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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. 16 San Diego
Counting Down the 20 Greenest Cities in America
No. 16 San Diego
In drought-stricken California, some green perks have been born out of necessity: some hotels, like North Park’s Lafayette Hotel, have installed aerators in the showers to cut down on water use. The Lodge at Torrey Pines (home of the renowned farm-to-table A.R. Valentien), meanwhile, has been applauded for diverting an impressive 75 percent of its trash into recycling or compost. San Diego ranked well in the survey for family vacations, and its big theme parks have adapted eco-friendly practices, too: each of Legoland’s benches is made from 800 plastic milk jugs, while the park’s Lego models—like the Lego-constructed Sydney Opera House—are cleaned with powdered walnut shells instead of chemical cleansers.
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.”