100 Latinos Green Leaders

Like plants peeping up here and there in spring, the green economy is growing and blooming nationwide. Across sectors and professions, Latinos are leading the way.

By Jens Erik Gould and David Quiñones
Noma Barr


Two of the hottest issues in the United States today are the significant growth in the Hispanic population and the increased emphasis on green issues. Less publicized is what is happening at their confluence: more Latinos are playing important roles in environmental issues than ever. PODER’s Top 100 Green Latinos  izes the pioneers of this new frontier.

The numbers confirm the trend: Latinos have skin in the green game. According to a Sierra Club poll, the percentage of Latinos who say they live or work near a toxic site increased to 43 percent last year from 34 percent in 2008, while 83 percent of Latinos favored moving from coal plants to clean sources of energy. In California, according to Tulchin Research, two-thirds of Latino voters considered themselves “conservationists,” while 90 percent believe we could “protect the environment and create jobs at the same time.”

Our list features Latinos from all walks of life trying to do just that; from high-profile entertainers like Rosario Dawson to long-time environmental justice activists like Antonio Gonzalez, writers like Javier Sierra and attorneys like Adrianna Quintero. Hispanic business owners across the country are approaching the issue entrepreneurially, launching innovative green companies in clean energy, finance and other industries.

Latinos can also be proud of high-profile leaders such as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Department of Justice’s Assistant Attorney General Ignacia Moreno. Still, Hispanics remain underrepresented among corporate executives working on sustainability. But that is bound to change as green attracts more attention and the Hispanic population grows.




Raul Grijalva

U.S. Representative for Arizona
Washington DC/Arizona

Congressman Grijalva has a strong record on conservation. He led successful efforts to convince Washington to protect one million acres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon from toxic mining for the next 20 years. He has also been a leading voice on making wild horse management more humane on federal lands and has pushed for comprehensive energy legislation to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.


Ben Ray Lujan

Congressman for New Mexico, preserved public lands

Santa Fe, NM/Washington, DC


Manny Diaz

Former Miami Mayor, Green cities proponent

Miami, FL


Alex Padilla

California statesenator, chair of Senate Energy,Utilities and Communications Committee

San Fernando Valley, CA


Robert Garcia

Long Beach vice mayor, member of California Coastal Commission

Long Beach, CA


Bill Richardson 

Former governor of New Mexico and Secretary of Energy 

Santa Fe, NM


Kevin de Leon

California State senator, authored global warming legislation

Los Angeles, CA


Ed Reyes
City council member

Los Angeles, CA

While many people regarded the Los Angeles River as a concrete ditch, Ed Reyes saw it as the city’s lifeline in desperate need of care. He’s a major reason Angelinos can now access their river, which was off-limits to the population for decades. He led the charge to create a committee to revitalize the river through environmental protection, flood control, improved water quality and the building of new parks along the waterway.



Antonio Villaraigosa
Los Angeles, CA

Villaraigosa has made a big part of his tenure as mayor about making Los Angeles one of the nation’s largest green cities, including efforts to relieve freeway traffic through increased rail, and transforming the downtown industrial center into a corridor for clean technology businesses. While he has achieved some successes—the city boasts that it reached the Kyoto targets for reducing greenhouse gases four years early—critics say the mayor’s green dreams have fallen short.


Federico Peña
Former Secretary of Energy

Denver, CO

Peña helped Latinos reach a milestone as the first Hispanic to serve as Secretary of Energy. He helped lead President Bill Clinton’s efforts to combat climate change amid the perceived threat of global warming, and has since advocated for a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Julián Castro

San Antonio, TX

While climbing to the national political stage, Castro has focused on green energy at home, making the environment a central part of his agenda as mayor. San Antonio’s utility company is increasing its reliance on renewable power, has committed to creating 1,000 new green jobs and was the first city in Texas to shut down its coal-fired plant—more than a decade ahead of schedule.







