Beth Tomlinson, 33, used to spend her lunch hours in Miami carting paper from her office to the recycling depot. (Not fun.) But since taking an eco-engineering job in Minneapolis—where company recycling programs are mandatory and curbside compost pickup optional—she can spend her midday break hiking Minnehaha park with her dog or kayaking one of the city’s 13 lakes. (Much better.) Named a top enviro-city by National Geographic’s Green Guide, Minneapolis is home to more than 150 eco-conscious businesses. Last year its mayor spearheaded the first national forum on the job benefits of clean energy; now he’s pumping some $3.3 million into the “Making it Green” campaign, luring solar and high-efficiency engineering start-ups to the city.
Recent grads gravitate uptown, where rents are cheap and kiteboarding on Lake Calhoun is within walking distance. Young families opt for the cottages and community gardens in the Longfellow-Seward area. In summer, weekends are spent kayaking Lake Superior or canoe-camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, both an hour north. Then winter comes. And it blows. Arctic winds whip across those 10,000 lakes. But new glass skyways mean you can still walk to work. And on weekends, you can suit up for a hut-to-hut XC classic like the Gunflint Trail (boundarycountry.com). “For such an urban jungle, there are surprisingly great outdoor options here,” says J.B. Matthews, 31, who swapped a job guiding raft trips in the Rockies for a gig managing eco-design projects. “I’ll always love Colorado, but I couldn’t pass this up. To have a real impact on reducing greenhouse emissions and water waste, for someone like me who’s spent so much time outdoors, that really has meaning.”
$250,000 buys: A four-bedroom, Craftsman-style cottage in
the family-friendly Longfellow-Seward district.
Job market: Green power and engineering gigs are booming. Plus, 19 Fortune 500s like Target and U.S. Bancorp are headquartered here.
Know before you go: The cold isn’t so bad—if you’re a Minnesotan. Expect up to five subzero months a year.
BY THE NUMBERS:
3,300: Local homes powered by wind-generated electricity
40: Green rooftops on Minneapolis buildings
No surprise here. The West Coast’s cultural and culinary capital is home to hundreds of sustainability-focused organizations, such as the Sierra Club and Build It Green. But your best bet for landing a job might be with the nonprofit Apollo Alliance. The growing coalition of 70,000 has the admittedly ambitious goal of “catalyzing a clean energy revolution”—and it’s currently hiring a suitably sized green-collar workforce to propel it.
Wind-turbine manufacturers and energy companies are moving to progressive Des Moines for the prairie winds, and the city is investing more than $300 million in green improvements to make them feel at home. Job hunters will feel welcome too: The median home price hovers around $150,000. Canoeing, hiking, and biking in Gray’s Lake Park are right in the center of town, while Saylorville Lake has quieter trail options half an hour north.