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America’s Greenest Urban Getaways

america's greenest cities that support sustainable tourism
Written by Chris Osburn

This blog post was updated on April 8, 2020.

Eco-conscious tourism has been building momentum for years, with travelers nudging for more accountability with respect to green alternatives to the usual standards of travel and transportation.

Are you keen to keep your carbon footprint light and spend your time and money visiting destinations where clean energy is a priority? Then have a look at this list of US cities with excellent public transportation and other eco-friendly initiatives to keep you traveling green!

Portland, Oregon

View of st john's bridge in Portland, Oregon

Unsurprisingly, the aptly named City of Roses is one of America’s greenest. It has an award-winning public transport system with no less than 80 bus lines, MAX light rail, WES commuter rail, and the Portland streetcar. So whether you want to visit the famous rose garden, eat at one of the 600 street food carts dotted around the city, or test the city’s urban wineries such as Division Winemaking Company and Urban Crush, you’ll be able to get around efficiently. The promise of clean air, great transport links, and the smell of roses should have you packing your bags already!

San Francisco, California

a walking path in san francisco

It’s no surprise that America’s first city to ban plastic bags also consistently finds itself on numerous lists of America’s greenest towns. When you get to San Francisco, make your way to the Ferry Building on Pier 39 and treat yourself to artisan food during your stay. Every vendor there has a sustainable mission and sells mostly organic produce. The city also has numerous bike tour options for exploring. SoSF Bike Tours offer packages on tours based on what you would like to see without the commitment to an entire tour. Bay Area Bike Share is the city’s bike program and perfect for solo travelers who wish to build their own itinerary, and you pay only for the time you use the bike rather than a whole day. 

Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota

a park bench overlooking St. Paul

Bounding between the Twin Cities without the use of a car is a breeze with the Metro Green Line light rail connecting Target Field and St. Paul’s Union Depot. With 20 stops between them, you can hop on and hop off as you please and pedal around the rest of the way. Explore the natural features of the city, with its lakes, creeks, and wetlands all within the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway. If you prefer your sightseeing indoors, visit the nearby Mall of America, which uses only solar power to keep shoppers warm and cozy.

You may also like: Where Should You Go as an Eco-tourist?

Nashville, Tennessee

view of nashville at night

Visit Nashville and explore The Gulch, a sustainable development that makes use of an old neglected railroad yard transforming it into an urban cluster of restaurants, breweries, and the city’s first locally owned greengrocer. For a more adventurous take on the city, explore its off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods such as Germantown and Marathon Village with Green Fleet Bicycle Tours. It’s also possible to take the musical route and enjoy a walking tour of the history of Nashville along Music Row. Nashville is also on a mission to make itself the culinary capital of the South, so make sure to experience its downhome dishes on Walk Eat Nashville tour which offers six tasting stops on the route. 

Austin, Texas

view of green space in the city of Austin

Austin may have made a name for itself as the live music capital of the world, but it also ranked as “the Greenest City in the US” according to a 2017 poll compiled by the marketing company ListShack. The city’s Bicycle Master Plan has encouraged locals to ditch their cars in favor of bikes with the introduction of a safe and efficient cycling network. So get some cheap flights to Texas and bike your way through the city along Lady Bird Lake to stop at Congress Street Bridge and watch the world’s largest urban bat population take flight at dusk! Don’t forget either to cool off from your day’s cycling in the cool waters of Barton Springs.

How green are your favorite cities? Is there any particular place you admire especially for its eco-aware actions?

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.