Andrea Delgado

Legislative representative, Earthjustice
Washington, DC

Delgado, an Ecuadorian-Colombian, works with Congress and federal agencies to boost policy to protect the public from unhealthy chemicals, pesticides and waste. She was a fellow at the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change and won the 2011 MillerCoors Líder of the Year Award for her work on labor and environmental issues.


Jason Perez

Conundrum Technologies
Avon, CO

Perez built his company to specialize in low-voltage power consumption and management systems. Conundrum was the first company in Colorado to implement a green system in a high-end resort community. The company has won the National Lutron Excellence Award for best alternative energy application and was recognized by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.


Robert Zardeneta

Executive director of Boyle Heights YouthBuild, green-retrofits homes
East Los Angeles, CA


Mark Magana

Executive director of NLCCC, global warming educator for Latinos
Washington, DC


Anselmo Villareal

La Casa de Esperanza, low-income weatherization program
Waukesha, WI


Jorge Madrid

Policy fellow, Environmental Defense Fund
Oakland, CA


Kim Wasserman

Director of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
Chicago, IL

Wasserman spearheaded a 14-year campaign to shut down a local coal power plant and a more-than-a-decade-long campaign to build a new park in the Little Village area of Chicago. “Our biggest accomplishment is keeping people moving for ten years on environmental justice in our neighborhood,” she says.


Lisa Hoyos

Director of strategic field initiatives, BlueGreen Alliance, unites unions and environmental orgs
San Francisco, CA


Robert Garcia

Founding director and counsel, The City Project, Environmental policy player
Los Angeles, CA


Juan Reynosa

Field organizer, Southwest Organizing Project, environmental justice advocate 
Albuquerque, NM


Elizabeth Yeampierre

Executive Director, UPROSE
Brooklyn, NY

Yeampierre is a Puerto Rican civil rights attorney who directs the environmental justice group UPROSE. She has pushed an urban forestry initiative, promoted a greenway design for the waterfront and helped double the amount of open space in the area of Sunset Park. She has a long list of environmental awards and has helped push through significant environmental legislation such as New York City's Solid Waste Management Plan.


Roger Rivera

President and founder, National Hispanic Environmental Council, Alexandria, VA

Rivera's organization has some 5,000 members across the country working on a range of natural resource, energy and environmental issues and focuses on educating Latino youths to be green leaders. Rivera has served on seven federal advisory committees, was a member of the Obama transition team in 2008 and helped found the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change.


Michele Martinez

Santa Ana, CA

Martinez spearheaded measures including re-zoning hundreds of acres to support transit-friendly development in downtown Santa Ana, adopting landscape standards to reduce water consumption and waiving fees for solar energy project permits. She also promoted a resolution for a more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly city, and led efforts to pass an ordinance to prohibit smoking in city parks.


Antonio Gonzalez

President of the William C. Velasquez Institute
Los Angeles, CA

Longtime Latino activist Antonio Gonzalez has helped lead important L.A.-area projects such as revitalization of the city's river and the development of more green spaces. He's also an expert on Latino voter mobilization and head of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. He heads the William C. Velasquez Institute, a non-profit that conducts research aimed at improving Latino political participation.


Irma Muñoz
Founder, Mujeres de la Tierra

Los Angeles, CA

Muñoz's non-profit betters the lives of Southern California families by improving their neighborhoods and pushing forward projects such as revitalization of the L.A. River, the development of parks and fighting energy projects that degrade the health of the local population. She currently sits on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board and was previously a senior manager with the environmental organization The Tree People.


Yerina Mugica
Associate director, Center for Market Innovation, National Resources Defense Council
New York, NY
Mugica’s work focuses on directing private capital toward solutions that are both environmentally and economically sustainable. She leads a team that demonstrates real-world approaches to leveraging markets to drive environmental solutions, with projects in the real estate, green infrastructure and regenerative agriculture sectors.


