Skip to Content

7 Best States for Sustainable Living

7 Best States for Sustainable Living

Living sustainably is the key to a better future for generations to come. As we strive to go green, here are some of the best states for sustainable living in the US you can consider.

When it comes to environmental protection, we currently don’t have an easy way out. With costly natural disasters occurring so frequently in almost every part of the world, it’s high time that everyone takes part in preserving nature.

Sustainable living is the only way we can ensure that our future generations have somewhere to call home and resources to take care of them. Global warming, which results from detrimental human activities, has brought about extreme climatic changes taking a toll on our environment.

With the global population skyrocketing, being mindful of how we manage our natural resources will go a long way in saving the earth. We should strive to minimize energy usage, as well as waste production. By doing so, we not only protect the lives of our children but also make our current living more fulfilling.

Today, we look at some of the best sustainable states for sustainable living, hoping to give you a chance to make a difference. Based on extensive research, we have picked some of the 7 best states, considering at least 9 different sustainability metrics.

Best States for Sustainable Living

sustainable energy

Here are some of the best places for sustainable living in the US.  We have ranked them based on several key metrics, including:

  • Green/Renewable Energy Consumption

The more a city relies on green/renewable energy, the more environmentally friendly it is. Renewable energy sources include hydro, solar, wind, tidal, and biomass.

These sources form the future of energy if we want to protect our planet. Washington tops the list of the states using the most renewable energy.

  • LEED-Certified Buildings

The construction of eco-friendly buildings shows just how committed a state is to going green. Living sustainably starts right from where we live to the places we work in. More LEED-certified buildings clearly distinguish the best states for sustainable living from the rest.

  • Air Quality

Some states enjoy better air quality than others. This is mainly due to the existence or non-existence of large coastlines, large dense forests, volcanoes, or multiple industries.

Hawaii is considered one of the most sustainable states in terms of clean air, although other states overtake it at other metrics.

  • Water Quality

Clean water shows the existence of non-polluted rivers, lakes, underground water, etc. The presence of clean water allows for proper plant growth and healthy living for humans and animals.

  • Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly

Some states have more elaborate animal protection policies and organizations. This helps to ensure harmony between humans and animals, as well as encourage an animal cruel-free environment. For vegans, such a state is pretty much desired.

  • Public Transit

Extensive public transit networks play a major role in reducing gasoline usage per capita and the amount of carbon going to the atmosphere. With convenient public transit, eco-conscious individuals can minimize the use of private cars in running their errands.

  • Bicycle Friendly

Infrastructure, policies, and programs that favor bicycle riding within cities and towns go a long way in promoting a carbon-free environment. Some states are more bike-friendly than others.

  • Green Spaces

Protecting our green spaces is a positive step towards sustainable living. We should not use every available land to erect buildings and factories. We should protect the parks, forests, lakes, and other natural resources.

  • Gasoline Consumption

More gasoline consumption, more carbon emissions, and subsequently, increased global warming effects. A low gasoline consumption level is key in ranking the most eco-friendly places to live.

So, which are these states that offer the best chances for sustainable living in the US?

1. Vermont

sustainable living in vermont

While no single state out-ranks every other state in all of our sustainable living metrics, Vermont is a great state to start our list. The state, which sits on the Northeastern part of the US, has more to offer in sustainable living than most other states.

Popular for its largely forested natural landscape, Vermont enjoys a great share of clean water, air, and fertile soil for growing plants. If you are looking for the best state in the US for an off-the-grid lifestyle, Vermont is one of them.

The state is also famous for the over 100 19th-century wooden bridges, which are quite a spectacle. In addition, the extensive mountain terrain offers the best sites for hiking and skiing expeditions.

According to a study done by WalletHub, comparing the effects of eco-friendliness to personal finance, Vermont takes the title of the greenest state in the US. It offers the best environment for sustainable living.

When it comes to eco-friendly behaviors, the state takes the third position after Oregon and California. Also, in terms of contributions to climate change, it takes the 25th position.

And that’s not all; Vermont takes position 3 in adhering to LEED-Certification standards. And, as for keeping waste off the environment, the state holds the 3rd position in producing the lowest municipal solid waste per capita.

