An eco-friendly or “green” apartment and lifestyle is a major draw for many all across the country. Doing good by keeping the Earth healthy has appeal for millions of apartment residents. Communities, towns, and cities are going to great lengths to build new dwellings that meet a green standard, and refurbishing older ones with brand new amenities to meet that same standard. Everything from energy efficient windows to lightning to eco-friendly plumbing practices can improve your immediate quality of life and the quality of life for generations to come.
Here are a handful of small towns around the country that are at the forefront of the eco-friendly apartment movement, known for their solid waste management, land use, water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, recycling, and green buildings and building practices – and a bit about why each are worth your consideration for your next move. These towns also have great reputations for mass transit use and other practices of each place’s population, green power policies, biofuel and wind power availability, number of green-certified buildings, farmers markets, organic producers, and air quality
Located forty five minutes north of San Francisco you’ll find lovely Petaluma, California. It is wine and dairy country up in NoCal and Petaluma embraces the farm-to-table, fresh food movement as well as a green lifestyle in all matters. With many river and leisure boating activities, the community takes to the water to enjoy a sunny Saturday. Many residents bike around the 30 miles Chileno Valley Loop or just bike down the street to avoid carbon emissions. There are over 40 parks and a water conversation program in the event of a drought.
Beautiful Boulder, Colorado lands among the most eco-friendly places to live in the country. It has the country’s best organic food supply and the state’s largest farmers’ market which runs from April thru November. It’s a biking capital whose gobikeboulder.net helps cyclists find routes around town. Noted by the White House as a community that shows outstanding leadership in climate resilience actions, Boulder has no smoking in restaurants and taverns, they’ve limited population growth to conserve resources, and created the HOP and SKIP shuttles to encourage use of public transit. Recycling and composting are both highly encouraged and enforced within the city of Boulder, too.
Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia
Away from the hustle and bustle of metro Atlanta and more in touch with nature, Chattahoochee Hills feels like a world away. There are high-end developments with land restrictions that preserve most of the acreage area for farming and recreational use, which keeps things natural and unspoiled. Serenbe is a planned community with houses, condominiums, stores, restaurants and a 25-acre organic farm. A community full of fresh food, fresh air and focused on well being with four separate hamlets within. For storm water, they use vegetated strips and they re-use graywater for irrigation. This community is set among acres of preserved forests and meadows with miles of nature trails that connect homes and restaurants with arts and businesses.
The inspiring story of Greensburg, Kansas is quite remarkable. This small Midwestern town was almost blown off the map by a terrible EF-5 tornado in May of 2007. Since then the town has taken great pains to rebuild itself with a whole lot of heart and an eco-friendly credo. Now, Greensburg is home to the most LEED buildings per capita in the U.S. They are the first city in the U.S. to use all LED streetlights. All of the electricity used in the City of Greensburg is wind energy via turbines. Water is a very precious resource to the community and they conserve every drop with low flow fixtures and native plantings in our landscaping. The downtown lights are LED fixtures lowering costs and pollution significantly. The schools and apartments are built so natural light is mostly used for illumination and heating and cooling processes use the Earth’s own energy. Huffington post writes, ” They are attempting groundbreaking and innovative ways to go green such as adding ground-source heating and cooling systems to new steel-reinforced concrete construction, solar hot water, rooftop vegetable gardens, wind turbines to generate electrical power and lights that don’t require electricity, all of which are expected to save local businesses and homeowners an estimated $25,000 a year in energy costs.” Ninety percent of this town was destroyed, but in its place they’ve built a green, eco-friendly haven that is a testament to the power of the human spirit.
St. Cloud, Minnesota – the medium sized city about an hour’s drive from Minneapolis, is improving its green practices annually. It is a member of The Minnesota GreenStep program which helps municipalities become eco-friendly by giving their officials a choice of 28 sustainability best practices to implement, which they continue to do as often as possible. For instance, In 2008, St. Cloud unveiled a public bus powered by a mixture of 80 percent vegetable oil and 20 percent diesel fuel, saving an estimated $2.30 per gallon. Its location in Minnesota puts it in close proximity to many farms and thus local food sources, and the booming university is expanding environmental activism on campus.
In the state of Oregon there are a number of cities and towns that are pushing the extremes on eco-friendly living. Bend is one at the forefront. From eco-tourism adventures that are respectful of the local flora and fauna to apartment buildings that have committed to using sustainable building materials, LED lighting, low-flow water devices and much more. The restaurants in the city use locally sourced foods and meat and eggs grown humanely. From solar panels to recycling programs and new communities popping up that are completely sustainable within themselves, Bend is a wonderful place to live.
This progressive, intelligent community has long been renowned for its focus on green living and sustainability. An hour from the ocean, and an hour from the mountains Corvallis is perfectly located to enjoy the best of all worlds in the Pacific Northwest. Over 15 percent of residents and the city government purchase renewable energy here. Corvallis was the first west coast city to receive Green Power Community designation from the EPA and many local businesses pitch in to reduce energy. A city vision plan outlined goals in areas as diverse as walkability, economic vitality and environmental health to be accomplished by 2020. Corvallis residents are less focused on green “fads” and just focused on doing the right thing as often as possible. The green movement is supported by the local college, Oregon State University, which has two LEED-certified buildings with many more on the way. A cool fact: students using the elliptical machines in the gym are also powering the building! There are also environmentally-focused majors for study at the university.
Sustainable living is a major goal for the Montpelier community, the smallest state capital in the country. A small town, slow, way of life with friendly locals is what you’ll see is a common thread throughout our entire list – and Montpelier is no different. It is extremely walkable so traffic and gas emissions are greatly reduced. They care about the community and about the environment – they have an aggressive goal to be off of fossil fuels by 2030. The city of Montpelier, Vermont, requested assistance from EPA’s Greening America’s Capitals Program to create a vision for how bicycle and pedestrian connections in its historic downtown could be strengthened. The city also requested assistance in exploring how green infrastructure could be incorporated into its streets and parking lots. District Heat Montpelier is a wood-fired boiler system that heats the downtown businesses and capitol complex. It is run on locally sourced wood chips, safe for the environment!
La Crosse County and the city proper is an eco-friendly area with public workers and all residents taking steps to reduce waste and emissions. The town regularly review their procedures and discusses how to better reduce the community’s footprint on the environment. Biking is a favorite pastime of La Crosse residents – with trails for all types of riders. You’ll love the scenery around you as you bike to work and to play. The City of La Crosse is proud to be recognized as the first Wisconsin City to have installed bike racks on all metro buses, the first to have initiated a City wide Safe Routes to School Plan, and the first to adopt a Green Complete Streets Ordinance. In 2010, the city completed a Downtown Mixed-Use Transit Center which includes bicycle lockers and a green roof. All building follow The Natural Step framework and fit within La Crosse’s overall sustainability plan. A laundry list of La Crosse’ eco-programs can be found here, it is quite impressive.