Sally Gutierrez

Director of the Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Cincinnati, OH

Gutierrez brings together businesses, investors, universities and governments to collaborate on environmental sustainability projects and technological innovation, and create economic opportunities. “You can think about this program as like a Silicon Valley for water technology,” she says.


Rafael Fantauzzi

Chair, National Latino Coalition on Climate Change
Washington, DC

Fantauzzi's NLCCC educates Latinos about environmental health, global warming and other green issues, and aims to increase the Latino voice in the national dialogue on climate change. He is also president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition, and advocates for environmental issues on the island.

Adrianna Quintero

Senior attorney, National Resources Defense Council
San Francisco, CA

At the NRDC, Quintero directs an outreach program called La Onda Verde, which aims to raise awareness among Latinos about their environment and the tools they can use to resolve environmental issues. She also oversees Voces Verdes, an effort to push elected officials to pass clean energy and climate legislation. The campaign was successful in helping push Washington to adopt standards on mercury emissions.







Albert Robles
Board president, Water Replenishment District of Southern California
Lakewood, CA

Ed Archuleta
Former president and CEO of El Paso Water Utilities

(announced retirement in 2012 after 24 years) El Paso, TX


Ken Salazar

Secretary of the Interior
Denver, CO

As Salazar prepares to leave Washington after four years as Interior Secretary, he might be best known for his decision to put a moratorium on offshore drilling after the 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also approved the country’s first offshore wind farm and pushed solar power projects in western states. As U.S. senator, he helped lead the passage of the 2005 and 2007 Energy Policy Acts and the 2007 Farm Bill. 


Ignacia S. Moreno

Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division
Washington, DC

The Colombian-born Moreno has one of the most high-profile environmental posts of any Hispanic in the country, as she helps to lead the government’s case in the civil trial against BP for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and dumped untold millions of gallons of crude into the ocean. She also oversees other cases against pollution violators as well as cases prosecuted under wildlife protection laws.






Vicki Arroyo
Georgetown Law School
Washington, DC

Arroyo oversees staff and student projects on climate mitigation and teaches environmental law courses as the executive director of the Climate Center at the Georgetown University Law Center. Previously she was the Pew Center's vice president for domestic policy and general counsel. She also advised on cap-and-trade carbon emission program designs while serving on California's Economics and Allocation Advisory Committee.


Leticia Barajas

Dean of Academic Affairs, Los Angeles Trade Technical College
Los Angeles, CA

Through the Green College Initiative, Barajas has been instrumental in building numerous degree and certificate programs at the college to help boost the green-related workforce in Southern California. The courses cover issues that include alternative fuels, solar design, solid waste management, water purification and certified green business operations. The program is also designed to serve students in underprivileged communities.


Gerald Torres
Environmental law professor, University of Texas
Austin, TX

Marina La Grave
President of the Latin American Center for the Arts, Science and Education (CLACE), teaching youth about environmental stewardship
Boulder, CO


Manuel Pastor

USC Program for Environmental and Regional Study
Los Angeles, CA

Pastor is a sociology professor who directs the University of Southern California's Program for Environmental and Regional Equity, a research unit that explores issues of environmental justice. The program endeavors to bring community and university initiatives together while researching issues like air pollution and climate change.





Rudy Arredondo
President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Association, Washington, DC
Arredondo has spent more than two decades advocating for civil, human and labor rights in Washington, DC. His organization educates Latino farmer advocacy groups all over the country about sustainable farm policy and practices, while working for implementation of the policies and regulations that small Latino farmers and ranchers care about.

Jorge Saldaña

Owner and chef at Cancun Restaurant,  adheres to recycled papers and organic ingredients
Berkeley, CA

David Damian Figueroa

Vice president at MALDEF, co-producer of Food Chains and The Harvest
Los Angeles, CA


Alejandro Velez

Co-Founder of  Back to the Roots, manufactures green gardening kits
Oakland, CA


Patti Moreno

Garden Girl TV, how-to gardening maven
Boston, MA


Giselle Achecar

EcoRico, teaches eco-living and cooking
Glendale, CA


David Garrido

Owner of Garrido's restaurant
Austin, TX

All the food is fresh and organic. All glass and plastic used is recycled. To-go materials are disposable. The heating and cooling systems are eco-friendly. Even the furniture has been reused. Yes, Garrido's in Austin is a 100 percent green restaurant.


