Indiana and Kentucky near the bottom of “Eco Friendly States”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAMay 6, 2015 – by John S. Kieran on WalletHub.com

Eco-friendliness and personal finance are essentially cousins. Not only are our environmental and financial necessities aligned – providing ourselves with sustainable clean drinking water and nutritious sustenance, for example – but we also spend money on both the household and government levels in support of environmental security.

Then there’s climate change. We’ve already seen a rise in powerful land-bearing storm systems and extreme droughts, with New York and New Jersey recently spending $71.4 billion to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy. But that’s just the beginning, as storm surges and other bad weather are expected to cause more than $500 billion in property damage by the year 2100. Climate change will also have a direct impact on our military-industrial complex, as nearly all of our East Coast air and naval installations are vulnerable to sea-level rise.

In the meantime, we can all try to do our part to save the world for our kids, grandkids and future generations. In order to help highlight this important issue as well as all states taking steps to care for the environment and call out those doing a poor job, WalletHub compared each of the 50 states in terms of 14 key metrics designed to illustrate each place’s environmental quality and the eco-friendliness of its policies.

Overall Rank

State

Environmental Quality Rank

Eco-Friendly Behaviors Rank

1 Vermont 1 2
2 Oregon 8 1
3 New York 7 6
4 Minnesota 4 8
5 Massachusetts 10 4
6 Washington 9 7
7 New Hampshire 5 10
8 Rhode Island 3 16
9 Connecticut 6 15
10 Hawaii 18 5
11 South Dakota 2 30
12 Maine 22 9
13 Maryland 20 14
14 Pennsylvania 24 13
15 California 46 3
16 New Jersey 26 11
17 Wisconsin 17 22
18 Arizona 21 18
19 Michigan 11 31
20 Nevada 29 17
21 Colorado 44 12
22 North Carolina 26 21
23 Florida 34 19
24 New Mexico 35 20
25 Virginia 31 25
26 Georgia 26 27
27 Illinois 38 23
28 South Carolina 13 40
29 Kansas 16 34
30 Alaska 11 35
31 Idaho 39 24
32 Utah 18 32
33 Iowa 36 28
34 Montana 41 26
35 Missouri 15 43
36 Ohio 39 29
37 Tennessee 29 38
38 North Dakota 31 39
39 Nebraska 33 41
40 Mississippi 14 49
41 Wyoming 23 44
42 Oklahoma 25 48
43 Delaware 45 33
44 Arkansas 48 36
45 West Virginia 37 45
46 Alabama 42 46
47 Indiana 43 47
48 Kentucky 49 42
49 Texas 50 37
50 Louisiana 47 50


Most-&-Least-Eco-Friendly-States-Artwork

Red States vs. Blue States

Most-Least-Eco-Friendly-States-Blue-vs-Red-Image

 

Ask the Experts

For more insight into eco-friendliness at the household, government and global levels, we posed the following questions to a panel of leading environmental and economic experts. You can check them and their responses our below.

  1. What policies can state and local authorities pursue to make their communities more eco-friendly?
  2. Is there an inherent tradeoff between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth?
  3. What are the most important things residents can do to reduce their impact on the environment?

Timon McPhearson

Assistant Professor of Urban Ecology and Coordinator for Environmental Science in the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School
Timon McPhearson

What policies can state and local authorities pursue to make their communities more eco-friendly? 

There are a number of ways local and state authorities can support more ecologically friendly development. For starters, encouraging, incentivizing, or even regulating new developments to include green roofs, walls, or other ecological elements could provide critical benefits for urban biodiversity and increase the amount of green space where people work and live.

Ecosystems have been shown repeatedly to be critical to human mental and physical health and linking ecosystems with built infrastructure through both new development and renovation would go a long way toward making our cities more livable and sustainable.

Is there an inherent tradeoff between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth? 

There is not inherent trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth. In case after case, protecting the environment, investing in green infrastructure, and making development ecological can provide enormous cost savings and economic gain. Scientists and practitioners have not incorporated the benefits of ecological spaces for human mental and physical health into cost-benefit decision-making. When we do, we’ll realize that there are even more economic gains, especially through decreased health care costs, to be had by investing in ecosystems and green infrastructure in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.

