Where we live and work is important

Planners, policy makers and community activists often discuss ways to make our communities more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This results in discussions about building materials, personal behaviors and organizational structure. What is also discussed at times, but not nearly enough, is the way in which we distribute our people and jobs.

It is no secret at this point that the suburban sprawl days of the United States are hurting our communities socially, economically, but also environmentally. Suburban communities require higher rates and amounts of driving, and consume far greater amounts of environmentally important land for economically low producing land uses.

Andres Duany often speaks about how he finds it silly that urban dwellers in Manhattan are doing all these extraneous things to reduce their carbon footprint. They’re collecting and reusing rainwater, they’re composting their waste, they’re recycling and so on and so forth. Duany asserts that it is the people living in suburbia that should be doing this as it is their chosen lifestyle that is having a major impact on our environment in a negative way.

People who live in dense, walkable cities drive less and require a smaller piece of land to live and conduct their day-to-day lives. This is most evident in a recent mapping project by the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) which compares greenhouse gas emissions of city and suburban households.

CNT looked at emissions of carbon dioxide stemming from household vehicle travel in 55 metropolitan areas across the United States. Their research showed that the transportation-related emissions of people living in cities and compact neighborhoods can be almost 70% less than those living in suburbs and areas where amenities are more dispersed.

The maps below are for the Cincinnati-Hamilton Metropolitan area. They compare the per-acre (left) analysis of greenhouse gas emissions due to vehicle travel with a per-household (right) view. The results are evident. The areas with higher density and transportation alternatives are the most sustainable areas according to this analysis. “Cities are a central part of the climate change solution (source).”

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