It’s easy to label certain Texas cities as either green-leaning communities or oil-guzzling metropolises. But you might still be surprised by our list of the Greenest Cities in Texas. That’s because we dug deep, using greenhouse gas emissions, LEED building certification, and public transportation data to rank Texas cities, which resulted in some intriguing findings. Then we provided some on-the-ground insights as to why our Greenest Cities may be performing so well. Browse the list to see if your city ranked and discover what makes the Greenest Cities in Texas so… well, green.
Wait, isn’t Houston an oil town? Well, yes. But Houston also has a greener side. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Houston is the only southern city in the U.S. to rank in the top 25 for public transportation—providing drastically shorter commute times to residents. Houston’s leading public transportation system combined with high marks in all the other categories make it the Top Greenest City in Texas.
- Best public transportation system
Fast growth can mean a lot of things. A boost in air pollution, the destruction of natural habitats, and an increase in temperature are all par for the course. But, in Dallas, this growth has a “green” lining: sustainable construction. In 2003, Dallas adopted its Green Building Program; in 2008, it passed its first green building ordinance; and in 2012, the city strengthened its commitments to green building by doubling down on its ground-breaking ordinances. This has resulted in over 1,000 LEED certified building projects and pushed Dallas to number two in our rankings.
- Most LEED certified building projects
#3 San Antonio
When compared to other Texas cities with over 1 million residents, San Antonio boasts the lowest greenhouse gas emissions. The city’s Energy Efficiency Fund helps finance efficiency-related projects on city-owned property, which may help explain the city’s lower greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, the city is also planting millions of seedling trees to offset its already lower emissions.1
- Lowest greenhouse gas emissions for a large city
Maybe you’re just like us here at Amigo Energy and thought that Austin would rank as the Greenest City in Texas. Reputations aside, number four is still rather respectable. Above all else, Austin has vision, setting the goal for net-zero emissions by the year 2050. That kind of effort will certainly get Austin back to the top.
Most ambitious emissions goal
#5 Fort Worth
Like Dallas, Fort Worth is expanding like crazy, which means greenhouse gas emissions and traffic are on the rise, too. To combat this, the city has set three ambitious bicycling goals: triple the number of bike commuters, decrease bike-related crashes by 10 percent, and earn the official designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
Ambitious city-wide bike planning
Greenhouse gas emissions in El Paso are about half as much as those of other cities in Texas that are roughly its size. One contributing factor might be El Paso Electric’s SCORE Program, which helps area schools become more energy efficient. SCORE is one of many city-wide energy efficiency programs that help El Pasoans cut their carbon footprint.
Great city-wide energy efficiency incentives
#7 College Station
It’s hard to talk about sustainability in College Station without talking about Texas A&M. The university cut carbon emissions by 23 percent from 2004 to 2015 and promotes a ton of other sustainability initiatives around campus.2 As the top employer in the city, Texas A&M’s efforts have certainly helped College Station become more sustainable.
Most sustainable college town
Suburban cities have acquired an “eco-unfriendly” reputation because of traffic-filled commutes and overly-watered lawns. Irving is not immune to those stereotypes, but it also has a more resourceful, sustainable side to it. One novel way that the city has cut waste is through the City of Irving’s Green Seam Project, which takes scrap fabric and turns it into reusable bags for city-related functions. You might even say that Irving is one scrappy town.
Best creative waste solution
An easy commute to Dallas via the DART Blue Line, Garland is taking measures to become more and more sustainable as it grows. In fact, the suburb has provided its residents with practical educational tips that go way beyond a sustainability FAQ page buried deep within the city website. By planning for the future with Envision Garland and its Efficiency Idea Book, the city is showing that sustainability is not just some sort of fad, but the key to long-term success and health.
Top educational and planning resources
For a city its size, Galveston performs well when compared to other small Texas cities in terms of public transportation. Established in 1891, the most iconic form of public transportation in Galveston is the historic trolley system which is currently undergoing restoration. Even tourists can see the sights in a sustainable, environmentally friendly fashion.
Coolest public transportation
#11 Corpus Christi
Wind power is the name of the game in Corpus Christi, which may contribute to its lower greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to similar cities like Arlington. In addition to privately owned wind farms cropping up all over the region, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi has 11 turbines, saving the campuses roughly 300 tons of CO2 emissions each year and decreasing Corpus Christi’s overall carbon footprint.
Wind power hub
When you think of Arlington you probably think of the Dallas Cowboys, Six Flags Over Texas, or The University of Texas at Arlington—none of which evoke images of sustainability. But did you know that Arlington is also home to The Garden of Eden eco-village, which boasts a sizeable garden with various raised beds, a handful of pallet structures for animals, a traditional cob house, and an outdoor kitchen, among other sustainable amenities.
- Most intriguing eco-village
Plano is one of only two Texas cities to be awarded a 4-STAR rating by the STAR Communities Rating System, which recognizes top sustainable cities in the United States. The city also offers its Smart Energy Loan Program to help residents improve the energy efficiency of their homes and lower their overall carbon footprint.
