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Don’t be smug: Your suburban neighbors cancel out your green urban lifestyle

Grist.org - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 18:30

When it comes to green lifestyles, decades of accumulated wisdom point to dense, efficient, mixed-use urban communities as the way of the future. People who live in cities generally have shorter commutes, the thinking goes, as well as greater access to public transit, grocery stores, karaoke bars, and other amenities, meaning they don’t burn as many fossil fuels just getting from one place to the next.

A new analysis from U. C. Berkeley puts this assumption to the hard-data test, and, in a classic science move, finds that it’s a little more complicated than we thought.

The research, conducted by Daniel Kammen and Chris Jones and published in Environmental Science & Technology last month, gives us a bird’s eye view on the urban/suburban issue, if birds used the Mercator projection. The duo produced an interactive map of the U.S., factoring in regional sources of electricity, driving patterns, agricultural practices, and consumption of goods and services to show the average household’s greenhouse gas emissions in any given zipcode. (For anyone keeping track, that is 31,531 zipcodes.) High-emissions-per-capita counties are marked in alarming shades of red, while less offensive districts are pure Eden in green.

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & Technology

While much of the surface area of the map is taken up by expansive, sparsely populated zipcodes painted a middling yellow-green color, more heavily inhabited swathes of the country begin to flare orange and red — as in, danger, high-consuming households — especially as you approach the big cities. Nevermind that the urban core as green as the olive in your artisan campari spritz — it’s still floating in a puddle of inefficiency.

Much of this difference has to do with transportation. Scrolling across the map, you’ll see a sidebar displaying the breakdown of emission sources. Most places, transportation’s column soars above the others, followed closely by housing — but scroll over a city and, instantly, its level drops to third or fourth place.

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & TechnologyNew York: On average, not so green.

“There’s no surprise,” Kammen told me. “If you live in a big city, not only is your transportation budget for commuting much less, but it’s often much more efficient to get packages and other materials, food, and FedEx deliveries.”

The compounding benefits of city living are flipped out in the ‘burbs, where each errand or task usually requires another expenditure of carbon, as suburbanites hop in their cars to get to work, to school, to the grocery store, to the gym. Or, like as not, to the city.

In fact, what jumps out here is the extent to which the most emission-intensive suburbs are clustered just outside the greenest cities. The denser the city, the redder the suburbs. Even the best, most efficient cities are mostly canceled out by the ring of suburbs surrounding them.

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & TechnologyChicago: Room for improvement.

Because the Berkeley group’s data set is so large, it provides a picture of the consumption patterns across the whole country: an image both finely textured and remarkably repetitive. It is not just a handful of cities, but nearly every metropolis in the bunch where carbon reductions at the center are canceled out by worse-than-average emissions in the nearby ‘burbs. And in general, the bigger and greener the city, the worse its suburbs, with the highest-emitting households clustered in a ring between 15 and 45 miles from the city center.

Why, are these close suburbs so much worse than everywhere else on the map? Well, it’s not completely clear, but it probably has something to do with income and household size, both factors that have driven people out into picket-fence-land since time immemorial (or, I guess, since the early ‘50s).

“In fact, the strongest correlate of high greenhouse gas emissions is income, because when you spend more, you consume more,” Kammen says.

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & TechnologyD.C. and Baltimore: My eyes! They burn!

The other thing that leaps out of these images is that there is no perfect law of population density when it comes to cutting emissions. Denser, nearby suburbs tend to be more carbon-intensive than sparser fringe or rural areas. It’s the structure of a place — its system of roads, its clustered business centers (or lack thereof) — that may matter most when it comes to regional carbon emissions.

Take L.A. for example, which is is — shockingly — not half bad, despite the fact that the sprawling city is often maligned for its traffic-jammed highways.

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & TechnologyLos Angeles: Not as bad as we thought.

