Home / Blog January 16, 2023

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Behind The Cleanest Cities In The Country

When you think of large cities in the United States, it’s not likely that the first word you associate with them is ‘clean’.

Behind The Cleanest Cities In The Country


The cleanliness of a city can be based upon the status of its streets (specifically its handling of trash), eco-friendly initiatives, air quality, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions. In short, there are many things that play a role in maintaining a clean city.

Many of the largest cities in the United States, including New York City and Chicago, have improved their city’s cleanliness status by a landslide compared to a few decades ago when you’d probably never associate the word “clean” with these two top three major cities.

Going green or being more sustainable entails increasing walkability and bike-ability in the city, improving and expanding parks and public green spaces, and switching to renewable energy sources.

Did you know?
Bearaby strives to make things as clean and green as we can, too. From the materials we source (like sustainably sourced eucalyptus tree fabric and no plastic fillers) to the packaging we use (plastic-free packaging), to the organizations we support (One Tree Planted).

When you think of large cities in the United States, it’s not likely that the first word you associate with them is ‘clean’. But, that is starting to turn around. Major cities all over the nation are becoming more and more environmentally friendly, from the sea to the sky. A clean city can mean many things, from the trash on the street, to the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the emissions we create.

While cleaning up a city is no easy feat, hard work is underway. From cleaning the streets to curbing greenhouse gas emissions to culling crime, cities are getting more sustainable, sanitary, and safe day by day. To start, we’re pretty proud of our home base, New York City, and all that it’s doing to clean things up.

New York City, NY

New York City used to have a reputation of being riddled with crime, overflowing with debris, and running rampant with rodents. Nowadays, NYC has done its part to clean up its act. The air is cleaner, the trash is dwindling, and the residents and businesses are becoming more and more sustainable.

In 2018, the New York City Community Air Survey found that air quality is now the cleanest it’s ever been, but they are striving for even more! NYC is making progress towards achieving its goal of having the cleanest air of any large city in the U.S. by 2030. Air quality is crucial, especially in impoverished neighborhoods, as air pollutants can lead to respiratory diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Did you know that kids in East Harlem have three times the rate of asthma compared to the average city rate? Organizations like WE ACT are working hard to make sure all neighborhoods in NYC are able to access the same clean air.

New York is also working to become more sustainable by protecting the state’s largest freshwater sources and promoting mass urban gardens. Initiatives that go hand in hand with helping both health and the environment include increasing bike lanes and creating new parks in the city.

Something you probably haven’t thought of for helping clean up the water supply: oysters! The Billion Oyster Project’s goal is to combine education and restoration, as the 100 billion oysters they aim to distribute by 2035, with the help of middle school students, will purify water and promote biodiversity in the harbors. Time to shell-ebrate!

Lastly, carbon emissions per capita in New York are down. Six percent of Americans live in the state, but New Yorkers only consume 1% of the nation’s industrial power and emit less than 3% of the greenhouse gases coming from our country. Keep up the good work, NYC!

new york

Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is the 3rd most populous city in the U.S. and has also undergone recent efforts to clean itself up. The city prides itself on keeping trash out of the streets and undergoing regular street sweeping to keep things tidy. Chicago voted this year to use 100% renewable energy by 2035, making it the largest city yet to commit itself to such a demanding, yet commendable effort. The bus system in the city will also be completely electric by the year 2040. Way to go, Chi-town! We’re rooting for you.


Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu tops almost every list as one of the cleanest cities in the country in terms of air quality. As if we needed another reason to move to Hawaii! The capital city has been ranked number one for ozone quality in a metropolitan area by the American Lung Association. While the air is clean, Honolulu is still working on its green initiatives, as their oil usage is higher than desired, and so is the amount of traffic in the city. Honolulu is working on getting more bike lanes throughout the city to elevate their status as a green city, and they’ve committed to using 100% clean energy by the year 2045. Hey, they have to protect all that natural beauty...


Photo by Zetong Li on Unsplash

Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital has undertaken many new bills that will increase the sustainability and cleanliness of the city. They’ve done so despite the fact that D.C. ranked third on the list of 2019’s Greenest Cities in America, which was based on 28 different green or sustainable indicators of a city.

Last year, the Washington, D.C. Council passed a bill requiring all electricity to be from renewable sources by 2032, which applies to businesses, homes, and even the White House. Air quality is also at the top of D.C.’s mind, as organizations like Clean Air Partners are encouraging both organizations and individuals to do their part to help keep the air clean. They promote simple actions like carpooling or taking public transit to work, trading in charcoal grills for gas or electric, and keeping your house as energy-efficient as possible.

While many initiatives to clean up a city will come from the top-down, individual actions can play a huge role, too! No step is too small to help improve the cleanliness and sustainability of your city. It all comes down to being more thoughtful and more committed than ever to green, eco-friendly initiatives in urban environments as city-dwellers.

washington dc

Photo by Jacob Creswick on Unsplash