Lucas Benitez

Co-founder of Coalition of Immokalee Workers
Immokalee, FL

Many green advocacy groups are realizing that environmental progress can't happen without food justice, and that food waste and lack of access to food in certain populations must be addressed. Benitez, along with Gerardo Reyes and Greg Asbed, is doing that by leveraging a 5,000-worker strong coalition to fight for fair food agreements and new farm labor standards in Florida's tomato farms. Their successes include deals with Taco Bell, and Whole Foods Market, among other big names.






Carl Salas and John Salas
Founder and Managing Principals, Salas O'Brien
San Francisco, CA
Carl Salas, a professional engineer, has been redesigning and testing infrastructure systems and energy-efficiency systems for nearly 40 years, has written books on sustainability, and developed seminars on energy management. He and his brother, John, have been with Salas O'Brien since 1979, encouraging sustainability as they help clients with energy engineering and optimization.


Tom Soto
Managing partner and co-founder at Craton Equity Partners

Beverly Hills, CA

Soto has helped lead this clean technology fund's efforts to invest in profitable solutions to environmental degradation and climate change, such as alternative fuels and smart grid technologies. Soto previously served on the White House Council on Environmental Quality transition team for President Obama. He also advises non-profit environmental organizations.


Javier Palomarez

President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Washington, DC

Palomarez helped oversee creation of the Green Business Initiative, a project launched in 2011 that educates Latino entrepreneurs about sustainability and helps them develop long-term green game plans. The program continues to tour the country, training small business owners on cost analyses and the feasibility of integrating green practices into business models.


Rodrigo Prudencio

CEO, Hara
San Mateo, CA

Prudencio's firm specializes in energy and resource data management. Energy and sustainability professionals use the information in a variety of ways, including to identify cost-savings opportunities when it comes to environmental compliance requirements, efficiency targets and improving operations. Previously, Prudencio was a partner at Nth Power, which funds start-up companies in energy efficiency, renewable energy and low carbon technology.


Gus Casamayor Certified Green Partners
Hialeah, FL

Casamayor, founder of Certified Green Partners, trains businesses to develop models that are environmentally friendly and implements a certification program. At AC Graphics, his own printing firm in Hialeah, Casamayor prints with vegetable-based rather than petroleum-based inks. He has also convinced other printers to switch to greener ways of doing business.


Louis Sanchez

President and CEO, The Artec Group, LEED construction
Madeira Beach, FL


Alfonso Maciel Sr.


A. Maciel Printing, eco-friendly printing
San Francisco, CA


Victoria Aviles 

Green Street Cleaners, sustainable dry cleaning
Brooklyn, NY


Carmen Rad 

President of CR&A Custom Inc., eco-friendly printing
Los Angeles, CA


Ramon Alvarez

Alvarez Electric Motors Company, green autos
Riverside, CA


Franklin Cruz

Founder and chairman of DEC Green, Earth-friendly cleaning products
New York, NY


Rosamaria Caballero-Stafford Honest Green
New York, NY

Caballero-Stafford founded Green Irene, a consulting company that helped spur the creation of hundreds of green businesses across the United States and trained local eco-consultants to push for positive environmental change in their communities. She now runs Honest Green, the eCommerce division of United Natural Foods, a national distributor of natural and organic foods.


Dennis & Lenora Salazar

Salazar Packaging
Chicago, IL

The green transformation of the packaging industry starts with small business owners like Dennis and Lenora Salazar. Their packing company has created a fully-reversible cardboard box to encourage multiple uses, launched an online store to sell green packaging products and uses materials that are more renewable and biodegradable than the industry standard.




