Best Places to Live

rooftop gardens

Top 10 Green Cities

These best places to live are based upon criteria such as clean air and water, reliable public transportation, green space and parks, renewable energy, farmer's markets, and opportunities for community involvement; listed in alphabetical order.

Austin, Texas

According to David Hawkins,director of the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C., "Austin is important because it shows that a government body can take steps within its own realm of control -- that this is a problem that can be managed and that there are models that can work. If Austin's actions cause other cities to ask, 'Why aren't we doing something like that?' then this can have a much bigger effect." Why else is Austin one of the best places to live?

  • Headquarters of Whole Foods organic grocery store chain
  • City Hall built with mostly recycled materials
  • Intends to power 100% of its government buildings with renewable energy such as solar or wind power by 2017
  • By 2020, each new home built will be required to be so energy efficient as to be completely powered by a solar collection system on its roof

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder city council enacted the Green Building and Green Points Program which encourages the use of sustainable remodeling and building methods and technologies to conserve energy, water and other natural resources. Here are some more reasons Boulder is one of our best places to live:

  • Over 42,000 acres of protected land around the city
  • 90% of residents recycle
  • More than 25% of residents regularly bike to work/school
  • Hiking trails, fishing holes, picnic areas and rock-climbing within biking distance

Burlington, Vermont

One of the reasons Burlington is one of our best places to live is the Vermont Weatherization Program, which provides free weatherization assistance to residents (whether or not they own the property in which they reside) who earn 60% or less of the state median income.

  • 5.6% walk to work, 4.6% work from home and 12.3% carpool
  • 16 farmers' markets, three food co-ops and 5 organic producers
  • city compost facility uses scraps from grocery stores, restaurants and food producers to create compost which is then sold to farmers and landscapers
  • Headquarters of eco-friendly household product manufacturer Seventh Generation

Chicago, Illinois

The Second City is one of our best places to live. There are over four million square feet of rooftop gardens in Chicago. The garden insulates the building and conserves energy, making it cash positive,” says David Yocca, who designed Chicago' City Hall's rooftop garden.

  • Millennium Park is comprised of 24 acres of open space and art
  • PepsiCo headquarters has solar panels and a sustainability center
  • Solar panels collect energy along Chicago's tollways
  • AbtElectronics' headquarters boasts wind and solar panels as well as a “clean” delivery fleet

Madison, Wisconsin

The founder of Earth Day, Senator and former governor Gaylord Nelson, called the state capitol home. The birthplace of Earth Day makes it on our list of best places to live.

  • First city in the US to offer curbside recycling
  • Year-round farmers' market
  • 3 bikes for every car and over 100 miles of bike paths
  • 15,000 acres of lakes and 6,000 acres of parkland

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis was named one of the top business districts in the nation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Free parking for registered van and car pools
  • 60% of downtown workers use public or alternative transportation
  • bike paths, bike lanes and employer-sponsored showers and locker rooms
  • More than 200,000 trees

New York, New York

New York Subway

New York's subway system is famous and infamous. In addition buses, hybrid cabs, pedicabs, and bike rentals are readily available

  • New York residents place less pressure on their environmental surroundings and use less resources than any other similarly-sized city
  • Central Park contains 24,000 trees, 150 acres of lakes and streams, 130 acres of woodlands, and 21 playgrounds within its 1300 acres
  • Farmers' Market Federation of New York's mission is “to support and promote the viability of farmers' markets through innovative services, programs and partnerships that maximize the benefits of markets to sellers, buyers and communities.
  • Urban Green, New York City's leading advocate for urban sustainability, provides educational programming for the green building community

Portland, Oregon

Half of Portland's power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, making it one of our best places to live.

  • Residents voted for a bond measure to acquire and protect more than 8,100 acres of ecologically valuable natural areas
  • Forest Park is the largest wilderness park within city limits in the United States at over 5,000 acres
  • Mills Ends Park is the nation's smallest park – approximately 2 feet in diameter
  • The Portland Saturday Market is open every weekend from March through Christmas and is the nation's largest outdoor arts and crafts market

San Francisco, California

San Francisco's water, fed down the Sierra Nevada mountain range, is so clean that it doesn't have to be filtered. The gravity fed system also generates clean hydropower that runs San Francisco's famous cable cars, lights municipal buildings and city streets.

  • Grocery stores and chain pharmacies are banned from using disposable plastic bags
  • Residents are required to separate garbage – recyclables in a blue bin and compostables in a green bin – and a whopping 80% of the city's garbage is either recycled or composted
  • According to a Sierra Club study, Stanford is among the country's top 10 greenest colleges and universities
  • San Francisco has a slew of transportation methods for residents to get around town using clean technology, including electric vehicle options like City Car Share, Zipcar, DriveNow, and Scoot Networks.

Santa Monica, California

Pacific Wheel


Santa Monica's Mission Statement is, “as a community, we can live well today without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”

  • Pacific Wheel , located at Pacific Park on the pier, is the world's first solar-powered Ferris Wheel
  • Santa Monica has more than 420 acres of public open space , hosting sporting facilities, swimming pools, tennis courts and lawn bowling
  • Santa Monica has four renowned Farmers' Markets, an array of Organic Food Stores and Organic Dining
  • Water run-off is reclaimed from storm drains, filtered and treated, then used in irrigation and for toilet flushing

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