5 Green Communities In The United States We Can Learn From

NBC Universal and Oxygen celebrate Earth Week with "Green Is Universal" campaign.

By Kat George

This Earth Week, we should all be taking the lead from the country’s preeminent green communities in our approach to the environment. Green communities show us that sustainability and sacrifice can be mutually exclusive concepts, and that we can still live well while also protecting our precious natural resources. Whatever we can dream, we can green.


If we can work together like these green communities, we can make green completely universal. Learn more at Green is Universal and look at some of the US’s most inspiring green communities.

1. Mueller, Austin, Texas

The community of Mueller exists near the University of Texas and downtown Austin, in the old municipal airport. The development boasts homes, retail and business spaces, restaurants, parks and a school, and every single building is certified by Austin Energy to “high efficiency.” The green community makes sure its residents live consciously, with tankless water heaters, custom thermostats and solar panels to ensure that not a smidgen of energy or water is wasted. Meanwhile 25 percent of housing is reserved for low income earners, and the airports old hangars have been repurposed as information centers and entertainment spaces.

2. Madison Street, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Madison Street was falling apart when it was turned into a thriving green community. Close to downtown, Madison Street is home to many local artists and is buzzing with galleries, restaurants, studios and culture. The community’s houses are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, and made from locally sourced and made materials, putting value into the community as well as being environmentally conscious. The community's infrastructure is also energy efficient, and all interior finish materials are nontoxic, while outside groundcover is all native and noninvasive.

3. Issaquah Highlands, Issaquah, Washington

Located east of Seattle, Issaquah Highlands is a beautiful green community. Issaquah Highlands has over 3,000 homes, and they're all made to Built Green’s 4-star efficiency level, while all the buildings (residential or otherwise) in the community meet LEED standards. The community is built on 1,400 acres of preserved forest and boasts a whopping 25 recreation areas including parks.

4. Helensview, Portland, Oregon

Helensview is a mostly moderate to low income housing development, spearheaded by a local not-for-profit that assists renters turning into homeowners. With 53 single family homes, all qualifying for LEED, Helensview is a green dream come true. Existing building like farmhouses will be repurposed and given new life, and the community is close to mass transit to lessen the need for cars. Fireplaces in homes will function as a main source of heat while building materials will come from recycled content.

5. Kalahari Harlem, New York, New York

The Kalahari community in Harlem is an affordable housing project, and all residences were sold as such. Kalahari has many cafes, a youth community center, and serene community gardens, all inspiring a true community feeling. Meanwhile, solar panels provide energy to public areas, and overall, the community’s energy is provided by renewable sources. The Zipcar car sharing service is available onsite to discourage car ownership, and if you want to talk green, Kalahari’s rooftops are covered in plants!

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