5 Sustainable U.S. Towns to Move to in 2024, According to Reddit

published Apr 21, 2024
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State Street in Madison. An excellent view of Wisconsin's State Capitol and the Orpheum theater.
Credit: youngryand / Shutterstock

The word “sustainability” gets batted around a lot these days. But what does it actually look like to live a sustainable lifestyle? And can moving to a sustainable city actually help you reduce your impact on the environment?

Turns out, plenty of people are factoring sustainability into their relocation plans. For example, Redditor u/Pale-Funny-1387 recently asked, “What are some sustainable towns (not cities) in the U.S.?” The OP is European but lives in the United States and wants to move to a mid-sized town with “green spaces, walkability, bike lanes, close proximity to grocery stores (no driving required), etc.” 

These are some of the cities fellow Redditors suggested looking into — and what makes each one so sustainable.

Boulder, Colorado

Nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder regularly earns high marks for livability. In 2021 it was named the number-one place to live in America by the U.S. News & World Report for the second year in a row. It’s home to the University of Colorado, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and a plethora of “cleantech” companies.

The broader Boulder Valley has more than 300 miles of bikeways, including 50 miles of designated bike routes, 84 miles of multi-use paths, and 96 miles of bike lanes. The city also maintains more than 45,000 acres of permanently protected parks and open space, which includes roughly 155 miles of trails — and that’s just inside the city limits. Boulder County, more broadly, offers even more open space and trails.

Both the city and county have initiated a wide array of climate initiatives. For example, the city has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030, achieving net-zero emissions by 2035, and reaching carbon-positive status by 2040.

Redditors agree. One person wrote: “The public transport is good, there are trails everywhere, the size is mid.” 

Madison, Wisconsin

Another college town made the Reddit list: Madison, home to the University of Wisconsin. Situated in south-central Wisconsin, this mid-sized city has a little more than 270,000 residents. Over the years, it’s earned a reputation for being one of the most bikeable and walkable cities in the country, thanks to the more than 200 miles of trails within city limits. Madison also boasts 5,700 acres of city-owned public land spread across more than 280 parks.

Madison’s leaders are doing their part to halt the progression of human-caused climate change: They want to reach 100% renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions for all city operations by 2030, followed by the entire community by 2050. Many municipal facilities have solar panels, and the city has 100 electric vehicles in its fleet. Madison has also purchased 62 all-electric buses for public transit.

As one Redditor noted, “Madison has growing solar, a ton of green space, and arguably the best bike connectivity in the country. As well as an incredible local food movement supplying a variety of income classes with fresh and local food.”

Eugene, Oregon

Located along the scenic Willamette River, Eugene popped up several times on this Reddit thread. This outdoorsy city (population: 177,000) is home to the University of Oregon; it’s also the birthplace of Nike. 

Redditors love Eugene’s public bus system, walkability, bikeability, and its many “sustainability-oriented neighborhood markets.”

“I moved to Eugene, Oregon, in part because it is one of the most walkable and livable towns,” one Redditor wrote. “It’s ‘Tracktown USA’ with dozens of miles of walking, running, and biking paths connecting every corner of the town … there’s nowhere else quite like it.”

Indeed, Eugene has an extensive bike network featuring 193 miles of bike lanes, 64 miles of shared-use paths, and 71 miles of signed bikeways and neighborhood greenways. It’s also a paradise for pedestrians: 28% of Eugenians’ trips are one mile or shorter, and the city maintains 772 miles of sidewalks and pedestrian ways.

The city has adopted a robust community climate action plan, which includes ambitious goals like reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 7.6% each year and reducing fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030.

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington was one of the first American cities to use 100% renewable energy sources for electricity, including solar, wind, biomass, and hydroelectric. And with a population of roughly 45,000 residents, Burlington’s size is just right: not too big, and not too small.

For pedestrians, the city has 130 miles of sidewalks and 1,014 crosswalks, plus the award-winning Church Street Marketplace pedestrian mall that’s closed to cars. Cyclists benefit from protected bike lanes and paved trails, like the 8-mile Burlington Greenway Bike/Walk Path that hugs the shoreline of Lake Champlain. The city also has 520 acres of parks and open space.

Like other cities on the list, Burlington is also a college town. It’s home to the University of Vermont, which offers a bachelor of science in environmental sciences. The university’s Rubenstein School is a hub for all things sustainability, and its headquarters recently achieved net-zero energy status.

Davis, California

Several Redditors recommend Davis, California, a city in Northern California with roughly 67,000 residents. City leaders have long made sustainability a top priority: Davis was an early adopter of curbside recycling back in 1974, and the city aims to attain carbon neutrality by 2040. The city is also installing electric vehicle charging stations around town, including some that are powered by solar panels.

This charming city is home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, so cycling is literally embedded in its DNA. You’ll see lots of residents — including students at the University of California, Davis — pedaling around town on two wheels. Davis has 102 miles of bike lanes, 63 miles of pathways, and 4,300 bike racks — plus, 75% of its streets have 25 mile-per-hour speed limits, which makes them safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

What’s more, Davis has lots of green space for residents to enjoy, including 240 acres of open space that’s actively maintained by the city. “Everyone who lives there loves it,” one Redditor wrote.