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The Most and Least Eco-Friendly States of 2015

By Sherrell Dorsey

While many states are re-thinking smart growth, sustainability and planning, there are some that are faring better than others in their pursuit of being kinder to the planet and increasing overall environmental health across their respective cities.

As the celebration of Earth Month wraps ups, WalletHub's recently-released study citing America’s most and least eco-friendly states takes the temperature of how we're progressing toward a more environmentally healthy nation. Evaluated using 14 key metrics, states were analyzed in the study on the basis of their eco-friendly behaviors and overall initiatives to increase environmental quality.

The top and the bottom runners

With its excellent air quality, smaller population, above-average recycling rates and absence of air-polluting factories, it is no surprise that Vermont came in the lead as the top most eco-friendly state—an accolade the state has maintained across several studies in prior years.

Louisiana trails behind at the bottom, marked as one of the country's least eco-friendly states, characterized for its lack of investment in renewable energy sources, disproportionately high energy consumption rates and low municipal recycling rates.

From the experts:

"We spend so much time thinking about the "little" things we can do for the environment, like recycling a bottle, but so little time engaged as citizens in changing policies to promote sustainability. Local governments have quite a lot of discretion over land use planning in the US; I suggest that people attend city council meetings, find other citizens with common concerns, and make their voices heard," said Paul Steinberg, professor of political science and environmental policy, and Malcolm Lewis Chair of Sustainability and Society, at Harvey Mudd College.

The table below provides a visual ranking of where our states sit on the environmentally friendly spectrum.
Most Eco-Friendly States Least Eco-Friendly States
1 Vermont 41 Wyoming
2 Oregon 42 Oklahoma
3 New York 43 Delaware
4 Minnesota 44 Arkansas
5 Massachusetts 45 West Virginia
6 Washington 46 Alabama
7 New Hampshire 47 Indiana
8 Rhode Island 48 Kentucky
9 Connecticut 49 Texas
10 Hawaii 50 Louisiana


View the below table for a deeper analysis on how your state ranked.

Source: WalletHub


Evaluation metrics of WalletHub’s study:

Measuring Environmental Quality - Total Weight: 5

Environmental Quality considers the current state of the environment in each area. The following metrics were used to evaluate this measurement:

  • Carbon Dioxide Emissions per Capita (or “Carbon Footprints”): Full Weight

  • Total Municipal Solid Waste per Capita: Full Weight

  • Air Quality (Average Exposure of the General Public to Particulate Matter of 2.5 Microns or Less in Size [PM2.5]): Full Weight

  • Water Quality: Full Weight

  • Soil Quality (Median Soil pH): Full Weight
Eco-Friendly Behaviors - Total Weight: 5

Eco-Friendly Behaviors evaluates the environmental impact of population habits. The following metrics were used to evaluate this measurement:

  • Number of Green (LEED) Buildings per Capita: Full Weight

  • Percentage of Energy Consumption from Renewable Sources: Full Weight

  • Energy Consumption per Capita: Full Weight

  • Energy Efficiency Scorecard: Full Weight

  • Gasoline Consumption per Capita (in Gallons): Full Weight

  • Water Consumption per Capita per Day (Domestic): Full Weight

  • Number of Alternative Fueled Vehicles per Capita: Half Weight

  • Green Transportation (Percentage of the Population that Walks, Bikes, Carpools, Takes Public Transportation or Works from Home): Full Weight

  • Percentage of Municipal Solid Waste Recycled: Full Weight

Rankings were established based on data obtained from a plethora of government and nonprofit studies, including: the U.S. Census, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Green Building Council, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the American Chemistry Council, the Environmental Working Group, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the United Health Foundation.

For additional information and resources on this study, visit WalletHub.

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Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

Read more stories by Sherrell Dorsey