What are the most important things residents can do to reduce their impact on the environment? 

Though we need governments and the private sector to invest in environmental protection and to continue to advance sustainable business practices, every person can make adjustments in their lifestyles that can protect the environment and help move our planet along a more sustainable development pathway.

Perhaps the most important thing everyday citizens can do to be more sustainable is to decrease their consumption of energy and goods. We all know we have too much stuff. Every day people are buying more products made with toxic chemicals, produced in factories with poor labor practices and that subject humans and animals to environments we would never consciously condone. A simple way to improve the world is to buy less stuff. Similarly, using less water, less energy can also have a massive impact. Our total energy use worldwide could be cut in half if we all were more conscious about our energy use. The same goes for water. The drought in California is just the current water crisis in the U.S. but I hope this will help develop a national conscious around why we cannot take our natural resources for granted and with a world headed to 10 billion people, we must all use less.

In my experience and that of many others though, less is more. Happiness increases, not decreases with less consumption.

  • Paul SteinbergProfessor of Political Science and Environmental Policy, and Malcolm Lewis Chair of Sustainability and Society at Harvey Mudd College
  • David E. BlocksteinSenior Scientist with the National Council for Science and the Environment, and Executive Secretary of the Council of Energy Research and Education Leaders
  • Cynthia BelmontAssociate Professor of English at Northland College 
  • Vivian E. ThomsonAssociate Professor of Environmental Policy and Politics at University of Virginia
  • Cutler ClevelandProfessor of Earth and Environment at Boston University 
  • Halina S. BrownProfessor of Environmental Science and Policy at Clark University 
  • Douglas McCauleyAssistant Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at University of California Santa Barbara 
  • Daniel M. KammenClass of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley
  • Sheldon KrimskyProfessor of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning at Tufts University 
  • Kurt SchwabeAssociate Professor of Environmental Economics and Policy at University of California, Riverside
  • Timon McPhearsonAssistant Professor of Urban Ecology and Coordinator for Environmental Science in the Tishman Environment and Design Center at The New School

Paul Steinberg

Professor of Political Science and Environmental Policy, and Malcolm Lewis Chair of Sustainability and Society at Harvey Mudd College
Paul Steinberg

What policies can state and local authorities pursue to make their communities more eco-friendly? 

  1. Adopt ambitious climate goals and renewable energy portfolio standards to encourage the switch away from fossil fuels.
  2. Repeal state preemption laws in the U.S. that make it illegal for local communities to attempt to regulate the pesticides sprayed in their neighborhoods. These laws were passed at the state level by pesticide lobbyists following the successful campaign in Canada to pass local by-laws reducing pesticides.
  3. Adopt guidelines and innovations from this state-of-the-art manual on bicycle transportation planning.

Is there an inherent tradeoff between protecting the environment and promoting economic growth? 

Environmental quality and economic growth are neither incompatible nor perfectly compatible. They are overlapping circles. The challenge of sustainability is to push those circles closer together: creating rules that encourage wealth creation within ecological limits. A lot of research has been conducted on the “Porter Hypothesis,” which speaks to this question. Michael Porter, a leading corporate strategy expert at Harvard Business School, shows how regulation spurs innovation that increases profitability – but only if designed in such a way that it combines strict goals and flexible means for achieving those goals. Subsequent research has explored the extent to which this is true.

Another insight bearing on this question is that it is a myth that poor countries and/or poor people place a lower priority on the environment than do industrialized countries and wealthy people. I call this “theories of environmental privilege.” The public opinion data have consistently disproven this assumption, and the many environmental movements throughout the developing world make clear that environmental protection is a politically salient issue in many and diverse societies.

What are the most important things residents can do to reduce their impact on the environment? 

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.

Methodology

Using data from both government sources and independent scientific organizations, WalletHub compared the 50 states based on 14 key metrics, which were separated into two main groups: Environmental Quality and Eco-Friendly Behaviors.

Environmental Quality considers the current state of the environment in each area, while Eco-Friendly Behaviors evaluates the environmental impact of population habits. You can find more information about the specific metrics we used and the weights assigned to each below.

Environmental Quality – Total Weight: 5

  • 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

  • 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

 

Sources: Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, 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.

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