It’s Easy Being Green: Seattle Is Greenest City, Oregon Is Greenest State; Massachusetts and Washington #2 and #4

7/18/08Follow @gthuang

In terms of eco-friendliness, the Pacific Northwest and New England—Xconomy’s two homes—are both sitting pretty. In terms of education, however, one of them is not.

That’s according to the 2008 Business Facilities rankings report, released this week. The annual survey, which compares different business environments around the country, ranks cities and states based on everything from air pollution and renewable energy incentives to K-12 spending and graduation rates. The report covers a wide range of topics, but I want to highlight two lists that caught my eye.

First, the good news. Washington, Oregon, and five New England states made the list of top 20 greenest states, with Oregon and Massachusetts leading the way:

1. Oregon
2. Massachusetts
3. Colorado
4. Washington
5. California
6. Connecticut
7. Minnesota
8. Arizona
9. Vermont
10. New York
11. Maryland
12. Hawaii
13. New Mexico
14. Rhode Island
15. Wisconsin
16. New Hampshire
17. Texas
18. Iowa
19. New Jersey
20. Florida

That’s based on pollution levels, financial incentives and policies for energy efficiency and renewable energy, number of hazardous waste sites, percentage of people who use public transit, and a couple of other metrics.

The “greenest” rankings by city are a little less meaningful, as they are based solely on data from the U.S. Green Building Council—basically a measure of the number of “green” buildings in town. Nevertheless, Seattle tied for first place with Chicago. Portland, OR, was next, and Boston and Cambridge, MA, placed 7th and 9th, respectively.

Now for the bad (or at least mixed) news. Although Seattle and Portland ranked #1 and #4 in cities with the “most educated workforce”—Boston ranked 13th—neither Washington nor Oregon made the top 20 in state education climate—whereas five New England states made the top 10. The education climate takes into account factors like student-to-teacher ratios, high-school graduation rates, enrollment rates at colleges, and spending per pupil:

1. Vermont
2. New Hampshire
3. North Dakota
4. Iowa
5. Nebraska
6. Wyoming
7. Maine
8. Massachusetts
8. Rhode Island (tie)
10. Kansas
11. New Jersey
12. Wisconsin
13. South Dakota
14. Missouri
15. Minnesota
16. West Virginia
17. New York
18. Arkansas
19. Montana
19. Virginia (tie)

All of this fits completely with Xconomist Ed Lazowska’s recent post about the sorry state of education in Washington. It may be easy being green, but if the data is right, we Seattlites should really be green with envy—for the way the Northeast invests in its children.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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