The Greenest, Most Environmentally-Friendly States in America

Posted by Nancy Sabatelli on Jul.23, 2009

© - cinoby

© - cinoby

Look around you: do you live in a green state? Are you in an area that’s taking eco-conscious steps to make an impact on the environment? Is your state among the nation’s greenest? See if it made the list! Take a look at the breakdown in different green categories. Then, find out what individual states are doing to adopt new green measures.

The Greenest States

According to Forbes magazine, here are the top ten greenest states in America (1):

  1. Vermont
  2. Oregon
  3. Washington
  4. Hawaii
  5. Maryland
  6. Connecticut
  7. New Jersey
  8. Rhode Island
  9. New York
  10. Arizona

Many of these states might seem surprising. In general, we consider Eastern states congested, polluted and dirty, full of big cities crammed with traffic and other pollution-causing factors. But, many Eastern states made the list thanks to their energy-efficiency standards, clean water and low emissions (1).

Highest Recycling Rates

Recycling rates are on the rise, meaning less trash ends up in landfills. In fact, about 32.1 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) is recycled rather than thrown away, according to Love To Know (2). But not all states recycle at the same rates. For example, some areas have curbside recycling collections: in other areas, you must bring recyclables to a recycling center yourself.

Raymond Communications published a survey report, U. S. Recycling Laws: State-by-State Guide, containing data estimates given by each state. So, which are the top recyclers (3)?

  1. Minnesota
  2. Washington
  3. New Jersey
  4. Maine
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Oregon
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Pennsylvania
  9. Vermont
  10. Maryland
  11. Ohio

Lowest Air Pollution Rates

Sniff. Smell that? How clean is your state’s air? Do you live in a heavily-congested, highly-polluted area with smoke, fog, exhaust fumes and other toxins? These hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) can contribute to respiratory problems and even lung cancer. The following are the lowest 20 percent of states with the “number of people living in areas where the estimated cancer risk from HAPs is greater than 1 in 10,000,” according to the pollution locator at Scorecard (4):

  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Maine
  • Montana
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

Most Energy-Efficient and Highest Renewable Energy Rates

We need energy for electricity, appliances, heating, cooling and many other purposes. How much energy do we waste, and how much is used efficiently? Different states have different energy usage rates. The efficiency depends on how this energy is generated. Some states rely more heavily on fossil fuels, which are less energy-efficient and create more pollution. In contrast, other states use more alternative sources to create electricity, like natural gas, hydropower or wind power. Plus, the state’s industries also play a role in its energy usage: states with lots of factories and manufacturing plants use more electricity and power than non-industrial states (5).

The most energy-efficient states in the U.S., as reported by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, are (6):

  1. California
  2. Oregon
  3. Connecticut
  4. Vermont
  5. New York
  6. Washington
  7. Massachusetts and Minnesota (tied)
  8. Wisconsin
  9. New Jersey

And, the following states lead the nation in producing renewable energy, reports State Master (7):

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Nevada
  4. Texas
  5. Minnesota
  6. Hawaii
  7. Iowa
  8. Wyoming
  9. Arizona
  10. Oregon

Most Hybrid Cars

Whether you’re driving back and forth to work, driving around town doing errands or taking a major road trip, you’re using gasoline, creating harmful pollutants. Hybrid cars are more environmentally-friendly because they run on a gasoline/electric mix, thereby reducing emissions.

These states have the highest sales numbers of hybrid cars, according to Mixed Power (8):

  1. California
  2. New York
  3. Florida
  4. Texas
  5. Illinois

Environmentally-Friendly Initiatives By States

As the green movement picks up speed, states are placing greater emphasis on environmental awareness, developing new initiatives and guidelines to become more eco-friendly. And the key word here is “states.” As Stacy Feldman notes on the Solve Climate Web site, “The U. S. states, combined, spent two to three times more than the federal government did on energy efficiency – the most common-sense and available solution – to energy and climate change” (6).

How are various states adopting more environmentally-minded policies?

  • 41 states have standards for energy-efficient buildings (9).
  • 23 states have laws for renewable power (9).
  • 15 states have incentive programs for fuel-efficient or hybrid cars (9).
  • 12 states have cap limits on industry pollution emissions (9).
  • Laws passed in Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Washington hold electronics manufacturing companies liable for recycling program costs when consumers discard old electronics (10).
  • Tax credits, rebates and other incentives are available to energy-efficient, sustainable homes and commercial buildings in California, Maryland, Mexico, New York and Oregon (10).


  1. Wingfield, Brian & Marcus, Miriam. America’s Greenest States. (October 17, 2007). Forbes. Retrieved July 18, 2009 from
  2. Chait, Jennifer. United States Recycling Statistics. (January 25, 2009). Love To Know. Retrieved July 18, 2009 from
  3. Raymond Releases New Report. (June 1, 2004). Recycling Today. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
  4. Pollution Locator: Hazardous Air Pollutants. (2005). Scorecard. Retrieved July 18, 2009 from
  5. McDermott, Matt. Why Do Some States Have Significantly Lower Carbon Emissions Than Others? (June 5, 2009). Planet Green. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
  6. Feldman, Stacy. California Tops List of Most Energy-Efficient States; Idaho Most Improved. (October 8, 2008). Solve Climate. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
  7. Total Renewable Energy Produced Statistics – States Compared. (n.d.). State Monster. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
  8. Hybrid Car Statistics By State. (August 21, 2008). Mixed Power. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
  9. Number of States with Environmentally Friendly Policies. (January 27, 2007). Data 360. Retrieved July 18, 2009 from
  10. Palmer, Lindsey. Greenest Trends Sweeping the Nation. (2009). Redbook. Retrieved July 19, 2009 from
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Posted under GDM News & Politics, Living.

Article By: Nancy Sabatelli

Nancy Sabatelli

Profile: Nancy Sabatelli is a freelance writer for a skincare/beauty site as well as an educational publishing company, and is excited to be writing for Green Diva Mom. Nancy received her Bachelor of Science in General Studies with a concentration in Communications from Charter Oak State College. She believes that each of us can make small changes in our lives that have a large impact on the environment. Nancy enjoys reading, music, watching baseball and spending time with her family, friends and fiancé. She lives in Connecticut with her family, two spoiled cats and a pampered puppy.


Latest posts by Nancy Sabatelli

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Joe Mason

    i already upgraded my family car to Hybrid to help the environment.*`’

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