Greenest States in America 2019
Each state in the United States has its own unique claim to fame: a prominent national park, a dominant industry or some other interesting feature. Sometimes what makes a state stand out isn’t anything to brag about — unemployment, debt, poor healthcare — but other times it can be glowingly noteworthy. For example, how about saving the planet?
In April 2019, personal finance website WalletHub took an in-depth look at which states are leading the pack for being environmentally friendly. All 50 states were rated on three areas: Environmental Quality, Eco-Friendly Behaviors and Climate-Change Contributions. The rating system involved a sophisticated equation that involved averaging out 23 metrics graded on a 100-point scale.
Top 10 Most Environmentally Friendly States
According to research, these are the Top 10 greenest states of 2019:
- New York
- South Dakota
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
Not all of the results for the most environmentally friendly states are surprising, such as Oregon coming in at No. 2 overall. Most of the states that rank highly in one area rank highly in others. But then there’s New Mexico, which ranks No. 6 for Eco-Friendly Behaviors but came in at No. 30 overall, a full 12 places behind the next state to have a single-digit ranking in one area. What happened there?
It turns out, New Mexico has quite a low ranking for Environmental Quality (39) and for Climate-Change Contributions (36). Instead of being a let-down, however, New Mexico’s disparity in scores can be taken as a good thing, because New Mexico is making an effort to up its game and compensate for where it’s lacking in other areas. States such as Louisiana, which ranked at No. 49 in all categories, should take note: Every effort to help out the environment counts.
How You Can Make Your State More Eco-Friendly
Some of the factors impacting total scores for greenest states seem to go over the average person’s area of influence, including Soil Quality, Water Quality, % of Renewable Energy Consumption (such as solar), Most LEED-Certified Buildings per Capita. A lot of these rely more on environmentally friendly companies to make a big impact. At the same time, things like Air Quality and Water Quality do depend at least a little on each citizen: we can take public transit instead of drive to work, or we can make sure we’re properly disposing of hazardous chemicals so they don’t end up in our waste treatment plants and water supply.
Other categories that tie more directly into our everyday lives: Energy Consumption per Capita, Gasoline Consumption per Capita, % of Recycled Municipal Solid Waste, and Total Municipal Solid Waste. Changing our behaviors to be more environmentally friendly is something every person can do, and it does make a difference.
As technology advances, more ways to be environmentally friendly present themselves. Solar panels are going up on roofs, power-generating windmills are dotting the landscape, and fuel-efficient or wholly electric cars are making their way onto roads. All of these things can contribute to helping the environment, but it’s the little things, added up across the millions of people living in the United States, that often make the biggest difference.
Everyone is familiar with the three R’s — Recycle, Reduce, Reuse — but how do they translate into everyday life? The Environmental Protection Agency offers several ideas for green living, some of which can be found here along with other things to try.
The WalletHub rankings say the rate of recycling for its top-ranking state in that category (Maine) is 48 times higher than that of the lowest ranking state (Louisiana). As recycling programs continue to gain traction throughout the United States, recycling becomes a much more friendly alternative for disposing of paper, plastic, and other approved materials. If your community offers curbside collection, collect recyclable materials and put them out in your designated recycling bin on pick-up day. If a program like that doesn’t exist in your area, you can still collect materials to be recycled and take them to a drop-off center.
Apart from recycling things like cans, bottles and paper, consider taking compostable materials such as yard debris to a compost center — or even making your own compost.
What’s the best way to cut down on the amount of waste in the United States? Don’t generate it in the first place. Lessening the amount of material being sent to landfills, recycling centers or incinerators means making wise decisions about what to buy and using things to their fullest extent. Look for products that have minimal or biodegradable packaging, or buy items in bulk when possible. Save items from going to the landfill by buying things used. Refrain from using paper plates or plastic cutlery when a reusable option is feasible. Buy rechargeable electronics instead of using up packs of batteries. Conserve and take care of the things you own so they can last as long as possible.
The goal here is again to limit the amount of waste generated. Find ways to repurpose what you already own, and donate your old items to an organization where they can find new life. Purchase repurposed products, including things made from post-consumer recycled material such as compost bags. Take reusable shopping bags with you to the store so plastic grocery bags, one of the banes of the recycling world, are less likely to get stuck in your neighbor’s tree or cause difficulty in your local recycling center. On that note, if you do have plastic bags to recycle, make sure you take them to a designated drop-off spot near you. A helpful locator by the American Chemistry Council can point you in the right direction.