As more U.S. cities invest in green initiatives, from renewable energy to bans on plastic shopping bags to better, healthier parks, eco-conscious families may feel the urge to pack up and migrate. But a city being green isn't the only important thing to consider.
Each family has different values and while there are always personal preferences to consider, it can be helpful to explore which cities put an emphasis on sustainability and healthy living. And if your city isn't on the list, or moving isn't on the table for your family right now, don't get discouraged. There are plenty of ways to help make your community green, whether you choose to reach out to your local representatives, start a community green space, or simply volunteer your time with a local farm, garden, or animal shelter. Even starting small can make a big difference in how eco-friendly your home and community are.
5. Rochester, Minnesota
Rochester, home of the famed Mayo Clinic, is also a green city. Their soon-to-be-opened Mayo Civic Center, near the clinic, will be built with boilers which are powered by steam produced by a county Waste-to-Energy plant. This plant burns trash to create steam power. The Center will be maintained using only eco-friendly cleaning products. The city also publishes an e-zine about it's sustainability efforts, called "The Footprint."
According to the city's website, Rochester has invested in making all of its facilities more energy-efficient, and 80% percent of Rochester hotels have taken action to conserve energy. As of 2016, Rochester had a population of 109,252 with an annual violent crime rate of 183 per 100,000. The Rochester Public School District was given an A rating by Niche.com. Niche ratings are based on data form the US Department of Education and consumer ratings.
4. Bellevue, Washington
With miles of hiking trails and over 60 miles of rivers and streams, it's no wonder that Bellvue describes itself as "a city in a park". Bellvue is known for its conservation efforts, particularly in protecting its public wetlands and in working to conserve its local salmon population. Bellvue participates in a coalition called "Shared Strategy," which is made up of 14 different watersheds in Puget Sound which work to rebuild salmon populations. Bellvue also allows its residents to keep their yards in an eco-friendly manner.
Unlike many cities, which discourage citizens from having clover, vegetable-garden, or any sort of non-grass lawns, Bellvue allows and encourages it, due to its positive impact on the environment. As of 2016, Bellvue had a population of roughly 132,268. Annual violent crimes, per 100,000 were just 106. Niche.com gave the Bellvue School District an overall A+ rating, their highest possible.
3. Temecula, California
It's no surprise to see California making an appearance on our list, since it's famous for being one of the greenest states in the nation. But many people haven't heard of the moderately-sized city of Temecula. With a population of 104,955 and an annual violent crime rate of only 92 per 100,000, Temecula is easily one of the safest cities in the U.S. It's Temecula Valley Unified School System received an A- rating from Niche, and the city is exceedingly eco-friendly.
Temecula sits in the heart of Southern California's famous wine country, and as such the city is serious about being good to the environment which gives so much to them. In 2010, the city adopted a detailed Sustainability Plan which includes 8 areas of focus: Air Resources, Community Outreach, Energy, Green Buildings, Open Space, Transportation, Waste Management and Water Resources. Each section includes details on how the city is working to conserve or expand in every area. For example, Temecula plans for all buildings built in their city after 2012 to be "green buildings," powered as much as possible with renewable energy and maintained with green cleaning products. The city's full plan can be read here.
2. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia may not immediately jump to mind when you think "eco-friendly," but this seaside city is the home of several impressive eco-friendly initiatives. For one, Virginia Beach is invested in making sure that the seafood they have on offer at their numerous beach restaurants is caught in an eco-friendly manner. The city's website even has a specific section dedicated to helping visitors find eco-friendly seafood. In 2014, the Chesepeke Bay Foundation opened what was considered to be one of the most eco-friendly buildings in the country in Virginia Beach, the Brock Environmental Center.
The building produces no sewage, no runoff, and gets all of their energy from wind and solar power. As of April of 2014, the Virginia Beach metropolitan area was ranked No. 4 in the nation among mid-sized cities for Energy Star certified buildings. Virginia beach had a population of 100,00 as of 2016, with just 146 annual violent crimes per 100,000. It's Virginia Beach City Public Schools system was given an A ranking by Niche.
1. Boulder, Colorado
It should be no surprise to see the beautiful mountain town of Boulder, Colorado at the number one spot in our list. Though the average rate of crime is slightly higher than any other in our list, it's still an exceedingly safe place to live and the Boulder Valley School District earned a rare A+ from Niche. What really puts Boulder at the top, however, is it's famous commitment to green living.
One of Boulder's most famous policies is it's "Blue Line," a charter amendment which prohibits water lines above a certain elevation. This keeps water lines out of the mountains, leaving them free to be enjoyed by Boulder citizens. Boulder's so-called "Danish Plan" limits city growth (aka urban sprawl) to less than one perfect per year. This ensures that natural habitats remain safe from major development. To help people use cars less, Boulder implemented two shuttle systems, called HOP and SKIP, which make various stops throughout the city.
Use of billboards is greatly restricted in Boulder, so that the natural beauty of the land can be preserved and less waste is created by advertising. In addition to recycling cans, Boulder offers compost bins for its residents to use at several key locations. To read about all of Boulder's various green initiatives, click here. And if you're looking for an eco-friendly city with great schools and low crime, consider Boulder, Colorado.