Cities: Greener, If Not Leafier, than the Burbs

Sure, it may feel smoggier, dirtier and decidedly less green in Times Square than it does in White Plains, but, as the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog reports today, a series of studies has shown that for the most part, people who live in cities pollute less than their suburb-loving counterparts.

The reasons are fairly obvious: suburb-dwellers tend to spend more energy on heating and cooling their larger properties, and then they burn fuel driving to and from them. The article cites a 2008 report by the Brookings Institution that found that the average city-dwelling American has a carbon footprint 14 percent smaller than his suburban peer’s.

The most compelling part of the article, though, pointed to results from a new studyby David Dodman of the International Institute for Environment and Development about how countries around the world stack up when you compare their cities’ per-capita footprints to their national averages. The winner? The sprawling, massive Sao Paulo, whose residents had a footprint less than a third of the national average. Barcelona residents were responsible for about half the emissions of Spaniards in general.

Finally, the report’s author rebuffed another presumption when he said that a city’s prosperity doesn’t mean it pollutes more. He pointed to results showing that residents of China’s Shanghai and Beijing polluted more than the average Tokyo dweller. Something to think about.

Tags: new yorkbrookings institutionchinatokyojapanpollutionshanghaibeijingemissions