Why Cities are better for Green Living than Suburbs

Do you remember a comedy show called ‘Green Acres?’  It aired in the late 1960’s, and told the story of New York lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) who tired of city life and moved his socialite wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) to small town Hooterville. In the catchy theme tune, Oliver longs for ‘Fresh air’ while his wife prefers ‘Time Square.’

Back in the day, city life, with its gas guzzling cars and air-polluting solid fuel fires, was an ecological nightmare. However, these days, it’s possible to live green and live in the city. So why has it become more environmentally friendly to live in the city?

The main reason is the ‘F’ word – fuel. Whether you’re fuelling your car or heating or cooling your home, it’s more expensive to do it these days. More importantly from a green perspective, the planet is running short of fuel. People who live in the city tend to work in the city, so their journey to work is shorter. This means less vehicles on the road for a shorter time, and therefore less air pollution from those vehicles.

City public transport networks are more comprehensive, and often more competitively priced, than suburban transport. This encourages more people to leave their cars at home and use public transport. Another consideration is that, in a highly populated urban area, it’s more practical to car share, as there is more likelihood that people will live and work in the same area. People who only live a short distance from their place of work may even walk or cycle to work.

All this is good news for the environment, as it reduces the number of vehicles on the roads. Schools in urban areas are very often on bus routes or within walking distance of home, which means a car is not essential to ferry children to and from school. The same applies to colleges, universities and hospitals. All these large institutions experience a high volume of people traffic through their doors each day, and all of them can be accessed by public transport or a short journey if they are located in urban areas.

Shopping is not so dependent on transport in the city. Why go to out of town shopping centres when you have shopping centres on your doorstep? In fact all the facilities that suburban residents probably have to drive to – medical centres and hospitals, libraries, schools, colleges, shops – are more readily available and easily accessible in towns and cities.

Because land is at a premium, houses and gardens tend to be smaller in urban areas. A smaller house uses less energy to keep it warm or cool, and a smaller garden needs less water and chemicals such as fertilisers and insecticides. Therefore resources are more efficiently utilised and deployed in urban areas.

Towns and cities are more conducive to recycling. If the bottle bank is just around the corner, you’re more likely to use it than if you have to drive a few miles to do your recycling. Even if you’re conscientious enough to do that, it rather defeats the object, as it means an unnecessary journey in your car.

Today, when so many people are switched on to the need to conserve energy and recycle resources, it can be easier to live green in the city than in the suburbs. Green Acres is no longer ‘The place to be.’