To Go Green, Live Closer to Work


flanneurs on the Toronto Psychogeopgraphic Walk

A new study by the Urban Land Institute called "Growing Cooler: Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change" confirms what many TreeHuggers already knew: compact development -- mixing housing and businesses in denser patterns, with walkable neighborhoods -- could do as much to lower emissions as fuel economy increases and other measures now being contemplated. The report notes that the expected 59% increase in the number of miles Americans drive between 2005 and 2030 will outpace any reduction in greenhouse gases from better fuel efficiency of cars and trucks.

"We can no longer afford to ignore land use," said Steve Winkelman, director of the Transportation Program at the Center for Clean Air Policy, and one of the report's authors. "Urban development is both a key contributor to climate change and an essential factor in combating it."From Smart Growth America:

At the same time, the book documents market research showing a majority of future housing demand lies in smaller homes and lots, townhouses, and condominiums in neighborhoods where jobs and activities are close at hand. The researchers note that demographic changes, shrinking households, rising gas prices, lengthening commutes and cultural shifts all play a role in that demand.

The report cites real estate projections showing that two-thirds of development expected to be on the ground in 2050 is not yet built, meaning that the potential for change is profound. The authors calculate that shifting 60 percent of new growth to compact patterns would save 85 million tons of CO2 annually by 2030. The savings over that period equate to a 28 percent increase in federal vehicle efficiency standards by 2020 (to 32 mpg), comparable to proposals now being debated in Congress.

"Clearly, the development industry has a key role in the search for solutions to offset the impact of climate change," said ULI Senior Resident Fellow William H. Hudnut, III, former mayor of Indianapolis. "Whether close-in or in suburbs, well-planned communities give residents the option to walk, bike or take transit to nearby shopping, retail and entertainment. Being able to spend less time behind the wheel will benefit our health, our pocketbooks and the environment."::Smart Growth America

Back in Los Angeles, there are skeptics. James Burling, litigation director for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative group that has battled environmentalists over land-use issues, dismissed "the latest anti-sprawl crusade based on global warming" as "no different from every other anti-sprawl campaign from Roman times to the present."

"So long as people ardently desire to live and raise children in detached homes with a bit of lawn, there is virtually nothing that government bureaucrats can do that will thwart that," he said.::LA Times

Tags: Cities | Los Angeles

Best of TreeHugger