Seattle Culture

Seattle: Where Every Day is Earth Day

The city nabs a top spot on the nation's greenest cities list

By Sarah Stackhouse April 22, 2024

Person in a wheelchair looking at the Seattle skyline from a grassy park during sunset on Earth Day.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

Today might be Earth Day, but in Seattle, we live it every day. 

Seattle ranks as the second-greenest city in the United States, just behind San Francisco. A study by evaluated cities on sustainability metrics including air quality, public transportation, access to green space, and bike-friendliness.

Seattle earned a green space score of 14.15 out of 20, thanks to its mix of small pocket parks and sprawling beachfront parks that offer plenty of opportunities to get outside while boosting the air quality. Seattle’s air quality stands at 36, outperforming San Francisco. 

We’ve also got excellent public transit options, scoring 8.5 out of 10. Buses are widespread, timely, and clean. There are robust rideshare programs and carpool lanes. Our bike score clocks in at 62 out of 100, the second top score on the list. We’re constantly adding more bike lanes to accommodate the growing number of cyclists. Seattle’s infrastructure is set to improve even more with the light rail expansion to Lynnwood, opening in August of this year and further expansions to Everett in the works.

Joining Seattle in the top ranks of green cities are San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Boston, and Denver. Notably, Portland, Ore., and Burlington, Vt., are also recognized for their strong environmental initiatives, ranking sixth and ninth, respectively. 

Seattle’s commitment to sustainability is longstanding and impactful. It was the first major U.S. city to ban plastic straws in 2018, alongside plastic utensils and cocktail picks. Since 2003, the city has enforced mandatory commercial recycling, and in 2015, it required the composting of food scraps and food-soiled paper. Innovations by companies like Ridwell have simplified recycling challenging materials like batteries and plastics.

When friends and family visit they’re always amazed by our stinky little composting bin — not just at home but even at movie theaters. “You mean I can compost my popcorn bucket?” Yes, in Seattle we like our films with a side of sustainability. 

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