Cue the Earth Day parade! In what might come as a surprise — given this region's sprawled-out, car-worshiping nature — Atlanta has managed to crack the top 20 in a list of the "Greenest Cities in America." Chant: "We're number 16! We're number 16!" The rankings, compiled by NerdWallet researchers, appear to be based on sensible criteria and backed by credible sources. (Coincidentally — or not — NerdWallet also gave Atlanta the 16th spot in its November ranking of "Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs.") In this case, the consumer advocacy site examined the country's largest 150 cities to find places with the smallest environmental footprints. Honolulu was crowned the green champion, thanks in no small part to its immaculate air-quality. The runner-up, somewhat surprisingly, was Washington DC, which relied on a different environmental strongpoint: an excellent public transit system, which carries 38 percent of commuters to work.
Sandwiched between Hialeah, Fla. and wood-burning Portland, Ore. (we beat Portland!), Atlanta excelled in some metrics and fell flat in others. The bad news: Atlanta tied for the worst air quality in the top 25 with Jersey City and New York City. (Silver lining: our air quality index number of 54 is still considered "moderate"). We also scored low on the percentage of commuters who use public transit (10 percent) and bike commuters (a measly 1 percent). What's more, only 8 percent of Atlantans carpool, researchers found, and just two Atlanta homes per 1,000 are powered by solar energy.
So what went right?
Well, Atlanta has almost no buildings that rely on coal as a primary heating source (unlike 7 percent of New York City's). Another strongpoint: Some 37 percent of Atlanta's residential buildings have 10 or more residents, the study found. Which either means we like density, or we can't afford our own places anymore.
· America's Greenest Cities [NerdWallet]
· Ouch. Study Calls ATL America's 'Most Sprawling' City [Curbed]