Americas Top 5 Cleanest Cities | Reader's Digest

America’s Top 5 Cleanest Cities

Reader's Digest ran the numbers and the results will surprise you.

By Derek Burnett from Reader's Digest

#4 Columbus, Ohio

(Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Morrow, Pickaway and Union counties)

Background: Ohio’s capital, according to the latest census, was the only major city in the state to grow in population. And Columbus’s geographical expansion continues. Its economy is light on industry — less than 12% of its job force works in the manufacturing sector. The big growth has been in financial and insurance businesses, as well as retail. Meanwhile, per capita income here is slightly below our 50-city average.

Problems: Columbus’s steady development has made it tough to keep the city’s watersheds clean. Also, an aging storm water and sewage system has caused overflows and backups in recent years. Litter has been a manageable problem, although Columbus has a recycling rate of just 4%, which Mayor Michael Coleman calls “pitiful.” And finally, the late 1990s were marked by a sudden increase in ugly graffiti on both public and private property.

Solutions: Mayor Coleman supports a moratorium on development of sensitive watershed land, but has also pushed for redevelopment of brownfields (contaminated land kept vacant until sites can be cleaned up). The mayor recently unveiled a new initiative, “Get Green Columbus,” which established an Office of Environmental Stewardship. Also underway is a program to update the sewage and storm water systems. To spruce up unsightly areas, Columbus has committed to removing graffiti within two days of its appearance. Through the city’s Neighborhood Pride program, a handful of communities each year get a solid week of concentrated cleanup, including tree trimming, hydrant painting, graffiti abatement, bulk trash pickup and litter removal.