Thursday, November 18, 2010

Can you be more green in a big city?

A recent article in New Scientist this week suggested  that in most cases you can be more green in big cities. 

In particular, for example, the carbon emissions of a New Yorker were 30% lower than the American  average.

In China the government is moving people into high density living in cities where they can do less environmental damage. It seems that a cities ability to concentrate people in a small area - rather than letting them spread out across a rural landscape can help reduce each individuals carbon footprint.

Dense urbanisation can also reduce your reliance on a car.  Quite obvious really - country people often commute longer distances daily and have less public transport options.
I wonder if Australia's cities are of high enough density to show these patterns?

I am not sure that a regional centre like Orange would show these trends?


  1. This is a really interesting question. I moved to a rural area nearly 30 years ago. In many ways it is much easier to reduce our carbon footprint - I grow much of our food, our house has a good passive solar design that allows the sun to heat it in winter and the trees and breeze to cool it in summer. Our electricity comes from solar panels, our water is heated in solar panels in summer and a wet back slow combustion stove in winter. Our water is tank and dam water, our grey water goes to grow bananas, and our toilet is composting. But all this would be completely undone if we weren't extremely conscientious about car pooling. Travel is the killer. We car pool for the school run to take kids out to the bus, car pool to go to work and study, share rides to town to do shopping or appointments or go to the movies. We socialise mostly with friends in walking distance. I live in a community which makes all this relatively easy, and the co-operation and communication is a lovely quality-of-life improver, but it is a big factor to think about if you are going rural in order to live more sustainably.

  2. I have thought about this issue loads. I'd always planned one day to move 'to the country', but i've fallen in love with the eco benefits of city living. Public transport is easy. I have a bus stop and train station meters from my door, I can ride almost everywhere i need to go, i have access to some great organic food co-ops and farmers markets, and its easy to connect with like-minded people.

    The downslide is lots of close neighbors, pollution (sadly my city has been recognised as having the highest air pollution in australia), safety, and that sense of community seems stronger in the country.

    But I think it comes down to 'how' you live no matter where you live.

    P.S we finally bought a new tent yesterday and am keen to go camping more. Lets catch up. Are you interested in a trip to the coast over summer?

  3. Linda and Tricia - you have really summed up our dilemma about country versus city. We find it hard / frustrating in a country town as we do not have access to food co-ops or a large range of local organic produce - although supplies are increasing. Public transport is limited - a few town bus runs, often with the school kids, and that is it. It would be lovely to be part of a community in a rural setting as you are Linda - but I am not sure that we have quite the same communities around Orange. So at the moment we are staying in town and trying to make our home more productive and sustainable.

    PS Tricia - the last week and a half of the school holidays (17th Jan to Australia Day)are clear for me and the kids to join you camping if you are available for any time within here (PD will be back at work)...