Vermont also boasts of an extensive interstate bus service doubled with a rail service (once a day) by Amtrak. So, in terms of transport, you don’t have to use your vehicle all the time. You can use public transport more to help reduce your carbon footprint.

All these and more makes Vermont feature top among the best states for sustainable living.

2. New York

New York is one of the oldest states in the US and currently the 27th largest one. With a total population of over 19 million, spread over a 54,555 square miles region, the state holds the fourth position on the list of most populous states in the US.

But how about sustainable living? Is New York the best state to live in? Well, let’s find out:

According to WalletHub, the state ranks second in the overall greenest state list, 3rd in environmental quality, and 8th in ecofriendly behaviors. In terms of energy consumption per capita, New York takes position two. And it tops the list of the lowest gasoline usage per capita.

New York State has an extensive public transport network, with more than 130 operators offering vital transport services. This makes moving from one place to another within the State pretty easy, both for residents and visitors.

With such an extensive public transit network, it means that it’s easy for anyone to survive here without much use of a private vehicle. This ensures fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere due to reduced use of gasoline.

New York State also has an “Open Space Conservation Plan,” which offers four objectives to guide green space protection policies and actions. These include:

  • Promotion of outdoor recreation
  • Addressing climate change
  • Guarantee clean and safe air, water, and land
  • Protect, conserve and wisely use natural resources

Even better, if you want to go vegan, New York State tops the list of the most vegan-friendly states in the US.  So, while the state is home to New York City, one of the most populous and busiest cities globally, it’s still one of the best states for sustainable living.

See Related: Largest National Parks in the World

3. Oregon

Located in the US’s Northwest Pacific region, Oregon became part of the United States in 1859 as the 33rd state. Currently, the state has over 4 million people living in a 98,000 square miles region. This makes the state the 27th most populous state in the US and the 9th largest.

And, if you are looking for a green state to live in, Oregon holds the 3rd overall greenest state position. In terms of environmental quality, it takes position four, while it tops the list of states practicing eco-friendly behaviors. It is through the way of living, goods they used from recyclable to other sustainable products like eco-friendly trash bags.

Oregon also holds position one when it comes to the use of renewable energy. This means that it is on the front line in ensuring fewer greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reducing over-exploitation of non-renewable resources.

If you love biking, Oregon also has your interests in mind. In the 2019 bicycle-friendly state report card by American Bicyclists’ league, the state took the second position. This report used various determining factors, including:

  • Infrastructure and funding, with Oregon appearing 7th out of 50 states
  • Education and encouragement – position 1
  • Evaluation and planning – position 1
  • Policies and programs – position 9
  • Legislation and enforcement – position 11

All these factors and more qualify Oregon as one of the best states for sustainable living. The state offers a myriad of options for you to live a sustainable lifestyle.

Whether you wish to reduce your carbon footprint through biking or using renewable energy, the state gives you an incredible chance.

4. Minnesota

spruce creek minnesota

“The land of 10,000 lakes,” as it’s popularly known, also features on our list of the best states for sustainable living, and with a perfect reason. The state, which sits on the Upper Midwest part of the country, has more to offer to eco-conscious folks than you can imagine.

With practically over 10,000 lakes and expansive dense forests, this state is, in other words, a safe haven for a sustainable lifestyle.

Featuring on WalletHub’s greenest states list, Minnesota State has the following to offer:

  • Environmental quality – position 2
  • Ecofriendly behaviors – position 4
  • Climate change contributions – position 19

The state also tops the list of states with the highest percentage of recycled waste, at number two. And, when it comes to soil quality, Minnesota ranks position two among the 50 states. This shows just how easy it can be to live sustainably in this state.

How about transport within the state?

Well, firstly, the state ranks third in most bike-friendly states list. This means that you can opt to move around with your bike, which is more environmentally friendly than using your car every time. Based on the bike league 2019 report card, this is how Minnesota ranks:

  • Infrastructure and funding – position 9
  • Education and encouragement – position 5
  • Evaluation and planning – position8
  • Policies and programs – position 7
  • Legislation and enforcement – position 15

Also, the state has an extensive network of public bus transport. This includes regular-route buses, commuter rail, and light rail, catering to over 90% of the state’s transit riders.

When it comes to maintaining greenspaces, Minnesota is not left behind. The state boasts 5 main national parks and around 75 state parks.

