Earth Day is just around the corner, and consumers will spend the day celebrating eco-friendly practices around the planet for the holiday. But in some states, green behaviors aren't just practiced on April 22, and some states focus on constructing LEED-certified buildings and keeping their air and water quality high year round.
Conserving resources has become a priority of many builders, like these featured in the 2015 BUILDER 100 list, as climate change, droughts, and fuel prices affect both the environment and economic conditions of some major home building markets. Texas was plagued by plummeting oil prices and the state of California found itself facing a hardship regarding how to conserve water as things dried up in an historic drought. Builders responded to the environmental challenges with drought-busting homes, like these four here, and ways to apply energy-saving techniques and products to home building.
Some states have been more successful than others when it comes to conserving the environment. WalletHub, a personal finance site, ranked all 50 states based on 17 key factors to find which states in the nation are the most "green" and committed to the environment. The site examined metrics such as air, water, and soil quality, number of LEED-certified buildings per capita, energy consumption and its percentage that comes from renewable sources, gasoline consumption, and percentage of waste including trash and recycling.
Overall, Vermont was considered the most green state for its high air quality and minimal solid waste per capita. Washington, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Minnesota followed Vermont as the top five most green states. Wyoming was the least green state, followed by North Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, and Nebraska in spots 46-49.
Washington and Minnesota had some of the highest water and soil quality among states in the country, compared to states like Arizona and New Mexico which fell in the last two spots for soil quality with soil that was 25 times worse than that of the best state, Michigan. Meanwhile, Hawaii and New York ranked poorly for water quality (click here to see BUILDER's map of the best and worst regions for water conservation).
However, Hawaii redeemed itself when it came to construction—the state has the second highest number of LEED-certified buildings per capita behind New Mexico, while Nebraska and Iowa were the two states with the least.
Maine, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Montana have the highest percentage of energy consumption that comes from renewable energy sources, with Maine's share being 17 times higher than the state of Delaware's, which has the lowest percentage of energy consumption from renewable energy sources in the country. Rhode Island and New York are the two states with the lowest energy consumption per capita, compared to Wyoming and North Dakota, the two least green states over all, which use the most energy in the country.
Some of these practices are more or less important depending on which environmental factors some into play in different areas of the country. Mary F. Evans, an environmental economics professor at Claremont McKenna College, says, "It’s difficult to prioritize the various actions people can take to contribute to environmental quality as the benefits (and costs) of actions are likely to vary across individuals and geographic locations. For example, someone in Los Angeles who installs solar panels on her home and lowers her water consumption will have a different impact than another person who takes the same actions but who lives in Chicago."
Nancy Engelhardt Furlow. professor of marketing at Marymount University, agrees that location of markets plays the most essential role in determining where environmental efforts should be focused. "For example, in California, lowering water consumption is a high priority, but in states near the Chesapeake Bay, responsible use of pesticides and fertilizers is a high priority. Solar panels may be a great option in the West but not as popular in other areas. The activity may differ depending on the location, but environmental education is essential. The challenges for each location are different, and unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution."
How did your state rank for environmental friendliness? Click on WalletHub's interactive map below to see the overall "green rank" for each state in the nation: