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The 5 Best Cities for Green Living in Pennsylvania

From small boroughs to big cities, you'll find environmentally-minded places to reside in Pennsylvania.

By Brittany Anas on September 30, 2022

Philadelphia PA
Philadelphia / iStock/stanley45

Looking for a place to live that aligns with your eco-friendly values? Set your sights on Pennsylvania, where civic leaders, residents, universities and businesses are all coming together with solutions on how to reduce their collective carbon footprint and be better environmental stewards.

From small boroughs to big cities, here’s where you’ll find green living at its finest in Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia

Population: 1.6 million
Median Home Value: $233,563

How does the City of Arborly Love sound? As one of the many forward-thinking green initiatives in Philly, residents can get free shade, flowering or fruit trees for their yards every spring and fall through a parks and recreation program.

Philadelphia is also making it easier for residents to get around on two wheels and, in 2021, doubled the number of protected bike lanes in the city to 16 miles, with more coming. The city even has a plan in place to transition its municipal fleet to clean and electric vehicles, and a single-use plastic bag ban recently went into effect.

Recognizing that solar and clean energy are fast-growing sectors in Pennsylvania, a new, state-of-the art Solar Training Lab opened at Frankford High School recently. The lab will be used by high schoolers in the district’s “Bright Solar Futures” program, which prepares students for jobs of the future.

Looking forward, the city of Philadelphia has a plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, and spells out the steps it will take to get there in a comprehensive climate action playbook.

Bellefonte

Population: 6,276
Median Home Value: $270,419

Bellefonte, which is located smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania and has a population of just over 6,000, proves that even some of the smallest towns can have a big impact when it comes to sustainability. Big Spring Spirits — which makes  vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and more — became the first LEED Gold distillery in the state, second in the country and third in the world. The spirits maker uses water from the local Big Spring and subscribes to a “grain-to-glass” philosophy, using ingredients from local farmers.

A couple of years ago, Bellefonte adopted a climate action plan with a slate of goals that include becoming a leader in clean and local energy and transforming the town into a community where people walk, bike, take mass transit or carpool for most trips.

Some of the creative solutions that Bellefonte plans to adopt by 2025 include planting a community garden, opening an indoor, year-round farmers market, installing solar energy on municipal buildings and switching to LED lighting on municipal buildings and in public spaces.

iStock/bgwalker

Pittsburgh

Population: 302,971
Median Home Value: $238,715

From a start-up enlisting robots to help make recycling easier to a sustainable hockey arena and ambitious carbon-neutral plans, Pittsburgh businesses, residents and university students all play important roles in making this mid-size city greener.

Leveraging robotics and tech, Pittsburgh’s roster of eco-friendly start-ups include CleanRobotics, which uses AI to better sort recycling; Fifth Season, a robotic vertical farm; and Roadrunner, a high-tech waste management company that helps businesses increase recycling.

As a sports city, Pittsburgh also took a lead at PPG Paints Arena (home to the Pittsburgh Penguins), which became the first in the NHL to receive a LEED Gold Certification. The arena was built with locally sourced and recycled materials, has a glass atrium to let natural light in and is equipped with high-efficiency heating and cooling systems.

Another point of pride? In 2020, the University of Pittsburgh announced its goal to go carbon-neutral by 2037, which is 13 years sooner than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s call for global carbon neutrality. To help get there, the university has local hydroelectric and solar power agreements, free bike share and plant-based dining options.

The sun drops behind a barn and silo putting them in shadows in Carlisle, PA

Carlisle

Population: 20,118
Median Home Value: $273,133

Carlisle is in central Pennsylvania’s scenic Cumberland Valley, which has picturesque landscapes and lots of seasonal bounty.

A community jewel here is Carlisle’s Farmers on the Square, a year-round producer-only farmers’ market that allows residents access to seasonal produce during all four seasons. Not only does this mean food is super fresh and tasty, but since everything is coming from within a 50-mile radius, the market provides a sustainable way to shop. A unique “Fresh Match” grant and donation program helps low-income families access fresh, local, healthy foods at the market.

Carlisle residents also have access to a shared ride public service, a compost facility and city officials have been switching out streetlights to more energy-efficient LEDs.

The borough of 20,000 residents is one of 20 communities participating in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Local Climate Action Assistance Program. Carlisle teamed up with students from Dickinson College’s Center for Sustainability Education to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the borough and then came up with a Climate Action Resolution that commits to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025.

Erie Art Museum Pennsylvania USA

Erie

Population: 94,831
Median Home Value: $161,662

Erie residents can enjoy green amenities in a unique way throughout their community located in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania.

For instance, when the Erie Art Museum’s newest building opened in 2010, bringing the institution’s five historic buildings together into a single complex, it was awarded with a prestigious LEED Gold certification. The building has a storm water management system and energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems.

Another example is Asbury Woods, a nature center with 5 miles of hiking trails that wind through 215 acres. A must-see here is the Andrew J. Conner Nature Center that has a vegetative living roof that helps purify the air and regulate indoor temperatures.

On a neighborhood level, Erie residents can apply for mini “Love Your Block” grants, which provide funds to do things like plant new flower gardens or trees or complete landscaping projects.

No matter your preference for big cities or small towns, if you care about promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle, there’s a place for you in Pennsylvania.

This article was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

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