Javier Sierra
Latino media strategist at the Sierra Club
Washington, DC

Sierra has played an essential role in “putting the environmental movement on the Latino map,” as he puts it, by helping the Hispanic community engage with environmental issues such as toxic pollution and climate change at the more than 100-year-old non-profit (the same names are a coincidence) He writes a monthly column published in New York’s El Diario-La Prensa and Los Angeles’ La Opinion.


Angela Posada-Swafford Science, environment and exploration writer
Miami, FL


Daniela Zavala

Travel writer, Diaries of a Backpacker, sheds light on environmental issues
Miami, FL


Linda Escalante

Southern California Advocacy Coordinator, La Onda Verde, NRDC, Latino  community green advocate
Santa Monica, CA



Alan Ojeda
CEO of Rilea Group, developed first LEED Gold tower in downtown Miami
Miami, FL

Cisco Diaz

Antique restorer and artist at Restore and Rework, makes art of trash and second-hand goods Castro
Valley, CA

Ramiro Gomez
Artist at Happy Hills, cardboard cutout artist and environmental activist
Los Angeles, CA


Marta Layseca

Founder, EnviroHomeDesign, Arlington, VA

Layseca is founder of a Northern Virginia-based eco design and architectural company that specializes in resource-efficient renovations. Layseca, who holds a degree in architecture from the University of Buenos Aires and a Master in Sustainable Architecture from the University of Arizona, is an expert at using natural materials and energy strategies in housing.


Jose Antonio Perez Helguera

Managing Director, Agave Holdings
Miami, FL

Perez oversaw the development of Coral Gables' first new building to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status. The office building at 396 Alhambra, which is already housing companies including HBO Latin America and CitiBank NA, saves 40 percent more energy than a standard new office building of the same size.


Sandra Artalejo

Owner of Sola Studios
Dallas, TX

“Waste Not!” That mantra could easily be the motto of Sandra Artalejo, a Dallas fashion designer and artist. She uses recycled products to make items including lunch bags, handbags and backpacks. "Our world has become a disposable world. So I decided to see what I could do about it. I love a challenge," she told The Dallas Morning News.








Marcela Gutierrez Azul, Marine Conservation
San Francisco, CA


Antonio Fins

Executive director of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation
Davie, FL

Fins, a former South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorial writer, oversees educational programs and research that promotes conservation in order to help ensure that fish, sharks and other marine wildlife are around for future generations to enjoy. The organization was founded by Guy Harvey, who is a conservationist and noted marine wildlife artist.


Luiz Rodrigues
Environmental Coalition of Miami & the Beaches

Miami Beach, FL


Mildred Real and Arturo Gomez

Common Ground for Conservation, Miami, FL

Real started Common Ground for Conservation eight years ago to provide education and leadership training aimed at helping people make decisions that safeguard the environment. The group offers training for local businesses to become greener, produces educational radio programs and blogs that boost green education. They have partnered with Miami-Dade County to conduct educational outreach.


Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

Gracefully Global, LLC
San Francisco, CA

Graciela is a pioneer in the emerging area where Latinos and the green economy intersect. She authored Latinnovating, Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them, the first book to feature Latino-led innovation and entrepreneurship in the green economy. She is now working on the second edition in the series. She is a graduate of the School of Environmental Design at the University of California at Berkeley.







Leonor Varela Actress, protector of Chilean marine areas
Los Angeles, CA


Rosario Dawson Actress

Los Angeles, CA

Off screen, Dawson is best known for using her talents and fame for political causes such as Voto Latino. But she works to help the environment too. She supports the organization Water Defense which promotes clean water sources, has given speeches on sustainability, and kicked off the inaugural "Unbottle the World Day" last year to fight bottle and can waste.


