With Earth Day just a few weeks away, you may be wondering how many Earth Days we still have to go until we become a truly green society. While we shouldn’t lose sight of the work that remains to be done, this is also a good time to celebrate the many green cities that have made major strides toward greater sustainability.

The Five Greenest Cities in the U.S.

When it comes to going green, these cities have the right idea. They’re pursuing clean energy, implementing strong environmental policies, and heading toward zero waste.

1. San Francisco, California

Colorful San Francisco homes.

Pedro Javier Jimenez CC By-NC-ND 2.0

In its quest to become a more sustainable city, San Francisco set a goal to divert 100 percent of waste away from landfills by 2020. To that end, the city became the first to require that both businesses and residents separate their trash into recyclables and compost material. San Franciscans have also supported a range of waste reduction laws, such as requiring restaurants to use compostable or recyclable food service ware.

Currently, 80 percent of San Francisco’s waste is diverted from landfills. Cementing its status as the greenest city in the U.S., San Francisco is working toward eliminating that last 20 percent.


2. San Jose, California

San Jose stands as one of the most eco-friendly cities in the country thanks to its comprehensive Green Vision plan comprising 10 goals to be achieved by 2022. The city hopes to use its Green Vision plan to position itself as a leader in clean technology and to drive economic growth through sustainable practices. Some of the most ambitious goals include getting 100 percent of the city’s electrical power from clean and renewable sources, creating 25,000 clean tech jobs and recycling 100 percent of the city’s wastewater.

Regardless of whether all 10 goals are met on schedule, San Jose will still stand as one of the most sustainable cities in the U.S.


3. Honolulu, Hawai’i

Skyline of Honolulu, a top green city.

Edmund Garman CC By 2.0

Honolulu is a hard-hitter among sustainable cities, with one of the nation’s greenest public transit systems. The Honolulu Rail System is working toward LEED Certification and saves the city the equivalent of 5.9 million gallons of gasoline each year. Honolulu’s TheBus is an award-winning public transit option with routes throughout the entire island of Oahu. Honolulu also focuses on urban design that encourages walking and biking, and makes public transit easy to access.

Along with the rest of the state, the city also aims to achieve 70 percent clean energy, reduce waste by 70 percent and create a thriving green job market by 2030.


4. Oakland, California

Modern buildings, decorated with flowers, in Oakland.

1Flatworld CC By-NC-ND 2.0

Oakland has earned its spot among America’s most environmentally-friendly cities by refusing to rest after achieving past sustainability goals. In 2006, Oakland surpassed a mandate to divert 50 percent of its waste away from landfills. However, after that initial success, those numbers began to slow. Oakland revamped its plan and is now working to achieve a 90 percent diversion rate by 2020.

In order to achieve this new goal, the city plans to expand and improve recycling programs, adopt new waste disposal rules, advocate for manufacturer responsibility and educate the public about its Zero Waste Strategic Plan.


5. Seattle, Washington

Skyline of Seattle, a top sustainable city.

Howard Ignatius CC By-NC-ND 2.0

Seattle earns its place as a top sustainable city thanks to its commitment to pursuing zero waste goals. The city aims to be recycling 70 percent of waste by 2022. Seattle isn’t just planning to increase municipal solid waste recycling. The city also plans to be recycling 70 percent of construction and demolition debris by 2020.

To guide its planning, the city has established a comprehensive zero waste strategy. This strategy includes plans for limiting unnecessary waste, such as plastic bags and junk mail. Seattle also hopes to pass regulations formally banning certain items from landfills. Other efforts will work to expand Seattle’s organics recycling program to include multi-family homes.

Is your city working to become more sustainable? Comment below.

Take a look at the Greener Living section of our blog for tips on living sustainably and making a positive impact on your environment.

Feature Image: 1Flatworld CC By-NC-ND 2.0