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Most and least sustainable travel destinations in USA

Most and least sustainable travel destinations in USA
Most and least sustainable travel destinations in USA
Written by Harry Johnson

Cities around the world are now doing their best to fight the global climate change and to be more sustainable

With travelers increasingly conscious of the impact they could be having on the planet, cities are doing their best to be more sustainable.

The cities around the world are now doing their bit when it comes to fighting climate change, from using more renewable energy or encouraging residents and visitors to use public transport, cycle and walk.

So, which are the most sustainable destinations in the US?

To find out, travel industry experts analyzed some of America’s most visited cities on a range of sustainable factors.

The Top 10 Most Sustainable Cities in the USA 

RankCity% of Sustainable Hotels% of people who walk, cycle or use public transport to workRenewable Energy as % of total consumptionAverage Annual Air Pollution (μg/m³)Artificial Brightness (μcd/m2)Carbon Footprint per person  (t CO2)Miles of Cycle PathsCongestion LevelScore  /10
3New York City14.33%71.6%12.9%10.011,70017.1124.1935%6.50
7Salt Lake City3.01%20.4%7.0%9.14,67015.51.5915%6.04
9San Jose3.64%11.3%16.4%8.55,22017.50.4019%5.67

1. Portland, Oregon

In first place is Portland, Oregon, which is well known for being a progressive city, so it makes sense that sustainability would be important here.

The state of Oregon has the highest rate of renewable energy usage of any on our list (43.1%) and also scores highly for its low light pollution (6,590μcd/m2) and the number of sustainable hotels (9% of total hotels).

Portland has regularly ranked highly in lists of the Greenest Cities in America and was one of the first to introduce a comprehensive plan to tackle CO2 emissions.

2. Seattle, Washington

Not too far from Portland is the second-placed city of Seattle, Washington. The city is known for being a technology hub and has experienced rapid population growth, but it was also the first to pledge to become climate neutral, doing so back in 2010.

Like Portland, Seattle scores highly for its usage of renewable energy (38.4%) as well as for its average air pollution (6μg/m³), people who walk or use public transport (44.8%) and sustainable hotels (9.19%).

Seattle relies heavily on hydropower and only uses fossil fuels for a very small percentage of its electricity.

3. New York City, New York

Despite being one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world, New York takes third place.

NYC was the top-scoring city for not one, not two, but three factors: sustainable hotels, people walking or using public transportation, and length of cycle paths.

The sheer size of the Big Apple has forced it to tackle its carbon footprint head-on, investing in a comprehensive public transport network, constructing green office buildings and pledging to drastically reduce emissions.

The research also revealed the least sustainable US cities

RankCity% of Sustainable Hotels% of people who walk, cycle or use public transport to workRenewable Energy as % of total consumptionAverage Annual Air Pollution (μg/m³)Artificial Brightness (μcd/m2)Carbon Footprint per person  (t CO2)Miles of Cycle PathsCongestion LevelScore  /10

1. Nashville, Tennessee

Coming bottom of the rankings is Nashville, Tennessee, one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. 

Nashville is the lowest-scoring city when it comes to its air pollution (14.3μg/m³) and also scores poorly for its cycle path infrastructure, with just 0.6 miles of protected pathways.

2. Columbus, Ohio

The second-lowest scoring city is Columbus, the most populated city in the state of Ohio.

Ohio has a very low rate of renewable energy usage (4.4%) and the city of Columbus has a high level of air pollution, at 13.6μg/m³.

The high levels of pollution in the area are largely caused by the Ohio State University’s McCracken Power Plant, the landfill operated by the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), and the Anheuser-Busch Columbus Brewery.

3. Houston & Dallas, Texas

Two Texas cities are tied in third place, Houston and Dallas. The two are amongst the biggest in the state and both scored poorly for their public transport use and air pollution levels.

Both are very busy cities, with Houston having one of the highest levels of automobile usage in the country, while Dallas is also a major transportation hub with numerous highways converging in the city which is also home to a major port and one of the world’s busiest airports.

The destination with the most sustainable hotels

New York City, New York – 14.33%

Staying in a sustainable hotel can help to somewhat offset the effects that travel can have, as they make an effort to keep their energy consumption to a minimum.

The city that has the highest percentage of properties marked as being sustainable by is New York, with 14.33%.

The destination with the highest public transport use

New York City, New York – 71.6% of people walk, cycle, or use public transport to work

Using public transport, walking or cycling is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, and by far the city where car usage is at its lowest is New York.

Here 71.6% of people use something other than a car to get to work (or work from home), with the city having the largest single-operator rapid transport system in the world, providing 24/7 service to 472 rail stations.

The destination with the greatest renewable energy use

Portland, Oregon – 43.1% renewable energy consumption

Unfortunately, renewable energy data is only available at state level rather than city, but the state where renewable energy makes the largest share of consumption is Oregon, at 43.1%.

Oregon’s electricity supply is dominated by hydroelectricity, with over 80 renewable hydropower facilities in the state. 

The destination with the lowest air pollution

Tucson, Arizona – 4.8μg/m³ annual air pollution

Air pollution is a serious problem in many cities around the country, but the destination with the cleanest air is Tucson, Arizona.

Located in the Arizona desert, Tucson is the second-biggest city in the state but averages just 4.8μg/m³ a year.

The destination with the lowest light pollution

Tucson, Arizona – 3,530μcd/m2 artificial brightness

Light pollution is a form of pollution that perhaps gets less attention, as not only does it take away the beautiful night sky, but it also makes it much harder for some species to survive when they’re impacted by so much artificial light.

Once again, Tucson comes top here, with the city establishing dark sky ordinances way back in 1972 to limit the levels of light pollution.

The destinations with the lowest carbon footprint

Houston, Texas & Los Angeles, California – 14.6t CO2 per person

About the author

Harry Johnson

Harry Johnson has been the assignment editor for eTurboNews for mroe than 20 years. He lives in Honolulu, Hawaii, and is originally from Europe. He enjoys writing and covering the news.

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