Quechee Gorge, Vermont

As Earth Day approaches, the consumer website WalletHub issued its annual report yesterday on the Greenest States and this year’s winner is the Green Mountain State, Vermont.  WalletHub set out to recognize the greenest states and call out those doing a poor job of caring for the environment by comparing the 50 states on 27 key metrics, such as the number of LEED-certified buildings per capita to the share of energy consumption from renewable resources.  They also ranked the least green states and this year the state of Louisiana ranked at the very bottom.  

  • Rounding out the top five were New York, Oregon, Connecticut, and Minnesota, in that order.
  • The remaining bottom five were West Virginia, Wyoming, Kentucky, and North Dakota.
  • There were some surprises among the various lists such as North Dakota having the cleanest air,  and Hawaii having the highest amount of municipal solid waste per capita.

One of the study’s authors,  Dr. Helene Gardner of the University of California at Santa Barbara, looking at the results concluded that “there is no inherent trade-off between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth. That is a fallacy that has been promoted by some businesses that do not want to have to invest in green technologies like putting SO2-scrubbers on the stacks of coal-burning facilities.”  The authors also looked at how the “red” states compared with “blue” in terms of “greenness.”  Not surprisingly, the blue states averaged were ranked at #12, while the red states averaged were ranked at #34.  

Why This Matters:  The only way for states to improve in eco-friendliness is through studies like this one performing a relative ranking using objective criteria.  As WalletHub points out, environmental issues are ultimately pocketbook ones; “[o]ur environmental and financial needs are the same in many areas: providing ourselves with sustainable, clean drinking water and food, for example. We also spend money through our own consumption and taxes in support of environmental security.”  In this respect, at least, competition among the states is a good thing.

To Go Deeper:  You can study the top and bottom states in all the categories by clicking here.

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