Ranking of green states puts Virginia right at ‘meh’

April 16, 2019 11:10 pm

Virginia’s state flag flies in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

It seems like every time some organization publishes a ranking of states according to their green energy achievements, Virginia gets listed as an also-ran.

We’re 26th in energy efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The U.S. Department of Energy lists us 37th for renewable energy. Our bright spot is in solar energy, where we have moved up to 17th place. But with no wind farms in the commonwealth, we share last place in the wind energy category.

Now comes WalletHub’s new ranking of America’s greenest states, where Virginia earns another solid “meh.”

Vermont took the top spot, followed by New York and Oregon. You have to look all the way down to 27th place to find Virginia.

Our name appeared among the top 10 in exactly one of the individual categories, ranking third in highest total municipal solid waste per capita. Apparently only folks in Arkansas and Hawaii achieve higher levels of waste than we do.

Don’t try mining that for a PR spin. “We waste stuff better than almost anyone” makes a lousy t-shirt slogan.

As WalletHub notes, most of the states that did well in the rankings are blue states, primarily in the Northeast and the West Coast. These states tended to rank well across all the categories measured, including environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors, and climate change contributions.

The personal finance website made the evaluations using 27 metrics.

To score well on the WalletHub survey, it helps to use renewable energy (Oregon was number one in this category), build LEED-certified buildings (Colorado topped the rankings, with Maryland second), recycle (Maine took top honors), and consume less gasoline (New York). But WalletHub also ranks states by the quality of the air, soil and water, so it’s not all about energy.

The only red state to crack the top 10 was South Dakota in the ninth spot. The state scores well on air and soil quality as well as its use of renewable energy. South Dakota currently gets more than 24% of its electricity from wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Compare that to Virginia with — oh, did I already mention this? Zero percent.

WalletHub doesn’t publish the data that goes into the rankings, so the report doesn’t lend itself to parsing. It’s just another fun way to find out how much work lies ahead of us.

We certainly have the means to catch up to the greenest states.

Yet another survey puts Virginia in the top 10 among states with the highest median household income. We come in at number 9, ahead of “green” winners Vermont, New York and Oregon.

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Ivy Main
Ivy Main

Ivy Main is a lawyer and a longtime volunteer with the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter. A former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee, she is currently the Sierra Club's renewable energy chairperson. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.