325.1
  • Percent of energy-efficient commuters: 24.2%
River and mangroves with city in distance
Shot of Minneapolis from St. Paul overlooking the Mississippi River. Photo by Eastman Childs on Unsplash
  1. St. Paul, Minnesota

Although the state has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, St. Paul has gone one step farther and plans to be carbon neutral by that time. The city has focused on major structures as part of its plan, as their energy usage accounts for 40% of St. Paul’s emissions. To guarantee that Minnesota’s capital meets its objective, the city now compels building owners to measure and report their energy and water consumption.

  • Metro population: 3,654,908
  • Percent of renewable energy: 15.8%
  • Square feet of green space per person: 729.8
  • Percent of energy-efficient commuters: 13.7%
  1. San Diego, California
San Diego
Balboa Park, San Diego, by Urban Sanden on Unsplash

San Diego has devised a strategy to aid in the fight against California’s increasingly regular droughts. The region has been able to employ reverse osmosis to turn sea water into drinkable water. Every day, the facility processes 100 million gallons of salt water and produces 50 million gallons of potable water for San Diegans. Despite the fact that this new technology increases greenhouse gas emissions, the city has managed to reduce emissions by 25% in just under a decade.

  • Metro population: 3,338,330
  • Percent of renewable energy: 14.5%
  • Square feet of green space per person: 483.3
  • Percent of energy-efficient commuters: 13.6%
Cherry blossoms by lake in Washington
Washington, D.C., by Andy He on Unsplash
  1. Washington, D.C.

In terms of LEED-certified buildings, D.C. ranks in the top 2% in the country. D.C. public schools have been at the forefront of energy-efficient building for the past 10 years. As the United States capital works to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, it is now pursuing net-zero energy schools, which generate as much energy as they consume. D.C. has also invested in wind and solar power to create electricity for municipal and residential buildings, putting the city in the top 3% in the nation in terms of renewable energy.

  • Metro population: 4,956,991
  • Percent of renewable energy: 40.2%
  • Square feet of green space per person: 383.2
  • Percent of energy-efficient commuters: 24.5%

What Activities Help to Make Your City Eco-Friendly?

  1. Reduce the Carbon Footprint of your Home

As more city residents can reduce their homes’ carbon footprint, it makes an impact on the overall city. To help with this, try switching off power-hungry electronics like TVs and computers. This will save you money as well.

Installing LED lightbulbs is an easy and inexpensive way to start changing up your home to become more eco-friendly. But you can also consider buying energy-efficient appliances such as water-saving showers and toilets, and aerators for your water heating system. Change your thermostat to maintain a constant room temperature and get an energy efficient heating and cooling system. Try to recycle or compost waste instead of throwing it away.

  1. Reduce Emissions from Commuting

Living in a metro region or metropolis makes environmentally responsible commuting simpler than in more rural locations, but it can still be difficult depending on your location. In the summer, biking and walking are always fantastic choices in a city. However, if you need to go a long distance or the weather is inclement, public transit is an excellent alternative to driving.

For many people, taking the metro or city buses is not only a more environmentally friendly but also more cost-effective alternative to driving a gas automobile. However, even if your city lacks a decent metro or public bus system, there are still a number of strategies to lessen your carbon footprint when commuting. Instead of gas, consider purchasing a hybrid or electric car. Consider carpooling or lowering the number of automobiles in your home.

  1. Plant Trees

Reduce global carbon emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy usage by planting trees in metropolitan areas. Heat and CO2 emissions from buildings and paved surfaces are common in cities. As carbon dioxide sinks, new plants absorb and remove heat and CO2 from the atmosphere. Plant trees in vacant city lots and sports fields to reduce heat and carbon emissions. Planting trees in urban areas increases the amount of urban green spaces. A combination of city parks and tree planting sites have the potential to absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and absorb heat from the sun during summertime.

  1. Clean-up Your Local Parks and Waterways

Many cities have a good amount of waste and trash that create a huge mess in the parks, alleyways and on the riverbanks. While making lifestyle improvement to be more environmentally friendly is great for the future, there are certain things you can do to make a direct impact. Contact your local park and offer to pick up trash.

Add mulch to dirt covered areas. Mulch helps to keep the rain and wind from blowing the plastic trash into your waterways. To help ensure that your parks and waterways are as pristine as they can be, learn about common pollinators like bees and their favorite plants, and how you can help to foster a habitat for them.

  1. Work with Local Representatives

It may appear difficult to make big changes to make your city more sustainable. Your city’s officials and leadership, on the other hand, can assist you. Check with local city hall to learn who is in charge of green programs. Another option is to look for a local non-profit that is concerned with sustainability and climate change. They generally have a team devoted to engaging with local authorities to promote environmentally friendly activities. There are typically several volunteer options available to help with the purpose.

Discuss this article

Looking to share your thoughts? Consider joining our Facebook Community. New members are always welcome!