When you care deeply about preserving the Earth’s natural resources, it can be frustrating to live in a place where others don’t feel the same. Imagine living in a city where your local community makes a conscious effort to live sustainably.
The good news is that such cities in the United States do exist.
Whether you choose a career at a local wildlife conservatory or widen your sustainable dining options, there are many cities in the U.S., both small and large, that prioritize conservation and eco-friendly initiatives.
Read on to discover the top U.S. cities for conservationists and how they are paving the way towards a more sustainable future.
1. Portland (Oregon)
Portland was once mocked for its emphasis on eating locally sourced produce and shopping at sustainable clothing stores. Today, the city is leading the green movement with its LEED-certified buildings, paved bike paths, and support of eco-friendly initiatives.
Since receiving an influx of newcomers to the Portland Metro area, the city has ramped up its efforts to create a more sustainable future with several ambitious initiatives, including the Climate Action Plan in 2015 and the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. In the city’s Climate Action Plan, leadership put forth a goal to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and ramp this up to 80 percent by 2050. Later, the goal was changed to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Portland isn’t alone in its ambitious goals. Big companies such as Nike, Hewlett Packard, Google, and Microsoft have also voiced their support and promised to help lead the effort in Oregon. With the support of local governments, businesses, and the community, Portland is paving the way towards a green future.
2. Charleston (South Carolina)
With its many sustainable businesses and pleasant, year-round biking weather, it’s easy to embrace a sustainable lifestyle in Charleston, S.C. The charming, coastal city has long displayed a strong commitment to sustainability and conservation, perhaps most notably through its wildlife conservation efforts.
In addition to the SC Coastal Conservation League and several smaller conservation groups, Charleston is the host city for the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE), a three-day event that celebrates wildlife and conservation efforts. There are also conservation organizations dedicated to preserving birds of prey, bees, turtles, and other native species found in the Lowcountry.
Whether you’re passionate about equal access to safe drinking water, keeping Charleston’s pristine beaches clean, or educating others through wildlife programs, you’ll no doubt find a diverse group in Charleston who shares your passions and commitment.
3. Atlanta (Georgia)
Atlanta’s strong conservation efforts may come as a surprise, but this lively Southern city has been showing a strong commitment to sustainable developments in recent years. “The City in the Forest” has made significant progress in energy conservation with the Atlanta Better Business Challenge and the Atlanta Climate Action Plan.
However, Atlanta’s green movement escalated in 2016 when the city was accepted into the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative. In 2019, Quantified Ventures publicly offered a $14M environmental impact bond on behalf of the City of Atlanta and with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation, marking a huge step forward for green infrastructure in Atlanta.
The move will benefit the city and existing community, of which many already support conservation efforts. The city was recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 for its commitment to energy and water conservation.
4. Austin (Texas)
With its gorgeous state parks and an abundance of outdoor opportunities, it makes sense that Austin is keen on conserving the area’s natural beauty. Austin boasts around 300 parks and roughly 2,200 acres of designated preserves, giving Austinites plenty of space to play while protecting the natural habitats within the city.
Austin has been repeatedly recognized for its wildlife conservation efforts. A certified Community Wildlife Habitat, the city often nabs the top spot on the list of the most wildlife-friendly cities, which is ranked by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The city also has 2,616 Certified Wildlife Habitats—more than any other city in the United States.
5. Seattle (Washington)
Seattle is never far down the list of the nation’s most sustainable cities. Boasting around 500 parks and 974 Certified Wildlife Habitats, the Emerald City has long had a green reputation. In the last decade, the city put forth the Seattle Climate Change Action Plan, an initiative urging businesses and residents to prepare for climate change by investing in green spaces and capping carbon emissions.
Seattle has also released a 2035 Comprehensive Plan, which outlines a sustainable path forward while expanding infrastructure to accommodate the city’s massive growth. With an estimated population of 6 million people by 2050, the Emerald City couldn’t delay this plan any longer.
To achieve its ambitious goals, the plan involves bolstering the existing business districts in the city, promoting energy-conserving practices such as biking and walking, improving wastewater systems, and generally managing growth without compromising Seattle’s sustainability. Thanks to the city’s careful water and building conservation initiatives, Seattle has managed to hang onto its title as one of the more sustainable cities in the United States.
While these cities no doubt make it easier to live sustainably, you can still do your part to improve the world, no matter where you plant your roots. The small things can add up over time, such as shaving off a few minutes from your shower time or going plastic-free when you go to the grocery store. If everyone made a conscious effort to lower their impact on the environment, the entire country could dramatically reduce its environmental footprint.