Eva Longoria

Los Angeles, CA






Ricardo Bayon

Partner and co-founder at EKO Asset Management Partners
San Francisco, CA

Bayon's firm invests in projects and companies that help the environment. Previously, Bayon helped found a service called the Ecosystem Marketplace to provide a variety of information about a host of emerging environmental markets. Bayon, born in Bogota, Colombia, has also written extensively on carbon markets and biodiversity banking, including Voluntary Carbon Markets: An International Business Guide to What They Are and How They Work.


Luis Rojas

Owner of Evergreen Energy Solutions
City of Industry, CA

Rojas' company designs, produces and oversees solar energy systems for Southern California schools and local governments. His work helps institutions save energy and money through renewable energy systems, improves water conservation, and helps raise environmental awareness among students and teachers.


Robert Peña

Vice President at Texas Energy Consultants
Edinburg, TX

Peña is a co-founder of Texas Energy Consultants, a renewable energies company that helps businesses stay competitive in energy retail markets. He also helped develop 900 megawatts of wind farm development in west Texas and along the Gulf Coast, including the Los Vientos farm in Willacy County.


Frank Ramirez

ICE Energy
Windsor, CO

Ramirez, a Stanford and Berkeley graduate, is an entrepreneur whose company has created innovations to conserve energy and save money. ICE Energy's technology can store energy in off-peak hours to be used later, during peak times and can also allow businesses to take their air conditioning units off the electrical grid on hot days.


Jason Aramburu

Founder and CEO of re:char
Austin, TX

A Princeton graduate, Aramburu is the creator and builder of re:char, which helps farmers combat climate change and grow more food. His company developed a patent-pending technology to convert agricultural waste into fuel that can generate power instead of allowing it to decompose into harmful methane gas. The efficient technology can also convert waste into biochar, which can help replenish soils and boost crop yield.


Humberto Rincon Mechanical engineer

working on efficiency improvements for industrial lighting systems
Silicon Valley, CA


Dorene Dominguez

Chairman of Vanir Group, started solar thermal initiative
Sacramento, CA


Armando Pimentel

CEO of NextEra

Juno Beach, FL


Nelson Diaz

Latino Energy and Environmental Professionals
Philadelphia, PA


Walter Pedreira

President of Caribbean Renewable Technologies
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico


Dan Arvizu
Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Golden, CO

Arvizu leads a nearly $400 billion budget at the nation's only laboratory dedicated solely to improving renewable energy technology. The main laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Efficiency and Renewable Energy focuses on energy science, renewable fuels, commercialization and other areas.







Romulo Diaz

Vice president and General counsel at PECO Energy, a division of Exelon
Philadelphia, PA


Monica DeZulueta
Data platform architect, Microsoft, reduces carbon footprint through networking

Miami, FL


Edwin Piñero

Chief sustainability officer at Veolia Water North America
Chicago, IL


Juan de bedout

Chief engineer, GE Energy Management
Niskayuna, NY


Carmela Beck
Organic program manager, Driscoll's Strawberry Associates

Watsonville, CA


Luis Ubiñas

President of the Ford Foundation
New York, NY

Head of the country’s second-largest philanthropic organization, Ubiñas helped roll out the foundation’s first climate change program, and promotes efforts in a number of countries to empower rural and indigenous peoples on land rights issues. He helped Ford become  a founding member of the Climate and Land Use Alliance and has written op-eds on green issues for outlets such as The New York Times.


Beatriz Perez

Chief Sustainabilty Officer, Coca-Cola
Atlanta, GA

Not only is Perez a Hispanic in the C-suite of the beverage giant, she’s dedicated to the environment too. The Coca-Cola veteran oversees an integrated sustainability strategy at the multi-national in areas including recycling, packaging and water. She also works on a program to promote women entrepreneurship and recently helped open a water center in Ghana, reducing the time local children spend getting drinking water.


Alicia Abella

Executive director of Innovative Services Research Department, AT&T

Florham Park, NJ

Abella, an 18-year 
veteran at AT&T, manages a group of researchers who developed long distance tools in the area of teleconferencing and mobile services that cut down on the need for business travel, thereby helping conserve energy resources. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute recognized her for her role in helping to build a greener future.







