Climate change is a global issue, but if we’re going to correct it, action needs to happen on a local level. National-level initiatives have the potential to sway the habits of a larger audience, but they’re also harder and slower to promote. Cities have the power to pass new regulations quickly and adapt plans for their specific needs, meaning they can implement new policies faster and with greater adoption rates. If enough cities do this, it will be like implementing a national-scale initiative—except far more effective.
We need the major cities of the U.S. to make a more concentrated effort to pursue more sustainable energy practices, and part of that means acknowledging and promoting the cities that do.
What Qualifies a City as “Energy Efficient”
So what makes a city “energy efficient” in the first place? What are the qualities that other cities should aspire to? These are some of the most important criteria:
Emissions ordinances. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are a significant contributor to climate change, and are a natural byproduct of most types of transportation and energy generation. Reducing GHG emissions is essential to move our cities forward. Action here includes reducing pollution.
Public transportation options. Cities that offer better buses, subways, and other transportation options have fewer commuters, and use far less energy, while reducing both traffic and GHG emissions.
Wind and solar installations. Renewable energy is the future, but only some cities are going out of their way to push for initiatives here.
Tax credits for efficient practices. Some cities are offering tax incentives for local residents and business owners that engage in sustainable practices.
Green-minded residents. It also helps for a city to have climate-conscious citizens who are willing to take action on their own.
Top Energy-Efficient Cities in the U.S.
Let’s take a look at some of the best cities in the U.S. for energy efficiency, leading by example:
- Miami. Miami is a major tourist destination, but the city is worth far more than its affordable hotels and attractions. Miami is working hard to cut back on emissions and corporate pollution, while simultaneously offering incentives for residents and business owners who commit to more energy efficient practices.
- Boston. Boston is all-around one of the best cities in the country in terms of efficiency. Its provision of utilities and water are increasingly controlled, with more initiatives in renewable resources, and there are green options for travel with public transportation available everywhere.
- Portland. Portland has developed its own plan for addressing climate change, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. These goals are realistic in part due to the progressive-minded nature of its citizens.
- New York. New York is packed with businesses and residents, as one of the most densely-populated cities in the country. Thankfully, the city is taking extraordinary measures to reduce pollution and provide cleaner, safer, low-emissions traveling options for its citizens.
- Washington, DC. It makes sense that our nation’s capital would be one of the most progressive cities in the country. Washington, DC topped Energy Star’s most recent annual list of best cities for energy efficiency, with 686 Energy Star-certified buildings in its metropolitan area. Washington, DC also has a fantastic public transportation system, and is working toward producing cleaner energy.
- Los Angeles. Unfortunately, LA remains one of the worst cities in the country in terms of pollution—but that’s mostly due to its enormous population. The city is making a serious effort to cut back on both residential and corporate emissions, and is incentivizing more renewable energy efforts.
- Atlanta. Atlanta has an extensive plan and timeline for making itself a more progressive city, and a big part of that plan is preparing for and responding to climate change. These efforts include reducing greenhouse gas emissions and pursuing cleaner energy options.
Overall, the U.S. is still woefully behind in terms of action on climate change, especially when compared to Japan and the European Union. Fortunately, we have these major cities setting a bold and positive example for how the rest of our nation should be progressing.