One Move that Can Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by 70%

Jun 7, 2009

By Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

Making a list of actions you can take to prevent global warming, or at least reduce your own carbon footprint?

Here's something you might not have considered: Move to an urban environment.

That one step that can reduce your transportation carbon emissions by 70%, according data recently added to the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology's Housing and Transportation Affordability Index.

CNT looked at 55 metropolitan areas around the United States and broke down their analysis by block tract, the smallest unit available from the U.S. Census Bureau. It found that, in terms of transportation choices, urban living belongs on the list of solutions to stop global warming.

The maps show the differences CNT found in per household CO2 emissions between urban cores and suburban areas in some of the United State's largest metropolitan areas.

"Cities are more location-efficient – meaning key destinations are closer to where people live and work," said Scott Bernstein, CNT's president. "They require less time, money, fuel and greenhouse gas emissions for residents to meet their everyday travel needs ... so residents of cities and compact communities generate less CO2 per household than people who live in more dispersed communities, like many suburbs."

What does this mean for you?

  • If you're concerned about your carbon footprint, urban centers provide more transportation options beyond the single-user car: walking, biking, and public transportation are all viable. 
  • If you're just concerned about saving gas, urban centers are also a better deal. CNT's Gas Cost Impacts show lower gas spending the closer you get to downtown.

The savings, both in terms of carbon emissions and money, can be significant  – up to $5,000 per year, Bernstein says.

CNT found that transportation costs vary widely, from a low of 14% of the area's median household income in communities that are compact and rich in transit options, to 28% or more of median household income in exurban areas where residents typically have a farther commute to jobs and stores and have fewer transit options.

The study only addresses transportation emissions and costs. Other environmental impacts, such as emissions from buildings, should also play into your calculations.

(Originally published at Sustainablog)

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