When deciding to go green, many people start to realize the scarce number of green alternatives available for a sustainable lifestyle. Yet with climate change and environmental problems catching the public eye so often, we see an overall encouragement for green practices, at both micro and macro levels. A large part of anyone’s carbon footprint comes from the buildings in which they live and work, but also from the daily commute. The challenge is to find a place where you have multiple green alternatives for a sustainable lifestyle. So, which are the greenest states in the U.S.?
We created an index to determine which are the best states for a person who wants more access to green alternatives, considering where you have more options to work in a green building, live in a green building, and commute using sustainable means of transportation. For the number of green buildings, we divided the USGBC inventory into commercial and residential, where commercial buildings include institutions (schools, hospitals, etc.), as well as office spaces. For means of transportation, we looked into 3 subcategories: resources for charging electric private vehicles, green public transit, and bike-sharing.
Check out the infographic below for the main findings of our study, and go to the end of the article for our full methodology.
Greenest States for a Sustainable Lifestyle
In creating a methodology for ranking the best states for a sustainable lifestyle, we offer weight to these existing green alternatives, rather than to consequences such as air and water quality or emission levels, where other factors interfere. We considered the available data proportional to the population of each state, to get a fair image of the distribution.
Greenest States in the U.S.
The District of Columbia gets the top score for the best ratio of green-certified residential, commercial, and transportation options relative to the total number of its residents. With a population of around 670,000 people, over 3,100 LEED-certified buildings, around 150 electric car charging stations, 3,700 shared bikes, and electric/hybrid public transportation options, DC climbs to take the first spot among the greenest states in the U.S. This comes as no surprise, considering that DC was awarded the LEED Platinum certification for green initiatives.
The second place for greenest states in the U.S. is taken by California, which offers its 39M residents around 16,500 green-certified buildings, 5,727 electric car charging stations, 3,650 shared bikes, and plenty of environmentally-friendly public transportation options. The Golden State is followed by Colorado, Maryland, and New York to round up the top 5 friendliest states for a sustainable lifestyle in terms of the live-work-commute balance.
At the other end of the spectrum, the states with the least options for a sustainable lifestyle were West Virginia, Nebraska, and North Dakota, where there are little to no green alternatives for residential buildings. Their green scores were all under 30. If you want to see how your state did in our analysis, check out the table below, and use the tabs to sort by the score for each category.
See How Your State Ranks for Green Lifestyle Options
|#||State||People per Commercial Building|
|People per Residential Building|
|People per Electric Station|
|Yearly Trips per Person|
|People per Shared Bike|
|1||District of Columbia||200||12,900||4,900||50||200||90.27|
*The numbers in the table were rounded up to the closest hundred, except for the yearly trips per person category.
- The Green Score is a RENTCafé index based on the following variables:
- Total number of LEED-certified residential and commercial buildings (according to USGBC, as of 04/2019)
- Number of electric car charging stations (according to US Department of Energy, as of 04/2019)
- Number of trips taken with electric or hybrid transit modes per person, per year (according to the American Public Transportation Association, as of 12/2018)
- Number of shared bikes (according to NACTO, as of 12/2016)
- Total population according to the US Census Bureau.
- The number of residents per commercial building received a 35% weight, the number of residents per residential building received a 35% weight, the commuting category received a total weight of 30%, divided as follows: people per electric car charging station – 15% weight; number of yearly trips per person using electric or hybrid public transit – 10% weight; the number of residents per shared bike – 5% weight. The final green score is a maximum of 100. The state with the highest score received the highest ranking.
- We made an effort to include the most recent data publicly available. Some data may not be up to date. Other entities may provide green-building certification and other sources of data may be available.
Fair use and redistribution
We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to RENTCafe.com or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology.