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Sustainability and green initiatives are helping to stave off some of the damage humans do to the earth. The initiatives that we take for granted now like recycling are becoming part of our culture in such a way that we don’t necessarily notice them, but it’s important to take the time to celebrate the parts of America that do the most to build a sustainable future for us all. There’s currently no government criteria or any widely understood methods of ranking cities for their environmental impact but by using parameters like tap water quality, energy consumption, and recycling, we’ve been able to rank the top five most eco-friendly cities in America.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Each year, Charlotte offers energy efficient grants to businesses through their Envision Charlotte initiative. Since 2011, the initiative, which focuses on economic development through sustainability, has worked by measuring each firm’s aggregate energy use. As energy is the single largest operating cost for a building, this initiative helps to drive down greenhouse gas emissions while increasing profitability for businesses. Charlotte also composts 36,000 tons of food waste each year, and they’ve expanded their railways and bike share programs so they score highly for recycling and sustainable travel too.

Eugene, Oregon

Oregon’s second largest city is fourth on the list because renewable energy provides 85% of the city’s power needs. They also score well because of the Emerald Express, a sustainable hybrid public transit system released in 2008. The system of dedicated bus lanes linked by normal roads gives priority to the buses at intersections, which is part of the reason why they’re more energy efficient than other vehicles on the same roads. The University of Oregon is home to one of the country’s environmental studies programs so further initiatives for sustainability will come to fruition soon.

Washington, DC

The mass transit system in the nation’s capital is one of the major reasons why Washington, DC is third on this list. It’s one of the safest, cleanest and most efficient transportation systems in the world so everyone uses the Metrobus and Metrorail when they’re in the nation’s capital. Hotels and other amenities are located close to metro stations and bus routes, and the service operates from 5AM to midnight during the week, and from 7AM to midnight at weekends.

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City, Missouri has lots of green space and its restaurants source local ingredients but its two travel schemes are why this place is the second on our list. The city’s streetcar, which travels two miles through the city, is free to ride. Although there’s just one line, there are 16 stations along the route making it ideal for traveling for work and leisure. Unlike the streetcar, Kansas’s bike share scheme isn’t free but it’s cheap to join and it’s convenient to use as it operates from 41 stations.

Boston, Massachusetts

This place is pedestrian friendly so you can walk almost everywhere in the city. According to stats on Nerdwallet, 15% of Bostonians walk to work each day, but that’s not the only reason Boston’s America’s most eco-friendly city. From seemingly small initiatives like LED traffic lights that are more efficient than conventional lights, to taxi firms that use hybrid vehicles, it seems that almost everything in the city is targeted towards sustainability. The wind turbine on city hall is a great way of signposting how important sustainability is to a city which is also developing further biogas plants where food waste is converted into compost that’s used to fuel generators.

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