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The 5 Greenest Cities In The U.S. To Raise Your Family

By Maria Cook

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

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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

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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

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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