Some of these parks include:

  • Grand Portage National Monument
  • Voyageurs National Park
  • Mississippi National River & Recreation Area, etc.

5. Connecticut

Also known as the “Provisions State,” Connecticut is ranked 3rd smallest state in the US, but 29th most populous among the 50 states. Based on the 2010 Census, the state boasts of the highest per-capita income and comes 2nd after Massachusetts for the highest human development level.

In terms of sustainability, Connecticut is undoubtedly one of the most sustainable places to live in the US. First, when it comes to energy consumption, the state is among the top 5 states with the lowest per capita energy consumption. This means that you can easily achieve your sustainable living goals by staying here through reduced energy consumption.

While the largest percentage of energy consumed in Connecticut comes from natural gas and nuclear power, the state has made significant strides in renewable energy, . This includes mainly biomass, solar, and hydroelectric energy.

Connecticut also ranks number 7 in environmental quality, 9 in eco-friendly behaviors, and 1 in climate change contributions.

And when it comes to transportation, you won’t have to strain. Connecticut has an extensive bus transit around the state. The CTtransit, a state-owned bus service, has 8 divisions that serve various regions within the state. For instance, the CTtransit Hartford Division serves more than 30 local routes and 12 express ones.

In addition, the state has a good network of bicycle-friendly infrastructure and policies that generally favor bike lovers. The state ranks 21, according to the bike league report.

Searching for ecofriendly places to live? Why not try out Connecticut! You’ll find it to be among the most sustainable states in the country.

See related: Don’t Read This If You Think Climate Change is Fake.

6. California

best states for sustainable living california

While finding a place for sustainable living might be tricky, especially with the spiking populations, California has done incredibly well in keeping it green.

Firstly, the state has over 16,500 LEED (eco-friendly) certified buildings. This makes it one of the best sustainable states for living without any doubt.

In addition, the state has over 5,700 EV (electric vehicle) charging stations, a clear indication of just how much it has gone in keeping the atmosphere clean. If you want to be a part of this clean and sustainable environment, a shift to the state won’t be such a bad idea.

And if your goal is to reduce your carbon footprint through reduced gasoline consumption, California offers you an excellent chance to achieve that. This is through its extensive bus and rail transit services, making your movement within the city seamless. This way, you can leave your car at home and still make it to work or through other daily activities without much hustle.

Also, if cycling is your thing, the state ranks fourth in the most bicycle-friendly states in the country. It ranks top in various metrics like infrastructure & funding, policies & programs, as well as education & encouragement, all of which promote a riding culture.

To crown it all, California is also considered the second most vegan-friendly state in the country after New York. So, if you want to go all the way into making the world a better place, California seems like an excellent state to do so.

See Related: Solar vs Wind Energy: What’s the Difference?

7. Washington

While there are several other sustainable places to live, Washington concludes our list for today. The state, which sits on the Pacific Northwest of the country, ranks 18th in the largest states’ list and 13th on the most populous list.

With over 7.6 million residents, the state might seem congested and non-eco-friendly, but that is far from the truth. Washington has made tremendous steps in environmental conservation and preservation, as well as in encouraging people to live sustainable lifestyles.

Encourage using and choosing sustainable products like eco-friendly water bottles.

For instance, the state has over 3,000 eco-friendly buildings and counting. In addition, it boasts of over 1,000 EV (electric vehicle) charging stations that cater to the increased number of people shifting to electric vehicles. This is a positive initiative towards combating carbon emissions from the use of gasoline, which can help revert the climatic change and global warming situation.

The state has an extensive public transit network, which makes maneuvering the state seamless, when not on your car. Also, public transport includes a green public transit, which aims to reduce the state’s carbon footprint even more. Even better, Washington ranks #1 as the most bicycle-friendly state in the entire country.

And if you are an advocate of proper treatment of animals, Washington has your interests in mind. It is quite vegan-friendly, with various animal protection organizations and great restaurants to enjoy vegan meals within the state.

As for green spaces, Washington enjoys the presence of 12 national and state parks across the state. These include parks like:

  • Olympic National Park
  • Mount Rainier Park
  • Deception pass park
  • Lake Wenatchee
  • North Cascades Park, etc.

It’s for these reasons and more that Washington had to feature on our list of best states for sustainable living.

Related Resources