Part of the beauty of the United States is the diversity of its distinct geographical regions. This variety extends as well to the culture of each state and how it prioritizes care for the environment.
Just how do the states stack up against each other in terms of overall greenness? A frequently cited WalletHub article offers an attempt at answering this question. The article bases its ranking on three criteria: environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors and climate-change contributions. Each of these criteria is divided into smaller sub-categories such as air quality, energy consumption per capita and carbon-dioxide emissions per capita.
Even though the approach of WalletHub’s analysis is not 100% scientific, it has gained popularity because it sheds light on the extremely important topic of what states can do to take better care of the earth and its natural resources. Below are some of the lessons we can learn from each of the Top 10 Greenest states.
Vermont tops the list for excelling in overall air quality, LEED-certified buildings per capita and total municipal solid waste per capita. The main lesson here is that diversity is just as important in protecting the environment as it is for a beautiful landscape. This state is fostering change on many fronts.
New York excels in terms of lowest energy consumption and lowest gasoline consumption per capita. Here, the lesson is that doing a couple things very well can lead to positive results in other areas, too. Burning less gasoline contributes to cleaner air in the long run.
Oregon has the highest rate of energy consumption from renewable sources amongst all states. We don’t need to (and can’t) stop using energy altogether. We only need to start using energy that is created in a way that doesn’t harm the planet.
Like New York, Connecticut is among the Top 5 states for lowest energy consumption per capita. The less energy we use, the lower our impact upon the limited resources required to produce it.
Minnesota leads the pack for water quality and soil quality, but also for the percentage of recycled municipal solid waste. These three factors contribute to the health of every organism within the state’s complex ecosystems.
Massachusetts stands with Vermont as one of the states with most LEED-certified buildings per capita. LEED-certification is a well-recognized but difficult-to-attain indication of commitment to constructing and operating buildings under green principles.
California combines strengths in low energy consumption and a high rate of recycled municipal solid waste. Like Vermont and Minnesota, this state also strives to diversify its approach to keeping things green.
Rhode Island is at the absolute top of the list for low energy consumption per capita, but the state has also found success in maintaining low gasoline consumption and low total municipal solid waste. Reducing unnecessary waste both in terms of energy and garbage is a true hack for helping the environment.
South Dakota has very high air and soil quality, but it also derives a high percentage of its energy from renewable resources. This reveals a focus on maintaining cleanliness in the most basic components of the environment.
Finally, New Hampshire manages to keep high air quality, while also controlling solid waste and ensuring high levels of recycling activity. This last state exemplifies what can happen to the broader environment when households prioritize recycling over mere convenience.
The common themes in these examples drive to the unchanging fundamental factors of environmental friendliness: greener energy use, cleaner air, water and soil, better management of solid waste. As individuals, businesses and states practice these guidelines, the entire nation can continue to edge closer to becoming truly green.