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Recycling bins are only the beginning: Travel + Leisure readers picked the best cities for earth-friendly perks like solar-powered hotels, bike-powered beer bars, and fabulous recycled fashions.
No. 18 Houston
Counting Down the 20 Greenest Cities in America
No. 18 Houston
It may seem like a classic sprawling city, but Houston is greener than it looks: it gets 25 percent of its electricity from wind energy, and the city just introduced a two-way bike track that spans 10 blocks of downtown. Houston proves that even good-ol'-boy types can go green: the Beer Can House found fame after a homeowner re-sided his house with 50,000 recycled beer cans. As one of the nation’s four green coffee-exchange ports, Houston also ranked at No. 5 for its java, like the vacuum-prepared cups at Montrose’s Siphon Coffee (where you can also play on the retro Ms. Pac Man).
Being green isn't just smart—it might even make you gorgeous.
Irene Lane, founder of ecotourism “concierge” Greenloons, loves that Portland, Oregon, was environmentally proactive long before it was cool—like when the city took out a six-lane highway in the 1970s to develop a waterfront park. Today, she says, Portland “is a model of sustainable living, gaining half of its power from renewable sources—and everyone seems to glow with their eco-conscious awareness.”
No offense, Portland, but Travel+Leisure readers didn’t give you any beauty-contest awards in the latest America’s Favorite Cities survey—but they did give the city props for being seriously environmentally friendly. As part of the survey, readers ranked 38 cities for such eco-friendly features as parks, mass transit, notable restaurants (which tend to favor local sourcing) and—the ultimate in fun recycling—treasure-filled flea markets.
When we combined those categories, the “greenest” winners revealed some traveler-friendly trends across the nation: LEED-certified hotels that use less water, an increasing number of city bike-share programs, and restaurants that tout their locally-sourced cuisine—from burnt-ends barbecue in Kansas City to grilled frog legs in Tampa. Some winners have had eco-friendly features for years—like the wind-powered schooner tours in Charleston and the ever-reusable aloha shirts in Honolulu.
Other top 20 cities, meanwhile, are making environmental changes just like many people do: one step at a time. Lane lives in Washington, D.C., where, she says, the city’s dining scene may be greener than some other features. “We may be one of the worst cities for traffic jams,” she says, “but at least you can look forward to a fantastic meal when you get to your destination.”