The Top 22 Cleanest Places In America

If you are looking to live where the streets are clean, the air is sweet and the water is pure you need look no further than the following cities in the U.S. With the built in advantage of the weather patterns these cities offer, and as the cities rely heavily on tourist footfall there is every reason for the areas to be kept clean. However it is not only the tourist impact but a number of the larger cities have also invested heavily into keeping the cities clean and are now reaping the benefits.

Air quality is another area that is so important and in order to produce this list and determine the cleanest cities of America we initially measured the rankings for air pollution and the ozone levels and once we had eliminated those with the poorest air quality we measured factors such as water quality and per capita spending on the Superfund site cleanup program plus solid waste management.

All of the information has been based upon figures provided by the Metropolitan Statistical Areas with the exception of the waste management spending. The water cleanliness results were taken from statistics supplied by the University of Cincinnati.

Looking beyond health, cleanliness has a very important economic impact and whilst the majority of the cities in the list showed population increases, and it is many factors including economical ones that was the biggest deciding factor in a person’s choice to move, however a reputation for clean air, water and clean streets also seem to count quite heavily.

The challenge that all of these cities now face is the ability to stay clean with the ever growing population, only time will tell if they can actually manage, here’s hoping that they can.

Santa Fe

Santa Fe has claimed the title of the cleanest city in America due to the clean air in all of the pollution categories.


This could be down to the nearest major power plant being over 200 miles away and the state’s rigid emission standards which contribute highly to the exceptional air quality.

Bismarck, N.D.

Thanks to the predominately flat land in Bismarck the air remains amongst the cleanest to be found in the U.S. This is mainly due to the plains that surround the capital and ensure that the air cannot get trapped or stay in one place for too long, coupled with the westerly winds which continually refresh the skies. Under the Regional Haze program all the power plants have had to upgrade their cleaning systems so that they filter all of the dust particles from the smoke.


There is one concern in Bismarck and this is the oil boom that is currently taking place in the northwestern corner and with the increased traffic on the gravel roads there is a lot more dust forced into the air.

Duluth, Minn

Duluth is situated in the largest, coldest and cleanest Great Lake that creates its own microclimate. The winds sweep off of the lake allowing clean air drifts from Canada to flush out any pollution. This coupled with the lack of heavy industry in the area guarantee cleaner air.


The state also runs a program encouraging any of industry plants to install the latest cleaning systems to encourage further air quality.


Honolulu is one of the biggest cities in America yet isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean meaning that there is minimal pollution blowing in from anywhere, and any homegrown smog does not last long thanks to the steady trade winds that blow. Honolulu has a steady rainfall and whilst it receives less than 20” of precipitation per year it benefits from frequent light rain which flushes any pollutants straight from the sky. The city of Honolulu is making great efforts with regards to the reduction of auto emissions with an award winning public transport system including hybrid vehicles that are partially powered by electricity.


The city is also currently building a new modern rail system which will only help to reduce the dependency of fossil fuels and ensure that pollutants are kept to an absolute minimum.

Port St. Lucie, Florida

There are three main elements that contribute to the good air quality offered in South Florida and these are the geography, meteorology and location. Port St Lucie is situated on a long peninsula which juts out from the mainland meaning that pollutants have to drift an extremely long way to affect the area. There are also no basins or valleys in the area meaning that there is nowhere for polluted air to become trapped and the subtropical breezes blow to keep things circulating.



The area has limited emission from the nearby power plants with the majority of the plants having switched to natural gas.

Rapid City, South Dakota

With South Dakota being located near huge areas of wilderness, within 25 miles of the national park and on the edge of the Black Hills National Forest, there is good reason why the air pollution is kept to a minimum. Due to the winds that come from the Black Hills basin everything is blown eastward.

SD State Photos

Rapid City is also keeping a close hold over builders that want to develop the area and in order to carry out any work they have to obtain air quality permits and also have dust containments in place before they will be allowed to start any project in the area.

Miami, Florida

Water is a major deal in Florida and is particularly important for the tourism based economy. One of the major aims for Florida is to prevent harmful toxins from engulfing the fresh waters. In order to assist with this there will be no further expansion of the gas and oil exploration in this area as this not only uses copious amounts of water but also intersperses enormous amounts of chemicals into the ground. Currently over 90% of the energy produced in Florida comes from coal, nuclear power and natural gases whilst these sources of energy production are costly and use excessive amounts of water whilst also producing a multitude of waste.


Therefore the major push now is to phase out the old coal fired power plants and no longer provide incentives to the utilities companies to invest in natural gas and nuclear production which should lead to an even cleaner city.

Seattle, Washington

Seattle currently spends more on Superfund site cleanup and waste management than any other major city. Seattle is also blessed with weather patterns that push the smog out rapidly as well as the nearby Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains with their abundance of forestry.