“Los Angeles is kind of famous for tearing out the old trolley car line, and now they’ve rebuilt LA Light Rail — that’s actually going pretty well,” Kammen says, while admitting the metropolitan areas is still a mixed success. “It certainly has its bad suburban areas: Look out at Laguna Hills, where there are these cookie-cutter mansions and no shopping centers nearby, because [the developers] wanted to make the area high-cost. That’s a version of suburbia that doesn’t work.”

The version that does work looks a lot more like Portland. With the lowest rate of vehicle ownership per capita, urban growth boundaries, and light rail lines stretching deep into the suburbs, Portland may provide a model of how cities can grow intelligently. “You don’t need to go to downtown Portland,” Kammen says. “You can do everything from lattes with friends to restaurants to financial services in those suburbs.” (Kammen also references congestion taxes in London and extensive bike infrastructure in Stockholm as other examples of small upgrades that make a real difference.)

Jones and Kammen, Environmental Science & TechnologyPortland: So smug.

Urban-dwellers may congratulate themselves for their lean, green lifestyles, but in fact that eco-friendly city is the calm eye of a nasty, globe-warming hurricane. With that in mind, we’d be smart to stop thinking of cities and suburbs in isolation, and get real about how they relate to, and rely on, each other. There’s no ignoring our embarrassing, polluting relatives in the suburbs. Both urban and suburban areas are part of the same complex system — a system that has to improve as a whole if we’re going to get through this storm in one piece.


Filed under: Article, Cities, Climate & Energy
Categories: Environment

De Courcy & Company Announces New Ownership

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

De Courcy & Company (decourcyco.com and invigocollection.com) announced this week that former Operations Manager Katie Knapp and her husband, Jerrod Knapp, will be taking new ownership of the...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11486958.htm

Categories: Environment

CFS Green Homes and Reata Foundation Set Example for US in Building...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Two of the nation’s leading organizations have teamed up to lead the way in building energy efficient homes.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11487553.htm

Categories: Environment

Log Home Engineering Company, Panel Concepts Relocates West Under New...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

After undergoing new ownership as of December 2013, Panel Concepts has officially relocated its facilities from Michigan to Montana.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11490356.htm

Categories: Environment

Fine Art Condo Shows Spiking Custom Art Demand

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Every unit of the new condo tower “Muse” will include a custom sculpture by artist Xhixha. Online art dealer Artismo says this is just one sign of a growing demand for art.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11490548.htm

Categories: Environment

The Dog: New Protector Against Allergies

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Want to protect your child against allergies? Allergic Living magazine discovers the key is to get a dog – and get it early.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11487877.htm

Categories: Environment

New Organic Spa Treatments at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Using Coffee & Chocolate, Candle Wax & Sea Shells, Deep River Stones & Volcanic Glass, Tequila Cream, Aromatherapy

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11484286.htm

Categories: Environment

Aaron Equipment’s Latest Tank Buyout Providing Means for Wineries to...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Wine Tank Liquidation Allows U.S. and Canadian Wine Makers to Earmark More Dollars for Growth

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11485836.htm

Categories: Environment

Discovering the Truth “In the Mists of Time”

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Richard Baldwin’s New Book Turns Mystery Readers Into History Readers

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11485886.htm

Categories: Environment

Electronic Warfare Market Worth $15,590 Million by 2020 - New Report...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Electronic Warfare Market report talks about the leading competitors in the global electronic warfare market and apart from a general overview of the companies....

