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New York City – Greenest Place in America?

October 30th, 2009 · 4 Comments

New York City has the lowest per capita carbon footprint and energy, fuel, water consumption compared to Vermont. New York city greenest place in America.

Back in college, a few years ago, my model for the perfect environment-friendly lifestyle was the Walden Pond of Henry David Thoreau. Far from the bustling metropolis and in close communion with nature, nothing could be greener, or so I thought.

I was reminded of the need to always question our old assumptions about low-impact living while reading a recent article by David Owen over at the Environment360 blog. It might seem counter-intuitive and as Mr. Owen pointed out, “ludicrous to most Americans,” but the greenest place in America is not Vermont (Forbes Magazine’s 2007 greenest state pick) but New York City.

It’s The Big Apple

Densely-populated New York City wins handily over Vermont in all categories that really matter. Residents of NYC, especially Manhattanites, Mr. Owen observe, have lower per capita carbon footprint and lower per capita consumption of energy, fuel, and water compared to inhabitants of Vermont and most major urban centers anywhere in the US. Mr. Owen noted that:

“The key to New York City’s relative environmental benignity is the very thing that, to most Americans, makes it appear to be an ecological nightmare: its extreme compactness. Moving people and their daily destinations close together reduces their need for automobiles, makes efficient public transit possible, and restores walking as a viable form of transportation.

“Population density also lowers energy and water use in all categories, constrains family size, limits the consumption of all kinds of goods, reduces ownership of wasteful appliances, decreases the generation of solid waste, and forces most residents to live in some of the world’s most inherently energy-efficient residential structures: apartment buildings.”

If you watched the 8th World Wilderness Congress video on my previous post, one of the most important milestones in environmental conservation that was mentioned was when the world’s urban population surpassed our rural population. By virtue of their compactness, inherent efficiency, and separation from the natural ecosystems in the wildlands, cities are more environmentally-friendly than remote, sparsely-populated towns.

Cities As Our Best Option?

Who would have thought? In a few years, when a billion more people will be added to the world’s current population, the only option that makes perfect sense in housing such huge population while protecting the environment is in building compact and energy-efficient mega-urban centers.

For many, including myself, the notion of large cities being our best bet in protecting the planet is simply outrageous. As Mr. Owen pointed out, we “tend to think tend to think of dense cities as despoilers of the natural landscape.” The numbers, however, offer incontrovertible proof.

Who would have thought?

As we progress further into a green economy, many of our assumptions will be challenged and debunked. Who would have thought that ethanol production would cause a world food crisis or that solar energy farms are a burden to our water supply?

Who would have thought New York City to be the greenest place in America?

via: Environment360

Tags: Environment

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Virginia Beach // Nov 2, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I believe it! I think there comes a point that you get so crowded, and so populated that you have to look for ways to be efficient – Just look at some of the big open spaces in the West – the land of huge trucks, gas-guzzling SUV’s and not much in the way of “Green Thinking” – I think NYC is green in many ways because it has to be. The Big Apple – really the Green Apple!

  • 2 movers Raleigh // Nov 10, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Wow, I never really thought of it that way but it does make sense. They have tall apartment buildings, which really puts a very large amount of people in a very small land area. And all those people have to live within that relatively small space. Meanwhile, in a suburban area, a plot of land roughly the same size is used to house only 3-5 people. That’s definitely something to think about. Thanks for this article! -Mike

  • 3 Cross Channel Ferries // Nov 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I only stayed one night but would have liked to stay longer. I think that is a good place, THE BIG APPLE.

  • 4 Gloria // Dec 17, 2009 at 10:36 am

    This article is very interesting.
    I would like know New York.