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  • Leigh Hornsby

Dallas steps onto list of top 10 U.S. cities with lowest carbon footprints.

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Our team is always on the lookout for interesting stories that spotlight innovative happenings around our great State of Texas. This week we are sharing a story recently featured in Community Impact News.

What Is A Carbon Footprint?

We all create CO2 emissions in our everyday activities, which add up to our carbon footprint, or the total amount of CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) emitted in a year. When you drive your car, charge your phone, or turn on your lights, CO2 is released into the atmosphere, contributing to your individual carbon footprint. In fact, any action that requires the burning of fossil fuels releases large amount of CO2.

Major sources of CO2 emissions for Americans.

  • Electricity and Heating

  • ​Driving

  • Waste Disposal

  • Air Travel

How To Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Calculating your carbon footprint and learning about the sources that contribute to it is the first step you can take in reducing it. There are many small changes you can make to reduce your overall CO2 emissions.


People looking to travel to a sustainable city probably don’t have Texas spots at the top of their lists. Images of oil, cars, and blasting air conditioners spring up. The Texas power grid, no one need remind us, is barely hanging on.

But Texas blew other states away for lowest carbon footprint per capita in a new list compiled by travel blog Park Sleep Fly. Houston landed at the top of the list, Austin followed (No. 3), then San Antonio (No. 4), and Dallas (No. 9).

Only Florida appeared twice in the top 10, and none matched Texas with four cities.

Among the 50 most visited in the U.S., those with the lowest carbon footprint are:

1. Houston

2. Los Angeles

3. Austin

4. San Antonio

5. Tampa, Florida

6. Salt Lake City

7. Phoenix

8. Miami

9. Dallas

10. Portland, Oregon

Dallas is not exactly a green place, with less-than-ideal utilization of public transportation. It and Houston tied for third place among least sustainable cities in the same report.

"The two are amongst the biggest in the state and both scored poorly for their public transport use and air pollution levels," the authors write. "Both are very busy cities, with Houston having one of the highest levels of automobile usage in the country, while Dallas is also a major transportation hub with numerous highways converging in the city which is also home to a major port and one of the world’s busiest airports.

How Texas cities compare

On the renewable side, Houston claims more than 100 solar energy companies, and at least half of its corporate research and development centers pursue “energy technology and innovation.” And its huge population spreads the load, leaving only 14.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per resident — the same as Los Angeles. Big cities seem to have an advantage in this rating system.

Austin is just behind Houston at 15 metric tons per capita, neck-and-neck with San Antonio at 15.2. These two cities have smaller populations to distribute their total footprint, but are generally seen as eco-friendly. Austin got a big head start in 1991 with the introduction of the Austin Energy Green Building program — the first of its kind in the whole country — which created an evaluation system for individual building sustainability that’s still in use.

Dallas' carbon footprint is the largest of the Texas cities in the ranking, at 16.5 metric tons per capita.

According to the study, in Dallas, 11 percent of people walk, bike, or use public transportation to get to work (compared to 10.1 percent in Houston). Dallas has a 17 percent traffic congestion level (compared to Houston's 20 percent).

As such a multifaceted issue (especially tied up in economic concerns), sustainability is hard to pin down from city to city. The multiplicity of this list is yet another indicator that Texas as a whole is a much more nuanced place than many people think.

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