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As a company that specializes in helping people get their buildings LEED Certified, we are passionate about sustainability and green living. Naturally, we were curious to know which states in the USA are the best and worst for green living.

The above map is showing the results of our research based on 6 key factors: renewable energy usage, carbon emissions, water usage, number of electric vehicles, number of green buildings, number of green building professionals, and air quality. The factors were weighted by importance - for example, air quality counted more than number of electric vehicles.

Let us know what you think and what factors we should include next time!

The Top 5 Best States for Green Living are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Montana
  3. Oregon
  4. Washington
  5. Hawaii

The Top 5 Worst States for Green Living are:

  1. Delaware
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Ohio
  4. Mississippi
  5. New Jersey


1. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy which mostly includes wind and solar is a clear indication of how green a state is. The state with the most renewable energy per capita was Washington and the state with the least was New Jersey.

Data source: https://www.eia.gov/renewable/state/archive/2010/

2. Carbon Emissions

Naturall, a state with a high carbon footprint is not going to be as ideal as a state with low carbon emissions. The state with the lowest carbon emissions per capita was New York and the state with the highest was Wyoming.

Data source: http://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/?sid=US#/series/226

3. Water usage

Water is a precious resource. We wanted to see which states are guzzling the gallons versus which are more careful with their water usage. The state with the highest water usage per capita was California (luckily, their drought has broken!) and the state with the least was Vermont.

Data source: https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405/

4. Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are another clear indication of how green conscious a state is. How often do you see a Prius or a Tesla in your neighborhood? The state with the most electric vehicles per capita was California (3.25 per 1000 people) and the state with the lowest was Mississippi (0.07 per 1000 people).

Data source: https://energy.gov/eere/vehicles/fact-876-june-8-2015-plug-electric-vehicle-penetration-state-2014

5. Green Buildings and Professionals

At Above Green we help contractors, architects and developers to get their buildings LEED certified. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system devised by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage market transformation towards sustainable design.We looked at the number of LEED certified projects and LEED consulting professionals per state. The state with the most LEED building per capita was Hawaii and the state with the least was West Virginia. The state with the most LEED professionals per capita was Massachusetts and the state with the least was Mississippi.

Data sources: http://www.usgbc.org/projects and http://www.usgbc.org/people

6. Air Quality

Last but not least was air quality. Few can argue that air quality isn’t essential for green living. The state with the best air quality is Hawaii. No real surprises there with 1000s of miles of ocean surrounding the islands (although they do still burn the sugar cane and sometimes vog is an issue caused by their volcanoes!). The state with the worst air quality was Utah. This one is very surprising but is apparently caused by extreme temperature inversions that bring fine particle matter (which is toxic to breathe) down to ground level.

Data source: http://www.usa.com/rank/us--air-quality-index--state-rank.htm


From our findings based on these 6 key factors we found that generally the northern and western states were better for green living. Of course there are many more factors that could be considered for a more complete evaluation. This our first attempt at finding the greenest places. What should we look at next time? What are most important factors in green and healthy living to you?

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