There are some U.S. cities focusing their sights on sustainability. For example, some are designing landscapes that encourage walking, reducing the need for cars. They are welcoming businesses that use less coal power and more solar panels or wind turbines. This year’s Most Sustainable Cities in the U.S. are leading the way in efforts to save the planet.  

LawnStarter recently ranked 2021’s Most Sustainable Cities by comparing the 200 largest U.S. cities across 24 key sustainability indicators. Among the factors are the number of incentives and policies supporting renewables and energy efficiency; the number of zero-energy buildings; the share of workers who use green commuting methods; and the prevalence of community-supported agriculture.  

Check out the 10 cities leading sustainability efforts below, followed by some highlights and lowlights from the report. 

Most Sustainable Cities: 
Rank City 
1 San Francisco, CA 
2 Boston, MA 
3 Sacramento, CA 
4 Washington, DC 
5 Baltimore, MD 
6 Rochester, NY 
7 San Diego, CA 
8 Oakland, CA 
9 Salt Lake City, UT 
10 Seattle, WA 

While those cities mentioned above are making great strides, there are some cities ignoring initiatives altogether. They are allowing businesses to belching smoke into the air. They’re throwing away recyclables, and dragging their collective feet this Earth Day. 

Here is a list of the least sustainable cities in the U.S.: 
Rank City 
191 Pasadena, TX 
192 Hialeah, FL 
193 Sunrise Manor, NV 
194 Metairie, LA 
195 Enterprise, NV 
196 Port St. Lucie, FL 
197 Cape Coral, FL 
198 Peoria, AZ 
199 Miramar, FL 
200 Pembroke Pines, FL  

Highlights and Lowlights from the report: 

Golden State Is the New Green: California cruises its way to the top of the sustainability cities ranking. Four Golden State cities sit in the top 10, including San Francisco at No. 1, Sacramento at No. 3, San Diego at No. 7, followed by Oakland at No. 8.  

It’s easy to see why California cities are trailblazers in sustainability: The state was first to propose banning sales of gas-powered cars, to construct America’s first high-speed rail line, and a years-long drought has forced California to reimagine water management in a far more sustainable way. (One way is through the use of rain barrels.) While other states are making incremental changes, California is implementing sweeping reforms. 

Big Isn’t So Bad: A striking trend in the sustainability study: Larger cities are often greener than smaller ones. The most populated city in the country — New York — ranks at a respectable No. 14, coming in first on transit score and the share of green commuters. Washington, D.C., ranks at the top of the transportation category and second in the food production category.  

With population density comes increased efficiency, which can reduce waste and carbon footprints. But there’s a dark side to these metro areas: Despite their high scores in all other categories, the biggest cities tend to perform poorly on pollution metrics. (See population growth by the numbers.)

While some larger cities are far better than others — Boston’s pollution rank is 75, while New York’s is a dismal 192 — it’s clear that keeping tightly packed cities clean can be a real challenge. 

Falling Behind in Florida: Florida lands at the bottom of the sustainability ranking, with five of the 10 lowest-ranked cities all hailing from the Sunshine State. Infrastructure and transportation were the major challenges faced by Florida cities. Port St. Lucie is the worst city for transportation, while Hialeah is the worst city for infrastructure. 

Florida is being pulled down by a rapidly increasing population and an over-reliance on cars — though doing away with vehicle inspections and emissions testing hasn’t helped the state’s carbon footprint, either. Fort Lauderdale sits at a disappointing 159th place for greenhouse-gas emissions, while Orlando is even lower at No. 163. 

To review the full ranking and analysis, click here.

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