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These are the dirtiest states in the US, and number 1 is so obvious

Published Oct 29th, 2020 7:05PM EDT
dirtiest states
Image: Design Pics/Keith Levit/Keith Levit/Newscom/The Mega Agency

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  • A ranking of the dirtiest states in the United States is somewhat predictable if you take a look at the criteria and data being used in the rankings. 
  • States with lower populations and lots of land area tend to rank better in terms of cleanliness, while more populated states are dirtier by default. 
  • Where does your state rank?

How clean is your state? Take a look outside and get an idea. Do you see factories pumping out exhaust fumes? How about a massive landfill in the distance, or maybe a nice thick layer of smog? Depending on where you live in any given state, it can be hard to tell exactly how green or gross your state is. There are nice areas of every state, but as a whole, where does yours rank? Once again, we turn to BestLife to give us the answer.

The website came up with a “Dirty State Index” for each state using a variety of metrics that are actually measurable and legitimate, which is pretty refreshing. Things like CO2 emissions, trash production, the prevalence of landfills, and air pollution were all taken into account. Now, without further ado, here are the cleanest and dirtiest states in the country.

First, as usual, let’s start with the bottom of the rankings, which indicates the least dirty (or cleanest) states in the country:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Idaho
  3. Maine
  4. Montana
  5. Wyoming
  6. Vermont
  7. North Dakota
  8. New Mexico
  9. Oregon
  10. Utah

Okay, so not a lot of surprises here. States with lower populations will tend to score quite well when it comes to the number of landfills (lower is better of course) as well as the air pollution levels (a more spread-out population means less pollution from vehicles, which are a major contributor to poor air quality). So, you see a lot of states here with smaller populations and/or a huge amount of land.

The dirtiest states, of course, are the opposite:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Texas
  3. Delaware
  4. Rhode Island
  5. California
  6. Pennsylvania
  7. Indiana
  8. Ohio
  9. Illinois
  10. Maryland

As expected, we see states with huge populations and states that are big players in energy production, like Texas. California finds itself in the top five largely because its air quality is so terrible (thanks to the huge number of drivers in its population centers), and the others are a mix of dense populations, lots of trash (from those populations), and poor air quality.

If you don’t see your state on these two lists, it means it falls somewhere in the middle. You can head over to BestLife’s page to see the full list and see where your state ranks. If you feel like helping your state score better next time (whenever that might be), taking steps to reduce your carbon footprint (recycling whenever possible, reducing car trips, etc) may seem like small things, but they can add up in a big way.

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