Cities are often thought of as dirty and harmful to the environment. But what if I told you that cities can actually be more sustainable that urban areas and that the people who live there have a smaller carbon footprint than those who live almost anywhere else. There are exceptions of course, such as people of affluence who often live in cities and consume much more than people earning an average income, but the average person living in a city is greener than a person living in a suburban or rural area. Those who live in cities simply emit less carbon in their day to day lives. Think of New York City for example. The majority of people don't drive to work or even own vehicles. Walking and taking public transportation is one of the most important ways city folk live greener lives. Most live in apartment buildings too, which means they use much less electricity at home and use less energy for heating and cooling as well. In addition, they don't have lawns to maintain, water or mow, which can require precious resources and may add pollutants into the environment.
Even with all of these differences in lifestyle and consumption, cities still have a considerable environmental impact. While this fact has been used in the conventional argument against cities, it can actually to work to their advantage. Being as the impact is so concentrated, finding ways to minimize these negative effects might prove easier. For instance, providing alternative energy to a city to generate their electricity would not only require less transportation of energy, which means less is lost, but its over all effect would be maximized, making them more efficient. Also, if more effective methods of transportation and waste disposal were implemented, the results would be seen almost immediately and on a large scale.
This map shows how per household carbon emissions are greater for those living in suburban and rural areas. These people have to drive farther to work and to run errands, and their homes are generally less efficient, with each having their own heating and cooling systems.
Another major factor behind the benefits of cities is what is called walkability. Walkability "is a measure of how friendly an area is to walking." (Wiki) Walkability helps the environment by reducing carbon emissions, can benefit human health and the economy, and is an important part of the livability of a city. People who walk more are also more likely to volunteer and engage in community activities, which can improve the lives of everyone. Check out www.walkscore.com to see the walk score of your city and others around the country.
Even if you don't live in a city, there are many sustainable communities and eco-villages across the U.S. These places are made up of a collective of people who pledge to live their lives in the most sustainable ways possible. They share resources and work together to produce their daily necessities. The key is being open minded, sharing knowledge, and being aware of your environment and living in a conscientious way.
Stay tuned later in the semester for more ways to make your home and lives more sustainable.