When a Houstonian says H-Town is the place to be, it’s usually not just their pride talking—lauded as a prime destination to move to, Houston’s got what it takes to be a dream for long-term residents. But while movers are setting down roots, sustainably-minded vacationers are just passing through. According to an analysis conducted by travel blog ParkSleepFly, Houston tied for the No. 3 slot with Dallas as the least sustainable travel destination in the country.
ParkSleepFly ranked 50 of the most visited cities across the nation based on factors such as the percentage of sustainable hotels, public transportation usage, pollution levels, congestion rates, and renewable energy use. These data points were then used to give each city a score out of 10. Houston earned itself a score of 3.79, only slightly higher than Nashville’s score of 3.46 as the least sustainable city and a far cry from Portland’s top spot at 7.5.
So what exactly is to blame for our beloved city’s dismal sustainability score? It comes down to Houston’s status as a car-centric city. Houstonians lose an estimated 46 hours in traffic every year, likely contributing to the city’s high air-pollution levels, which in 2021 exceeded the World Health Organization’s guidelines by two times. Top that off with how few residents walk, cycle, or use public transportation to get to work, and there’s little question as to why Houston landed so low on the list.
But not all hope is lost—a low score also means there’s space to improve, and Houston is doing just that. The city’s first-ever Climate Action Plan, unveiled in April 2020, includes such goals as investing in renewable energy, providing safe public transportation options, and shifting to low-emissions vehicles.
“We can’t fix the problem overnight—but if we take bold, transformative action to lead our city down a more sustainable path, we’ll leave behind a better Houston, and a better world, for future generations,” Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote in the action plan.
Certain elements of the plan are already coming to fruition. For one, efforts to make Houston’s hazardous roads safer have resulted in the city being ranked No. 29 among the top 50 bike-friendly cities, encouraging more commuters to ditch their carbon-emitting cars for an eco-friendly bicycle. And while the city still has far to go before it reaches its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, Houstonians aren’t the type to give up, so it’s only a matter of time before our shameful No. 3 ranking is a distant memory.
For more information regarding the ranking, visit ParkSleepFly’s website here.