- Empowering city resources
#14 Sugar Land
If you live here, there’s probably no need to convince you that Sugar Land is a quaint, beautiful town. It takes a lot of citizen involvement to keep it that way. Luckily for the city and its residents, Keep Sugar Land Beautiful—a Keep Texas Beautiful Gold Star Affiliate—engages in grassroots greening and conservation.
- Active civic organization
#15 San Marcos
San Marcos is Texas Hill Country at its best. With whitewater and over 2,000 acres of park land, the city has all the makings to become one of the finest green cities in Texas. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are comparatively low for a city its size. This is perhaps because of city-wide incentives like the Distributed Generation Rebate Program, which encourages homeowners to invest in home solar panels and residential wind turbines.
- Best renewable energy incentives
For a suburb its size, Richardson scores relatively high on public transportation. In fact, Richardson has four DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) stations and is home to the Richardson Telecom Corridor, which keeps jobs local and significantly cuts down on commute time.3 As Richardson continues to develop economically, it has the infrastructure to do it sustainably.
- Well-connected suburb
#17 Missouri City
A bit of a late bloomer when it comes to sustainability, the “Show Me City” is showing other Texas towns that it’s getting serious about going green. Missouri City recently started a curbside recycling service and encourages residents to harvest rainwater. With more efforts like these, Missouri City will have a bright, renewable future.
- Newest Green City
In the Pan Handle, green cities are few and far between, which is surprising given the massive investment in windfarms in the region over the last 20 years. Although the city certainly benefits from regional wind power, it’s worth noting that Lubbock has more LEED certified building projects than similar Texas cities like Laredo and Garland.
- LEED leader for medium-sized cities
College towns often seem disconnected from their surrounding area. Not Denton, though. With its A-train commuter rail and comprehensive sustainability plan that includes 30 strategies across the eight focus areas, Denton is connected to regional efforts to develop sustainably. Now that’s what we call #dentoning!
- Comprehensive sustainability planning
Often described as an affluent city, it may surprise some that Allen is also one of our Greenest Cities. Green building has been an important part of Allen as the city strives to create “a high-quality, sustainable community.”4 In fact, Celebration Park in Allen was recently named an Environmentally Sustainable Sports Facility by Sports Turf Managers Association.
- Outstanding green sports facility
#21 Round Rock
Green building is also a strength in suburban Round Rock. Proportionately, the city is crushing LEED certified construction with over 200 more LEED building projects than other Texas cities its size like Richardson and Beaumont. This might be because it has been shown that in the Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, green and LEED-certified homes sell better.
- LEED leader for smaller cities
Bryan is one of our Greenest Cities that performs competitively in almost every category. Well rounded, Bryan also makes it easy for residents to connect to environmental services through its myriad call centers and hotlines. Whether it’s emissions, building projects, transportation, or even responding rapidly to resident concerns, Bryan is sustainably promoting “The Good Life, Texas Style.”
- Top green residential support
It may be surprising that an international transportation and trade hub like Laredo is one of Texas’ Greenest Cities. With about half the greenhouse gas emissions of cities roughly its size, Laredo capitalizes on local natural gas supplies and green energy investment to lower its carbon footprint. ¡Qué viva Laredo verde!
- Leader in natural gas and green energy
Unlike most traditional suburbs, Carrollton provides its residents with resources that help conserve water and curb waste. By participating in Texas SmartScape, Carrollton encourages residents to plant drought resistant plants and produce their own vegetables.5 This move away from water-guzzling lawns and flower beds shows that Carrollton is preparing for a greener future.
- Texas SmartScape participant
It’s no secret that being smart with water consumption is a huge step towards greater sustainability and green growth. This is particularly true in drier regions like the Texas Panhandle. Amarillo’s Every Drop Counts program encourages water conservation in a drought-prone region, including helpful resources like Lawn Talk that help residents save money and water.
- Prioritizes water conservation
Didn’t See Your City?
Find out if your city made the Top 50 Greenest Cities in Texas.
#29 League City
#33 Grand Prairie
#40 Wichita Falls
#48 Cedar Park
#49 North Richland Hills
How Did We Determine Our Rankings?
Comparing a city the size of Houston (2.2 million) to one the size of Galveston (50,550) may seem hard to do—if not impossible to do right. Things get more complicated when you use data that gives a decided advantage to larger urban centers (public transportation and LEED certification), or, likewise, to smaller cities (greenhouse gas emissions). That’s why we normalized our numbers using means and standard deviations across data sets to compare dissimilar populations and provide a more accurate ranking.
Learn More: Check Out Our References
- 1Accessed 8/7/17: http://www.sasustainabilityplan.com/files/managed/Document/183/GHG%20Summary.pdf
- 2 Accessed 7/24/17: https://utilities.tamu.edu/tamu-carbon-footprint/
- 3 Accessed 8/7/17: http://www.telecomcorridor.com/site-selection/workforce-1
- 4 Accessed 8/4/17: http://www.cityofallen.org/903/Planning-Division
- 5 Accessed 8/7/17: http://www.cityofcarrollton.com/departments/departments-a-f/environmental-quality-services
- LEED project data
- Public transportation data
- Greenhouse gas emission data
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