Cities: Greener, If Not Leafier, than the Burbs

A series of recent studies shows that city dwellers pollute less than their suburban counterparts.

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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.

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Tags: new york citypollutionchinatokyojapanshanghaibeijing

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