Special Report

The Most Eco-Friendly States in America

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6. California
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 47.0% (7th highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 43.0% (12th lowest)
> Green industry employment: 21.5% (4th highest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 11.6 ug/m3 (3rd highest)

California produces more electricity from clean energy sources like solar, geothermal, and biomass than any other state. It is also the second largest producer of hydroelectricity. Indeed, green energy is a major industry in the state, as more than one in every five employees in California work in green jobs — meaning they work to benefit the environment in some way.

Programs across the state, like San Francisco’s 2007 law that requires taxi companies to reduce emissions 20% below 1990 levels, help reduce overall energy consumption. Only two states have lower energy consumption per capita than California.

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5. Maine
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 74.8% (5th highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 21.6% (4th lowest)
> Green industry employment: 17.8% (19th highest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 7.9 ug/m3 (8th lowest)

A national leader in green energy, Maine generates three-quarters of its electricity from renewable sources — more than all but four other states. For reference, just 17% of electricity in the United States is generated through renewable sources like wind and solar. Green energy production will likely only increase in Maine in the coming years. Voters last year elected Janet Mills governor of the state. Mills campaign promised to repeal restrictions on wind and solar energy production put in place by the previous administration.

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4. Idaho
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 81.8% (2nd highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 17.8% (3rd lowest)
> Green industry employment: 20.0% (9th highest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 8.4 ug/m3 (16th lowest)

Idaho ranks as one of the most eco-friendly states in the country, in large part due to its energy profile. Nearly 82% of the state’s electricity generation is from renewable sources, second only to Vermont. The majority of renewable energy generated in the state comes from hydroelectric power. Just 0.1% of the state’s energy production comes from burning coal, lower than nearly any U.S. state.

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3. Oregon
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 73.1% (6th highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 26.8% (7th lowest)
> Green industry employment: 23.3% (the highest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 8.5 ug/m3 (18th lowest)

Oregon passed a law in 2016 that requires the state’s largest utility companies to stop paying for out-of-state coal by 2030. The law also mandates the companies to provide at least half of the electricity from renewable sources, such as the wind or sun, by 2040. As of 2017, 73.1% of the electricity in the state came from renewable sources, the sixth highest share in the country and about four times higher than the share nationwide of 17.0%.

Oregon is one of the few states in the country that have reduction targets for vehicle miles traveled. The goal is for light-duty vehicles to drive between 17.0% and 21.0% less by 2035.

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2. Washington
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 78.5% (3rd highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 14.1% (2nd lowest)
> Green industry employment: 22.9% (2nd highest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 8.1 ug/m3 (11th lowest)

About 23% of workers in Washington are employed in green jobs — meaning they either produce goods and services that benefit the environment or work to reduce their organization’s harmful impact on the environment. Neighboring Oregon is the only state where a larger share of workers is employed in green jobs. Washington is home to the Grand Coulee Dam, which stretches across the Columbia River and is the largest hydroelectric plant in the United States. Partially as a result, Washington accounts for about a quarter of all hydroelectricity generation in the country.

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1. Vermont
> Energy generated from renewable sources: 99.6% (the highest)
> Energy generated from fossil fuels: 0.4% (the lowest)
> Green industry employment: 16.9% (18th lowest)
> Avg. daily particle pollution: 7.7 ug/m3 (7th lowest)

In 2015, Vermont became the first state to enact a renewable energy standard. The measure required that at least 75% of retail electricity would come from renewable sources by 2032.

Today, Vermont is the only state where nearly all of its generated electricity is through renewable sources.

Vermont’s shift to renewable energy has transformed the state economy as jobs in solar panel installation are about 19 times more common in the state than they are nationwide. While solar is a significant source of electricity in Vermont, the bulk of renewable energy is hydroelectric.

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