Yesterday was Earth Day. True, we don’t get a day off work or enjoy any type of special celebration but it is an internationally recognized holiday none the less. Earth Day serves as a reminder to all of us that we must remember to take good care of our planet. After all, it is the only place we have to live, isn’t it? Worldwide concern over such problems as air pollution, clean water, growing enough crops to feed an ever growing population and global warming are the reason that this yearly reminder was invented in the first place.
Thinking Earth Day got me thinking; “What are the best (or healthiest) places to live in the U.S?” and “How do we decide what factors determine the definition of best places?” Oddly enough I found a recent study by RealtyTrac that was designed to determine which counties in America are the most “earth friendly”. 3 factors were considered; the percentage of days in a year with good air quality, the percentage of people that actually walk to work (a very odd parameter in my opinion), and the affordability of housing. “A very interesting combination of factors to decide where to live” I thought.
As far as good air quality is concerned, California’s Monterey and Shasta Counties both ranked at #1 as having “good” air quality 99.2% of the time (that’s 362 out of 365 days a year). Kent County in Rhode Island ranked 2nd at 99.1% and both Cass County in North Dakota and Saint Lawrence County in New York were reported as having very clean air exactly 99% of the time.
As far as the percentage of people who actually walked to work in the morning the reigning champion is New York City. I’m not really surprised by this statistic. We all know that New York is so overcrowded that walking is often your best choice if possible. An incredible 20% of New Yorkers walk to work every morning. Suffolk County (Massachusetts) came in 2nd place at 13.8%.
The 3rd and final consideration of what determines the most earth friendly place to live was the most interesting to me. To qualify in this category a given location needed to have consistently clean air, 3% or more of the population walking to work (a very nominal factor in my opinion) and, of course, affordable housing. Believe it or not, the top 5 counties throughout the county are all located in upstate New York! They are Oswego, Saint Lawrence, Niagara, Broome and Oneida counties.
If clean air and affordable housing are important to you than these are the areas you might want to look into. Unfortunately, other important factors such as average household income, crime statistics, available health facilities and others were not included in the survey but it’s good to know that somewhere in this great country of ours we can still walk to work, breathe fresh air and manage to pay the mortgage!