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/electronic-warfare-market/01/prweb11487215.htm

Categories: Environment

Communications Test and Measurement (CT&M) Market (Solutions, Type...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

The Communications Test and Measurement (CT&M) Market research report focuses on equipment and services, market dynamics, future roadmaps, global trends, competitive intelligence, key market...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/communications-test/measurement-market/prweb11487513.htm

Categories: Environment

Cole-Parmer Begins 2014 with the Release of Preferred Solutions

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Popular Catalog Showcases Customer Favorites and Most-Ordered Items

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11488922.htm

Categories: Environment

Nighthawk’s New RDM-960 ERT Collector Meter Adds AMI Smart Features to...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Nighthawk’s RDM-960 is both a standalone AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) meter and simultaneously an ERT Collector, listening for ERT (Encoder Receiver Transmitter radio) readings broadcast by...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11489302.htm

Categories: Environment

2014 Muir’s Ride to Restore Hetch Hetchy Announced: Follows John...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Guided fund-raising ride takes place May 15th – May 18th; covers 200 stunningly beautiful miles in four days. Funds will be used to support the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11490842.htm

Categories: Environment

National Demolition Association’s Demolition Safety Manual Updated to...

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 16:11

Recognized as the ‘final word’ in safe work practices on demolition jobsites, the manual has been updated with new information about a variety of topics, including the latest on hazardous material...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11485929.htm

Categories: Environment

This scientist summed up the 2,200-page IPCC report in haiku

Grist.org - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 15:33

Have you read the latest IPCC report? Yeah, we haven’t either. It’s not that we don’t have the attention span to get through 2,200 pages; it’s that were subconsciously waiting for oceanographer Gregory Johnson to summarize the report in haiku form. And now the wait is over! Hooray!

Just for kicks, when he was sick one weekend, Johnson wrote 19 haiku, one for each of the major points in the report’s summary — which itself was 27 pages. (They don’t do brevity real well.) He combined them with watercolors to make, dare we say, a far more readable, eye-catching version of the original IPCC report. Here are a few of his haiku:

Glaciers and ice sheets
melt worldwide, speed increasing.
Sea ice, snow retreat.

Warming land, sour sea,
Melting frozen earth may spew
Carbon back to air.

Forty years from now
Children will live in a world
Shaped by our choices.

No wonder his work has gone viral. Readers have chimed in with their own haiku, inspired by Johnson. A few teachers are incorporating the work in their curricula. According to the Seattle Times, fans even want the haiku translated into French, German, Hindi, Italian, and Luxembourgish. Now if Johnson could tackle War and Peace, we’d be very grateful.


Filed under: Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

Did you miss the No-Pants Subway Ride? Here are the (t)highlights

Grist.org - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 14:40

Did you wear pants on Sunday? Now WHY did you do that?! It was the 13th annual No-Pants Subway Ride day! We even gave you advance warning. It’s like you’re not even TRYING to take your pants off.

Thankfully, you can watch this recap while reclining pantless in the comfort of your own home:

According to Improv Everywhere, the group that puts on this festive, leg-hair-raising day, it was a massive success:

On Sunday, January 12th, 2014 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in over 60 cities in over 25 countries around the world. In New York, our 13th Annual No Pants Subway Ride had over 4,000 participants, spread out over seven meeting points and eleven subway lines.

No thanks to YOU, spoilsport. (We concede that driving pantless to church or the mall doesn’t quite have the same effect.) Participants ranged from 3 months old to 71, which means you REALLY have no excuse. Start preppin’ for 2015 now, Lord Hiddencalf!


Filed under: Living
Categories: Environment

Verb Spins Out of the University of Texas at Austin

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 13:11

New company launches to produce massive social entrepreneurship competitions in partnership with global companies, mobilizing thousands of teams to solve the planet’s most pressing social and...

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11489472.htm

Categories: Environment

Pro-Tek Chemical Releases Coupon Promotion

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 13:11

This green all-purpose cleaner is starting off the new year with a promotion. Pro-Tek Chemical is currently giving away cleaning kits with purchase of any amount of solution.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11486529.htm

Categories: Environment

Management of Crop Stress Helps Growers Produce Winning Yields

PR Web - Wed, 01/15/2014 - 13:11

A National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Yield Contest category winner and 10 state contest winners utilized Stoller technology to help them achieve their winning yields in 2013.

(PRWeb January 15, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/01/prweb11490129.htm

Categories: Environment

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