Birmingham, you know I find you beautiful. The dozens of parks, murals, and historical buildings bled so seamlessly to create such a charming town. But how do we rank when it comes to cleaning (or dirtiest) cities in the country? Lawnstarter recently did a study that compared the cleanliness levels of cities across the United States. Their calculations focused on these four main categories which were broken down even further: Consumer Satisfaction, Living Conditions, Infrastructure, and Pollution. 

The significance of the study goes behind city pride. Many of the causes that were paid attention to for this listing can have a long-term impact on our health. Pollution, for example, can lead to heart disease and strokes while worsening lung cancer. On the opposite end of the spectrum, more clean cities can lead to better mental health and are often more enjoyable to exercise in as well. Many of the metrics used in the study aren’t the fault of those who live in the city (some - like cigarette butts - are), but residents are definitely impacted by the results. 

Although Birmingham has many organizations and individuals dedicated to creating a clean city, we came in at #13 on the list of dirtiest cities in the United States. New York was just ahead of us at #12 and Houston led the way with the #1 ranking. The only other Southeastern city in the top 15 was Shreveport at #11. Fort Lauderdale (#20), Jackson (#21), Orlando (#24), and Memphis (#25) are also on the list. Atlanta came in at #27 and other Alabama cities appeared much lower on the list with Montgomery at 109, Mobile at 117, and Huntsville at 145.

Birmingham’s highest (which in this case means worse) ranking was in Living Conditions, which mostly covered the condition of homes in the city and those who live inside of them, along with the number of people living without homes. We were 19th highest on Consumer Satisfaction and 20th when it came to Infrastructure. Pollution was our lowest ranking at 94. Some of our smaller key rankings included Share of Homes with Mold (7th), Share of Homes with No Plumbing Facilities (9th), Tons of Waste in Landfills Per 100,000 Residents (11th), Share of Residents Dissatisfied with Garbage Disposal (17th), and Percentage of Smokers (33rd).

Despite our high ranking on the dirtiest cities list, most Birminghamians see the beauty in our city and work to make it even more magnificent each day. There are organizations and individuals working to combat pollution, homelessness and poor living conditions, and to create better infrastructure each and every day of the year. Their impact can be seen and will continue to be felt for years to come. Cheers to the future Bham, and throw your cigarette butts away! 

Cover image by Jasmine Sessler