The US States Where the Environment Really Comes Last

You know a green state when you see one. Look at California, where plastic bags are banned, there’s compost pickup in big cities, and electric vehicles have a real foothold.

Then there’s the opposite. For whatever reason, Americans in some states seem to have little respect for the land, air, and water in their communities. On the occasion of Earth Day 2018, WalletHub published a list of the greenest states, and at the bottom were the opposite: the places where residents hardly give a damn.

In these states, you’ll find poor water quality, little recycling, and lots of waste. On the road, you’ll see dozens of trucks and SUVs for every Prius, and you’ll liable to experience “coal-rolling” if you ever get caught in a hybrid. In brief, folks who try to limit their impact on nature probably won’t enjoy life in these places.

Here are the 10 states where the environment really comes last on everyone’s list.

10. Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee residents aren’t big on recycling. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

While Tennessee has a decent rank for climate impact and overall environment quality, the state is among the 10 worst for green behavior among residents. You’ll find lots of trash, little recycling, and not much in the way of green cars.

In a state that ranks near the top for new lung cancer diagnoses, maybe some cleanup is in order.

Next: Green living isn’t the Missouri way.

9. Missouri

The Indian Scout is known as a Kansas City landmark

Missouri could eliminate tons of carbon emissions by maximizing solar potential. | tomofbluesprings/iStock/Getty Images

Like Tennessee, Missouri has lots of nature for people to enjoy, but folks don’t do all that much to protect it. High-polluting vehicles, lots of long commutes, and little solar investment are the status quo here.

How much impact would solar installations make in Missouri, though? Google data shows the state has the potential to eliminate 16.7 million metric tons of carbon emissions by maximizing solar potential — the equivalent of taking 3.5 million car off the road.

Next: Here’s another state in the South with a reputation for being the opposite of green.

8. South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Gas-guzzling cars are a common sight on South Carolina roads. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

If you like to live green, you’re probably not going to like making the rounds in South Carolina. The state ranked No. 8 among places with little recycling, no green vehicles, and lots of gas-guzzling SUVs.

Maybe some investment in green industries would boost the state’s stagnant wages.

Next: Millennials flee from Arkansas, where the living is neither easy nor green.

7. Arkansas

Little Rock, Arkansas

Both air and water quality are poor in Arkansas. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Name something that’s good for the environment, and chances are Arkansas is doing the opposite. That’s probably one reason millennials flee this state the first chance they get. (Bad employment opportunities are another.)

WalletHub ranked the state among the very worst (46th) for air and water quality, so residents would do themselves a favor to clean up a bit. Solid waste production is among the highest per person in Arkansas.

Next: If you hate recycling but love driving a car that wastes gas, Mississippi is the place for you.

6. Mississippi


The enviroment doesn’t seem like a priority for most Mississippi residents. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Down in Mississippi, folks use as much gasoline as they can, and it’s not clear whether state officials or residents ever heard of recycling. (Ole Miss ranks 45th in that department.)

That adds up to a terrible ranking on the WalletHub list, and it’s probably tied into the fact millennials also flee Mississippi the first chance they get. The older you are, the less likely you are to change your habits.

Next: Poor air quality and bad solar energy policy make Indiana the opposite of green.

5. Indiana

Indianapolis skyline

Switching to solar and electric vehicles would be good for Indiana’s environment. | iStock/Getty Images

You’ll find some of America’s most polluted air in Indiana, where big industries have their way in the state legislature. Environmental regulations tend to be a dirty word in this home to dirty air, and residents don’t seem ready to change that.

That’s a shame, because lung cancer is also a huge problem in Indiana. Green upgrades to solar power and electric vehicles could get some of that pollution out of the air.

Next: Polluted water and air await you in Kentucky.

4. Kentucky

Louisville, KY

Kentucky has the highest rate of lung cancer in the U.S. | toddtaulman/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re looking for polluted air and waters, low wages, and the highest rate of lung cancer in America, head straight to Kentucky. It’a difficult to find a more toxic place in the country.

Meanwhile, state industries are pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at a scary rate.

Next: This state is also at the intersection of low wages, high pollution, and no green energy.

3. Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama

Green cars and solar panels are rare in Alabama. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

You’ll have to look awfully hard to find a solar panel in Alabama. According to Google data, a pathetic 549 solar installations existed in the state as of February 2017.

The same goes for electric cars and other forms of green transportation. These days, some of the only green commuting you’ll find in Alabama is Roy Moore riding his pony.

Next: Wasting energy, draining resources, and never recycling are the norm in Louisiana.

2. Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Louisiana ranks dead last for recycling. | Sean Pavone/Getty Images

Folks in Louisiana wouldn’t know a recycling bin if they fell into one. The state ranked 50th in that department, which is a shame given how many disposable cups revelers in New Orleans go through every day.

We guess that’s normal in a place where they used to weigh the trash produced at Mardi Gras in hopes they would exceed the previous year’s tonnage. (It would signify success, they believed.)

Meanwhile, Louisiana residents use the most energy per capita (50th) and the state ranks 49th for renewable energy.

Next: In coal country, the environment comes last.

1. West Virginia

Huntington West virginia sunset

Coal country is notoriously averse to environmental regulations. | Albert Tibbs/iStock/Getty Images

In West Virginia, elected officials go out of their way to protect the coal industry from regulations, and it’s worked: The state ranks 50th for its impact on climate change. You’ll search far and wide for a LEED-certified building (48th) or green car here.

In a word, you’d have to describe the lifestyle in West Virginia as “unhealthy.” If progress is something you crave, you’re better off somewhere else.

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