Surprisingly Green Cities You Need to Know About

When you think of a “green” city, what do you think of? You probably think of Portland, where it seems like everybody rides bikes instead of driving cars. Maybe you imagine San Francisco, where all of the big tech lives (tech-driven cities are more likely to be green). We’re willing to bet that even Washington DC is in your top 5 since the federal government keeps making strides to improve the sustainability of their buildings.

You probably don’t think of cities like Fresno, or Honolulu, or Salt Lake City, but guess what? There are tremendous sustainability strides being made in these cities too!


When you picture Fresno, you probably picture dry arid desert and not the sort of place where recycling and sustainability are big priorities. You should know, however, that Fresno has been making tremendous strides to improve the city’s “green” rating. One of the ways that they are doing this is via their PACE program. The PACE program gives city assistance to residents who want to increase their homes eco-friendliness and sustainability.

One way that Fresno residents are doing this is, believe it or not, through the installation of smart security systems. Unlike a regular security system that just blares an alarm when someone breaks in, smart systems can learn how you behave within the house and adjust your power supplies accordingly. It can even be programmed to turn off power to everything but essential appliances and systems when nobody is home. In Fresno, according to one Fresno ADT page at, these security systems cost less than $60 per month. That’s not bad, considering you’ll be drastically decreasing your carbon footprint!


For some reason, people who live on the mainland tend to believe that the Hawaiian Islands (and the people who live there) are dramatically behind the times. Honolulu, though, recently topped NerdWallet’s list of America’s greenest cities. They also were given the highest EPA classification for air quality in 2014. It’s also important to know that Honolulu’s residents are more likely to use solar power for their homes than any other city in the country.

In fact, in Honolulu, residents are creating more solar power than the city’s municipal grid can handle (or that the city wants to pay for). According to the New York Times, twelve percent of Honolulu’s residents use solar power for their homes. This is causing the electrical companies to scramble to figure out how to survive in a place where the need for their product has dropped dramatically.

Salt Lake City

If there is a city that people almost always under-estimate it is Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City has always suffered under a bad reputation for extreme conservatism and right wing political policies. Because it is so well known for these extreme conservative views, people outside of Salt Lake believe that those views are holding the city back in terms of social and environmental issues. It’s a vicous stereotype and one that Salt Lake City is working hard to break.

It’s doing a good job, too! Among other ideas, Salt Lake City has devoted itself to improving air quality within its valley (where, traditionally, it has been pretty bad). They’re working on reducing motor vehicle emissions and improving their city public transit infrastructure (they currently have a light rail and expansive bus system) and make the city more bike-friendly. And, across the board, they are succeeding in their efforts!

Encouraging News for the Rural

It is also important to note that it is not just large cities that are making strides toward sustainability. Small and remote towns across the country are working hard to develop infrastructures that will reduce carbon emissions, dependence on fossil fuels, reduce waste, etc.

Our favorite method of doing this came out of New Hampshire a few years ago. Worried about the increasing amounts of waste being produced by residents of the state, many towns implemented a “Pay As You Throw” policy.

Under Pay As You Throw, citizen pay per bag of trash they toss instead of a simple monthly curbside pickup fee. Curbside trash collectors know to only collect these very specific bags. Everything else put out at the curb gets left behind. This way a family that only produces one trash bag of waste per week is not paying the same as the family that produces nine. While controversial at first, the law has dramatically reduced the amount of solid waste produced by New Hampshire residents–who are now much more likely to recycle and compost materials than simply chucking them in the trash.

The point is this: we’re improving our sustainability everywhere. What has your town been doing to “green up”? Call your city and find out!


From time to time we publish original guest articles. The above article was written by Sam Peters.

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