Top 5 Energy Efficient Cities to Visit this Summer

Ever find yourself wishing that you were Marty McFly from Back to the Future, equipped with a super-cool time traveling machine that could propel you into another dimension? Well although time machines have yet to become a reality, you can still get a glimpse of the future by visiting any of the dozens of emerging smart cities across the country. With the official first day of summer right around the corner, now is the perfect time to finalize those road-trip itineraries to include one, or all, of these top five energy efficient cities.

Top 5 EE Cities

So buckle up, sit back, and enjoy the ride as we begin our cross-country overview of the coolest energy efficient cities to visit this summer.


Boston, MA1. Boston, Massachusetts
Weighing in at number one is the home of the nationally acclaimed Boston Red Sox. While cheering in the stands, hoping to catch a home run ball, you will be pleased to know that the city of Boston is making substantial efforts to improve the environment and to advance grid modernization. By increasing the energy efficiency of city buildings, Boston hopes to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% and 80% by the years 2020 and 2050, respectively. Having already achieved a 27% reduction in GHGs between 2003 and 2013, the city is definitely on track towards its goal of minimizing environmental impacts and ensuring a more efficient electrical grid. Additionally, in an effort to combat the growing epidemic of national deforestation, the Grow Boston Greener program intends to plant 100,000 new trees in the city by 2020. This influx of greenery will increase the city’s tree canopy coverage to 35%, providing large amounts of shade to make downtown walks in the summer heat a breeze. Even better is the fact that residents can cash in on this project by buying and selling trees on any public piece of land. Another perk given to residents is a free at-home kit that includes faucet aerators, low-flow replacement showerheads, and dye tablets that detect toilet leaks. This handy, neatly packaged gift encourages Bostonians to be mindful of their water usage while also experiencing the joys of cool environmentally friendly gadgets.

NYC, NY2. New York City, New York
Having just seized the game-winning ball at the Red Sox game, you may receive a few funny looks as you travel into Yankee territory, but who wouldn’t want to visit a city that has a goal of planting one million trees within the next decade? Don’t be alarmed though, these won’t be apple trees. While exploring The City that Never Sleeps, it’s best to take advantage of the bike sharing service, Citibike, which has 375 stations across lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. Planning to embark on late-night adventures downtown? You’ll be pleased to know that this big city uses bright lights that are energy efficient. In fact, by next year, 250,000 standard streetlights will have been replaced by LEDs – that’s one new streetlight for every four new trees planted! Also on track to being accomplished by next year is the goal of reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% to help increase national grid modernization; New Yorkers are half way there having already reduced emissions by 19% between 2006 and 2012. Additionally, to increase its water efficiency, the city hopes to be saving up to nine million gallons of water per day by the year 2020. That’s enough water to fill almost 14 Olympic-sized swimming pools each day! As an incentive for residents to get serious about their water usage, water companies will award any household with a $125 voucher to replace any outdated toilets.

DC3. Washington, D.C.
Now it would only make sense that we include the nation’s capital on this list seeing as it’s the location of the most visited home in the country – The White House. To aid in national efforts of modernizing the current electric grid, D.C. has a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2032, this political paradise is well on its way to victory having already reduced emissions by 23%. Although you’ll be tempted to drive through the city whilst accumulating snapshots of the various monuments, it’s best to utilize one of the 344 bike sharing stations to help improve the air-quality. In addition to First Lady Michelle Obama informing schoolkids about the importance of physical health, the city hosts a seasonal school competition called Sprint to Savings to encourage youth to become more active in environmental health projects. Over the course of three weeks, schools compete with one another to see who can achieve the highest reduction in energy consumption. In previous years, the winning schools reduced their energy consumption by a whopping 30%! Regarding water efficiency, by the year 2032, the city hopes to have reduced its water usage by 40%. Ensuring that residents lend a helping hand in accomplishing this goal, the High Usage Notification Application is a service that alerts consumers of any unintended high-levels of water usage. Ranging from unknown household leaks, to unattended lawn sprinklers, the app helps consumers to save money while also saving the planet.

SF4. San Francisco, California
After touring the Oval Office and snapping photos in front of the Lincoln Memorial, it’s now time to journey to the opposite end of the country to experience some amazing views from the Golden Gate Bridge. Make sure your view of the beautiful water below is not limited to the size of your car window – enjoy an exhilarating bike ride across the iconic suspension bridge using one of the 350 bikes offered in the city’s bike sharing service. Having expensed all of your energy during a full day of sightseeing, you’ll have a peace of mind knowing that your hotel building will most likely have a solar, living, cooling roof with open spaces – a cool new energy efficient feature that promotes grid modernization and helps to protect the environment. Energy efficient on the outside and water efficient on the inside, your hotel will also have low-flow toilets to ensure that the city meets its goal of reducing daily water consumption by five million gallons. Assuming that you’ve been journeying cross-country in an electric vehicle, you’ll be happy to know that you can stop at any one of the 108 public charging stations in the city before heading to our last stop of the voyage.

WA5. Seattle, Washington
Having already visited the city of Washington, D.C., we must now journey north to the actual state of Washington – home of the iconic Space Needle. With a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 30% and municipal building energy usage 20% by 2020, it’s no wonder that Seattle is finishing out our list of the top five energy efficient cities that are making considerable strides towards modernizing the electric grid. To ensure that this Emerald City maintains its green hue, there are plans in place to increase tree canopy coverage by 30%. Falling in line behind the previous contenders, the city has already replaced all 41,000 of its streetlights with energy efficient LEDs, so now you can dance in the sweet Seattle rain under an environmentally friendly spotlight. Speaking of rainwater, seeing as this capital city receives, on average, 140 days of measurable rain, water efficiency initiatives are in place to manage 700 million gallons of storm water annually through green infrastructures by the year 2025. Whereas tourists are encouraged to use the city’s bike sharing service, Pronto, city employees are offered public transit benefits in order to reduce the amount of toxic fumes emitted by cars during daily commutes.

The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative compiled this list by utilizing city-level data made available by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Want to lend a helping hand in national efforts to improve grid modernization? Check out our next innovation timeline to see how grid modernization is making a difference today.

By Akila Triggs | June 20, 2016

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