Our first PODER Hispanic Green Cities Index yielded some unexpected rankings.

Sure, you could probably guess that the greenest U.S. city among those with a significant

Hispanic population would be San Francisco. But who’d have thought densely populated

New York would be second on our list? There’s a prisoner-ofthe-moment challenge in producing an index like this. Data for some of these metrics are gathered intermittently,

and some categories have limited data. Others have improved since the last survey, but updated information has not yet been released. Nonetheless, we’ve tried to compile a

scientific and data-determined index. We hope readers will use the results of this index

to envision how their own communities can be more environmentally conscious.


- By David Quiñones




Followers of the city’s considerable progress in solar energy and other green initiatives may scratch their heads at its ranking in our index, but math is math, and the home of the Alamo still ranks low on categories like walkability and park space. However, Mayor Julián Castro has made strides, luring Korean OCI Solar Power to San Antonio, bringing with it some 800 clean jobs and $100 million in revenues. Look for San Antonio to improve this ranking in coming years as initiatives take hold.




Some might think the progressive, freespirited jewel of the Lone Star State should be higher on our list. On March 1, the city instituted a ban on single-use disposable bags, although the Texas Retailers Association then filed suit. As the capital, Austin holds an important place in the green movement, but Tea Party activists, for whom environmental issues are far from a priority, roundly outnumber environmental proponents. These commercial Astroturf interests are better organized and financed than the environmentalists. Texas has also embraced the controversial practice of fracking for natural gas deposits.


#14 Phoenix
Phoenix suffers from an affliction similar to Las Vegas: It’s difficult to call yourself sustainable when your city is in a desert where summer temperatures routinely top 110 degrees. Arizona ranked 34th in the U.S. Green Building Council’s annual survey of green building-per-capita. The former governor, Janet Napolitano, said Arizona has the potential to be “the Persian Gulf of solar energy.” Arizona solar power reached 383 megawatts in 2011 when it added 273 photovoltaic units, but much remains untapped.


#13 Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Strip: The grossest display of wasted energy in our nation? Maybe, but don’t forget that those lights, popping and flashing all through the night, are powered by the hydroelectric Hoover Dam, the biggest source of green energy in the West. But the Colorado River continues to shrink, and because of absurdly hot desert summers and chilly winters, the average Las Vegan consumes twice as much energy as the typical American, making the city highly unsustainable. Routing water from rural Nevada to support the explosive growth of the past 15 years has been a point of contention as well.



#12 Dallas

In the eight years since its inception, the Dallas Water Utilities’ “Cease the Grease” program has eliminated some 96 percent of sanitary sewer overflows and sewer blockages. Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was named the 2012 winner of the North Texas Commission's “Clean Air Champion” contest. However, dry conditions have lowered the water level at Lavon Lake some nine feet. The lake is a major water source for Dallas. Meanwhile the city’s fleet is one of the largest alternative fueled fleets in Texas and the nation with nearly 35 percent running on biodiesel or natural gas or is a gas/electric hybrid vehicle.


#10 Houston

Four years ago, the home of Big Oil used no renewable energy. In 2012, it purchased the most of any city. Coming this summer: wind turbines on top of city buildings. What a turnaround for a city that is the fossil fuel capital of the country. Mayor Annise Parker deserves special distinction for her Green City Projects, a set of aggressive initiatives aimed at greening Houston. The city received a $23 million grant from the Department of Energy and used it to create the Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP), which in turn installed energy-saving weatherization measures in the homes of qualifying Houstonians.

#10 San Diego

Southern California Edison has proposed to reopen the shuttered San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, but environmental concerns—including the feasibility of real-time vulnerability detection—persist. The Ocotillo wind farm has drawn the ire of locals who complain about the turbine noise and Quechan Indians who have filed suit claiming the site encroaches on their ancestral homelands. A February vote by county commissioners has cleared the way for analysis of rooftop solar panels impact.



