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Oct. 18, 2021

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How sustainable is Bellingham area compared to U.S. cities? New report gives answers

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Whatcom County residents just got another reason to brag about where they live — the area is the seventh-most sustainable mid-size area in the United States, according to a report published Tuesday, Sept. 21, by AdvisorSmith, a company that provides research and resources for small businesses nationwide.

Topping the list of most sustainable mid-size cities or areas with populations between 150,000 and 350,000 are several from California, including Santa Cruz, Yuba City and Chico, in that order.

“Cities in California and the Pacific Northwest were the ones that came up most in the top three most sustainable for large, mid-size and small cities,” said Brenda Franco, public relations specialist for AdvisorSmith.

She attributes this to stronger environmental policies in these states. California, Washington and Oregon also use relatively high amounts of renewable energy such as hydropower and solar, and they see milder weather than other regions, leading to lower energy usage for heating and cooling, the report said.

Seattle was ranked as the fourth-most sustainable large city in the U.S., and Oak Harbor took the gold as the most sustainable small city in the country. Port Angeles and Shelton were ranked as the fifth- and sixth-most sustainable small cities in the country, respectively.

The Bellingham metropolitan statistical area, with more than 200,000 residents in Whatcom County, was No. 7 in the mid-sized range.

The ranking accounts for factors such as annual greenhouse gas emissions, amount of renewable energy in the electric grid and the transportation commuters use to get to work. The data used to calculate these statistics comes from federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Bellingham area emits 2,191,037 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, the report says. That’s the same as the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from 476,507 passenger vehicles driven for one year or nearly 2.5 billion pounds of coal burned, according to the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

The report also says that 76% of commuters in the Bellingham area drive to work alone, rather than taking the less greenhouse gas-intensive options of biking, walking, public transit or carpooling.

Each city was assigned a sustainability score based on an aggregation of the factors analyzed. The Bellingham area earned a 67 out of 100. Oak Harbor had the highest score of any small, mid-size or large city, earning an 87.

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