Cleanest Cities In The US: Top 5 Pristine Communities, According To Experts

The call to action against climate change is important to many people across the United States. Many communities are putting in the work to ensure a clean future for their citizens. Whether for a visit, business trip, or doing research on a new place to live, the cleanest cities in the U.S. are worth dropping by.

Dealing with pollution and litter are often linked to diminishing health. In fact, a recent study explains that people living in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to experience depression or take their own lives, according to an alarming study by researchers at the University College London. The study used data from 16 countries in what authors say is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of links between fine particulate matter — small airborne particles including dust and soot — and various mental health problems. By the researchers’ calculations, if the relationship between depression, suicide, and air pollution is causal, then lessening the world-wide average exposure to fine particulate matter from 44 micrograms per meter cubed (μg/m3) to 25 μg/m3 would cause a 15 percent reduction in the global risk of depression.

If those staggering statistics are cause for alarm, then it is certainly worth noting that another recent survey looks at the link between pollution and declining mental health. Choose very wisely where you spend your days and call home, it may determine your cognitive health in old age. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco report older Americans with cognitive impairment are more likely to show amyloid plaques in their brains (a major predictor of Alzheimer’s) if they live in areas with high levels of air pollution. Scientists already know about various factors that can raise one’s risk of dementia, such as diabetes or smoking. Now, it appears air pollution from sources like cars, factories, forest fires, and power plants may need to go on that list as well.

For people that are looking to get away from air pollution and litter, it might be worth your while to consider heading to a city that’s known for its neatness. That’s why we compiled a list of the top five cleanest cities in the U.S. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Diamond Head, Honolulu seen from above
Diamond Head, Honolulu (Photo by Savannah Rohleder on Unsplash)

The List: Cleanest Cities in the U.S., According to Experts

1. Honolulu, Hawaii

Rated as number one in a variety of metrics by several of our sources, Honolulu is focused on maintaining the health of the city. “Aloha, eco-lovers! Voted the cleanest city in the United States by the American Lung Institute, Honolulu is a tropical paradise featuring pristine shores and national parks… Set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, it only makes sense that the island capital is focused on measures to combat climate change. Sustainability is at the forefront of the city of Honolulu and several green initiatives are being established including solar energy, carbon off-setting, and water conservation efforts. The city also pledged to plant over 100 million trees by 2031, further ensuring their status as one of the cleanest cities in the U.S.” explains The Discoverer Blog.

Honolulu, Hawaii tops the list of Friendliest Cities in the U.S.
Honolulu (Photo by Cosmin Serban on Unsplash)

Air pollution is a key metric in quantifying the overall cleanliness of a city. “Urban Honolulu is the capital of Hawaii with a population of about 974,563. The metropolitan area has the least air particle contamination. Honolulu is also the cleanest city in the U.S. with regard to ozone pollution,” writes Briefly.

As a pristine oasis in the Pacific, “perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise that Honolulu tops the American Lung Association’s cleanest cities list. Whether you live there or are just visiting, you can enjoy pristine beaches and fresh air. The tropical city and the state of Hawaii is committed to improving its green initiatives,” as stated by Bob

2. Charlotte, North Carolina

A few North Carolina cities were noted by our sources, but Charlotte ranks the highest. “The Queen City, North Carolina’s largest, has an approximate 20 percent recycling rate. Like Texas and Ohio, the Tarheel State has no comprehensive recycling, but this ‘above average’ Scorecard government does have a litter slogan, to ‘Keep NC Clean and Green,'” writes GovLoop.

downtown buildings in Charlotte
Downtown Charlotte (Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)

Lauded for clean streets and beautiful neighborhoods, “Charlotte offers so much more than the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The city falls within the top 10 for low pollution levels and clean living conditions, also scoring high in the infrastructure category,” explains Cheapism.

Roads, bridges, and clean water can be taken for granted by some even though they are vital to everyday operation of a city metro. “Charlotte ranked among the 10 best cities in three of the major categories analyzed by LawnStarter: pollution, living conditions and infrastructure. As real estate website Movoto observes, Charlotte is ‘a pretty new city’ and so ‘really clean,'” according to Money Talks.