One of the most environmentally conscious cities in the country, the City of Angels nonetheless has notoriously toxic air quality and a public transportation system that leaves much to be desired. Even in areas where buses and trains are available, few residents have adopted emissions-reducing habits during their commutes. Didn’t you know? Nobody walks in L.A. Still, kudos to L.A. County for implementing programs aimed at boosting solar power, drought-tolerant landscaping and low-impact development.


#08 Albuquerque

Mired in the third-driest start to a year since such statistics were recorded, Albuquerque is looking closely at water use, of critical importance to New Mexico's largest city, home to the University of New Mexico, Kirtland Air Force Base and several research labs. The National Resources Conservation Services predict that the state’s H2O source in the Elephant Butte Irrigation District will only produce 38 percent of its usual spring runoffs this year. The conditions have persisted through 2011 and 2012, the driest combined two-year period in the state’s history.


 #07 Denver

Denver-based and backed Solar Benefits Colorado offered competitively-priced solar energy to public sector workers and contractors. Since 2007, Executive Order 123 has mandated that all new buildings be LEED certified, all concrete used by the city should be at least 20 percent fly ash and all construction waste must be recycled. With increased drilling, Colorado has also seen a rash of spills in the past year, dumping more than two million gallons of diesel, oil, wastewater and chemicals according to a recent investigation by The Denver Post.


#06 Chicago

Citing environmental concerns, residents of south side neighborhood Englewood have fought for inclusion of more pollution controls in a $285 million railroad expansion slated for their front yards. The expansion would mean thousands of diesel engines roaring through the impoverished working class neighborhood.


#05 Miami

PODER’s hometown gets unofficial points for the most coastal miles-per-capita by far of any city listed, but we lose those points for quickly eroding beaches that are susceptible to rising sea levels. The aging grid that for decades has weathered powerful hurricanes and tropical storms could use an overhaul and a retrofitting to make better use of alternative energies. Smaller success stories are cropping up, such as Miami Beach’s adoption of DECOBIKE, a bicycle sharing program that is the first green citywide public transit program in the country.


#03 Washington, D.C.

In January 2012, the District enacted the Green Building Act, after allowing it to languish for six years after passage. Currently, more than 290 projects inside the beltway are LEED certified and the city says hundreds more are in the pipeline. Part of the GBA calls for the greening of the developed urban city core by planting trees. The area is also headquarters for a number of groups that promote environmental causes from Conservation International to the World Wildlife Fund.


#03 Orlando

Mayor Buddy Dyer is proud of his city’s GreenWorks project, launched in 2007. The program has achieved more than $1 million in energy savings annually and with construction of SunRail and downtown Lymmo extensions to the Lynx bus system has made headway in what was a terrible public transport system. Eight LEED-certified municipal buildings, headlined by the NBA’s first LEED-certified arena, have helped make Orlando a stand-out. The city has a plan to be greenhouse gas neutral by 2030, which includes a target of eliminating 15 percent of emissions between 2010 and 2017.


#02 New York

No one drives in the city. Why? Too much traffic. Kidding aside, green was just a color when most Manhattan skyscrapers were built, but NYC has excelled in retrofitting to greener standards and updating codes for new building projects. Access to healthy grocery options for middle- and low-income residents remains a concern. Comedian Maddox made the absurd point that with six Trader Joes in New York, that averages to 1.6 million customers per location. Not exactly a recipe for sustainability. A city-led effort has finally begun to clean up Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, a former manufacturing hub-turned-environmental disaster.


#01 San Francisco

While hybrid car sales in the United States have flattened, San Franciscans have continued to buy them at a rate more than three times the national average. In 2008, San Francisco passed a strict building code requiring all new residential and commercial buildings to meet certain standards—GreenPoints rating system targets for businesses, U.S. Green Building Council LEED requirements for residences. The city implemented the country's first plastic bag ban at large grocery stores.






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