Not only is Seattle one of the cleanest cities but it also rates highly with regards to security making it a truly beautiful place to live.

Jacksonville, Florida

The City of Jacksonville has recently embarked on a major clean and green program to improve the appearance and cleanliness of this beautiful city. The city participates in an energy grant which accesses the use of energy and advanced recycling.


Whilst the city continues to look for more ways to be green it is embracing the opportunity to partner with local business and organizations to enhance and consolidate all efforts to make some big differences to the area.

Portland, Oregon

Studies in the 1990s discovered a wide variety of pollutants that were in the bottom of the river along with heavy metals and pesticides. This resulted in the river being designated as a Superfund in 2000 with the initial cleanup being focused on the part of the river between Swan Island and Sauvie Island.


Through the Big Pipe Project the city has managed to reduce the pollution being caused by the combined sewer overflow and the Willamette River is now considered safe. Ongoing work has resulted in Portland making into the top 22 cleanest cities in America.

San Francisco, California

The city of San Francisco has made it into the list of the top 22 cleanest cities in America mainly because of the number of innovative policies and programs the city has adopted and its main goal of 100% renewable energy to become a healthier and cleaner city. San Francisco uses the sun to generate electricity through the use of solar energy and the wind to spin the turbines which produce additional electricity.


The main element used to power machinery in this city is Hydropower which reduces pollution severely as it simply uses water. The other area that San Francisco has developed heavily is the use of Biomass and Biofuels which are sources of renewable energy that are domestically produced.

Oklahoma City

Located in downtown is the nation’s official U.S Department of Energy Clean Cities program. The program was first launched in May 1996 and currently comprises of stakeholders which include 45 government and business agencies who are dedicated to reducing the dependency on petroleum in the transportation sector, improving the air quality, expanding the use of alternative fuels and accelerating the use of anything that will make the city a cleaner place to be.


This dynamic organization of people have already been able to reduce the use of gasoline by 6,000,000 gallons per year that it is only right that this city is included amongst the cleanest in America.

Clearlake, CA

The bucolic town of Clearlake in northern California boasts air quality that is about as pure as it gets.


The irony of this is that the Clear Lake itself is heavily contaminated with mercury from the nearby abandoned mine; however no city can have everything.

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Wyoming is known for its stunning mountain views and clean air and this is why it has found itself on this list; however this might not be for long. Parts of western Wyoming currently rival the smog that is present in the sky of Los Angeles as fracking and drilling for natural gas has begun.


Cheyenne currently is almost untouched however watch this space as gas drilling has a habit of spreading.

Kahului-Wailuku, Hawaii

Maui Island is paradise personified with an air quality that is no different.


The area is blessed with warm temperatures and cloudless skies which also contribute to the clean air making this a perfect city to grace this list.

Dickinson, North Dakota

There are times when it is possible to have decent air simply by having a smaller population and this is certainly the case in Dickinson.


With a population of about 15,000 there is definitely not enough to make a huge difference to the cleanliest of this area.

Farmington, New Mexico

Farmington like many areas in New Mexico boasts some of the cleanest air in the nation.


However this is ironic as Farmington is not far from the San Juan Generating Station which is a 40 year old coal plant which is under pressure to reduce the pollution that it creates. There is no fear of Farmington being affected currently.

Jackson, Wyoming

Although it may seen ironic statistics show that the more rich people that are found in a dense area the less likely it is that the air will be polluted, and this is demonstrated in Jackson.


With a high drive on pollutions and keeping the environment as clean as possible, Jackson is a worthy addition to this list.

Pocatello, Idaho

The city of Pocatello has always been in the list of the cleanest cities in America as there has been little change for a number of years.


This city in Idaho has also been topped as one of the safest places for those who suffer from asthma and therefore must be cleaner than most.

Silver City, New Mexico

If you are looking for smog free air and a clean environment then New Mexico is the place for you. The environment has just got better and better over the years with some stringent environmental regulations in place today.


This is one place where the desert air will certainly do you the world of good.

Columbus, Ohio

The steady development of Columbus has made keeping the watersheds clean a difficult job combined with aging storm water and a sewage system which overflowed and caused backups in recent years.


The mayor has supported the light development of watershed land and is also keen for development to be made on contaminated land as this would be a way to get the sites cleaned up. The major has also implemented a new initiative that is known as “Get Green Columbus,” and a program to update the sewage and storm water systems.

Buffalo, New York

Thanks to the help provided by environmental quality bonds and Superfund dollars, Buffalo has been making excellent process in containing and cleaning the contaminated sites around the city. There are also plans to turn the huge steel site on the shores of Lake Erie into a wind farm in order to generate clean power for the residents and businesses in the area.


With many other initiatives underway it is easy to see how Buffalo managed to bag the last spot and be included on the list of the 22 cleanest cities in America.