 3. Long Beach, California

California is a national leader in environmental policy. “At the other end of the list was Long Beach, California, which was named the cleanest city in America, scoring a strong 7.02 out of a possible 10… California’s performance was not a surprise due to its standard-setting programs when it comes to environmental legislation and sustainability regulations. For example, California released an ambitious set of rules that demands 15% of all new cars should be zero emissions by 2025 and innovative green housing legislation that requires new construction to use renewable building materials and reduced energy and water consumption,” as detailed by Forbes.

A marina in Long Beach, CA
A marina in Long Beach, CA (Photo by Ameer Basheer on Unsplash)

Much of the high rating can be attributed to the efforts of the community, “It comes as no surprise to see Long Beach scoring so highly for ‘EV market share’ as Californian residents consistently purchase the most EVs compared to any other state. The latest figures show California represents almost 47% of all U.S. EV sales,” offers Family Beautiful.

Long Beach earns praise from our sources, “According to our research, Long Beach is the cleanest city in the U.S. It is a strong performer across the majority of categories, with particular highlights in the ‘restaurant cleanliness’, ‘electric vehicle market share’ and ‘general garbage disposal satisfaction’ categories,” states Insure My Trip.

4. Bellingham, Washington

The natural beauty of Bellingham is noted by many. “Caught between two other eco-friendly cities, Seattle in the south and Vancouver to the north, Bellingham is considered one of the cleanest cities in the United States, a poignant environmental milestone considering its location in the eco-conscious Pacific Northwest. Celebrate Bellingham’s clean bill of health by exploring its unique location near the diverse Salish Sea and picturesque Cascade Mountain Range. Bring some binoculars and search for the rare orcas in the Pacific Ocean, hike the rugged Cascade Pass Trail, or attend the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival come spring. Visitors are spoiled for choice in terms of outdoor activities,” as written by The Discoverer Blog.

A pier in Bellingham, Washington
A pier in Bellingham, Washington (Photo by Pavł Polø on Unsplash)

Put simply, “Bellingham is a coastal town in Washington State, close to the Canadian border. It is among the best cities to stay or visit, not just for its fresh air but also for its numerous outdoor activities,” writes Briefly.

As stated above, action from the community is the most impactful way for people to keep their cities clean. “Government policies are important, but so is a culture of action, and Bellingham has one of the strongest local activism communities. The city, sandwiched between Seattle and Vancouver, has a clean ozone and minimal particle pollution. Plus, with its many lush green spaces, it’s the perfect place to celebrate Earth Day—every day,” adds Bob

5. Denver, Colorado

Denver earns high ratings because of its sheer size in relation to the efforts put forth to keep the greater metro area clean. “Denver is the largest city in Colorado in terms of population. It is also the main city of the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood statistical area. Due to its location, Denver is a transportation hub in its state, and it caters to the logistical needs of Western and Southwestern America. The city is also home to one of the largest operators of apartment buildings in the U.S. Additionally, Denver also plays a crucial role in the aerospace industry, as it makes and sells a vast amount of aircraft and aircraft parts. Out of the 1.1 million households surveyed by the Census Bureau, 94% reported no trash half a block from their residence,” details Insider Monkey.

a street in Denver with Colorado flags
Colorado pride in Denver (Photo by Logan Bonjean on Unsplash)

Efforts to improve Denver are now starting to yield results: “The poor air quality that has plagued Denver as a result of ozone pollution is being remedied through the city’s membership in the Department of Energy-sponsored Clean Cities Coalition. This program funds and implements hybrid and electric technology, fuel efficiency, and community engagement,” writes Bob

Not everyone agrees, though. “Though advertised as a ‘progressive’ city in a ‘progressive’ state, Denver has a low trash recycling rate–only 14 percent. Another disparity thwarting an assumed embracing of all things clean and ‘Green‘: Colorado has yet to enact Comprehensive Recycling nor Containers Deposits legislation, rated only ‘average’ in the Scorecard,” counters GovLoop.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

Lea la versión en español en Las Ciudades más Limpias de Estados Unidos: Las 5 Comunidades Impecables, Según Expertos.