We’re thrilled to feature a guest post by our friends GoGreen on living more sustainably.
GoGreen is an online guide for sustainable living and global green news. It reports on environmental topics that inspire readers to share and take action.
Their mission is to shine light on the biggest issues in sustainability from eco-friendly technology to animal welfare, applaud companies taking steps towards greener practices, and support legislation that will reduce our carbon footprint, and discoveries in green energy.
LIVING SUSTAINABLY IN NYC
Conserving energy plays a significant role in lessening the effects of climate change. It helps to reduce the emissions being released into the atmosphere. This is more than just regulating smoke stacks from businesses or cars spewing fumes from their tailpipes. Each time we leave the light on, after exiting a room, or allow the water to keep running while we brush our teeth, or don’t insulate our windows so that we have to blast the heater or A/C, we waste energy and contribute to global warming.
With the rise in popularity of sustainable living, many think you must live a ‘country life’ – make everything, grow everything, and do everything yourself. If you can afford to do that: great. The problem is many of us live in cities because we work. We need our jobs to help pay our bills and care for our family. We need a form of income to give us the means to donate to charity, or enjoy some entertainment after a hard week of work. Yet, living in any city, even New York City, does not mean you can’t live sustainably. You can make the choice to “go green” regardless of your location!
To illustrate, New York City has a higher cost of living than many other cities – but, the wages are usually higher too. And, in New York City, it’s rare to find someone who actually owns and drives a car. So, you can easily save money on gas and cut down on car emissions if you take public transportation, walk, or bike to your office. When shopping for clothing, you can buy almost everything secondhand in one of the city’s many thrift stores. Being that you live in New York, you’ll probably find an even larger and more stylish selection of secondhand clothing! You’ll start to wonder if you’ll ever need to buy anything brand-new again.
And, to return to the point of not driving – walking around New York is quite fun. There’s great people watching, and so many new establishments and sights to explore. You couldn’t do any of these things in the country where your closest neighbor could be over a 30-minute drive away. Not to mention, simple actions such as cutting down on water, electricity, and plastic use can be done in any city.
New York City has the lowest carbon footprint of other major American cities because people live in smaller apartments, in a smaller space, and take public transportation. Plus, in 2009, the City Council approved the Green Buildings Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing commercial, government and residential buildings. (See how NYC compares to other cities around the world here.)
Since New York is a progressive city, they also offer many recycling programs you can conveniently utilize. In a similar vein, there are a wide variety of coworking spaces to save on building costs, rent, and space usage.
So, if you thought you had to move to a forest to live the green life, you were wrong. You can live quite sustainably in one of the most highly-respected locations on earth, New York City!
SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE NYC
There is an increasing number of sustainable urban communities that are being developed. When you visit one, you might ask – “Why aren’t all cities built this way?” Naturally, the 21st century is nothing like the 20th… Cities need to grow very differently than they have in the past.
The consumption of rural lands for suburban development threatens future food security; the reason is most cities initially grew where soil conditions and farming were best. Resources are diminishing at an unbelievable rate. According to the Global Footprint Network, human consumption of resources is creating an ecological deficit.
Simple actions such as running too much water, not recycling boxes, purchasing new clothes, and driving gas-fueled cars has a significant impact on our environment. We are consistently pushing the boundaries of sustaining renewable resources though, and should be paying more attention. This is why it is critical to stick to sustainability practices.
You want to secure the earth’s resources for the future, which also helps to promote environmental, economic and social prosperity. This is also why it is important to invest more in sustainable communities in order to help address this potential malady.
A sustainable community is one labeled as a “healthy environment” where residents can prosper socially and economically, while helping to maintain the environment together. It is a community where environmental responsibilities are shared.
Benefits of living in a green home
When you live in a green home, you not only get a better return on your investment, but you also have a positive impact on the environment.
- Economics. When you use durable materials, they last a long time and you save on the cost of replacements or regular maintenance. Some states will even offer tax rebates for living in a green home. The long-term savings is realized because green homes use less energy, and so, you have lower energy bills. In addition, your home value goes up as consumers are attracted to lower utility and maintenance costs.
- Improved health. Sustainability means leaving with fewer toxins. Green homes take advantage of non-toxic materials. During construction, this means that lowered amounts of toxic waste are emitted into the air. Plus, green homes have purer ventilation systems. The air is cleaner, which promotes a healthier indoor environment.
- Better environmental impact. Using clean energy sources and renewables decreases our reliance on fossil fuels. Recyclable materials also lower the negative emission on the environment.
Features of sustainable communities
- Housing is much more affordable. When a community is densely built, it can offer a larger share of apartments and townhomes. These are a lot less expensive than detached homes. Moreover, when the availability is larger than the demand – it also lowers expenses. Furthermore, higher-density housing has lower maintenance costs than single-detached homes.
- Cuts down on transportation cost. If communities are walkable, then less travel by automobile is needed. The goal is to have many destinations close by and good transit services. When families can leave the car at home, it results in lower maintenance, gas, and insurance costs. Some can even give up their car completely.
- Better work-life balance. If household expenditures are lower, fewer hours of work are needed to support the home. As a result, families can spend more time together. They have more opportunities to live life, as opposed to living to work.
- Lower hardship on households. Climate control and transportation costs are lower in sustainable urban communities. This means that overall hardship on households also goes down. When energy costs go up in the future, this will have a huge impact on household hardship. Sustainable living can keep energy costs down.
- Efficient infrastructure. Less infrastructure per capita means less maintenance of roads and utility infrastructure. If the population density is higher, then infrastructure only needs to be maintained where the population is centered. Plus, infrastructure can now be built more efficiently.
- Better use of public facilities. In sustainable communities, libraries, parks and community centers are easily reached. This helps access, especially for those that don’t have cars. Also, if an area is more densely populated, it means that one library or pool can serve more people.
- Improved delivery of water and wastewater services. Since everything is closer together, the distance that water and wastewater must be pumped to households is lower. It makes for better efficiency over communities that are spread out. It also saves on the energy needed to pump water.
- Leaves land available for future growth. Designing housing and commerce to accommodate a higher density means that more land will be available for future growth.
Sustainable communities around the nation
One of the most sought-after divisions is Village Homes in Davis, California. Here are some of the features:
- Pedestrian lanes for walking and cycling. Vehicle access is by back lanes only. Plus, grocery stores are within walking distance.
- A sweat equity program allows low-income construction workers to buy homes.
- Narrower streets produce less storm water run-off.
- All homes are passive solar designed, which include solar hot water and natural cooling. There is also more space for trees, with reduced pavement. This lowers the ambient air temperature, which means a decreased need for air-conditioning. Household bills in this area are 1/2 to 1/3 less than those in surrounding neighborhoods.
- Much of the residents’ food is being grown in the neighborhood, due to agricultural space. There are commercial fruit and nut orchards, a commercial organic produce farm, home-scale garden plots and edible landscaping throughout pathways and roads.
Other examples of sustainable communities in the U.S. include Pacifica Cohousing, Earthaven EcoVillage, Arcadia, and the Weaver Community Housing. Other notable sustainable living ideas include tiny houses, like the Triangle Tiny House movement. And Raleigh Cohousing is developing cohousing for senior citizens – expected to be completed by 2019.
Sustainable communities are on the rise for reasons mentioned above and more. Wouldn’t it be nice to see America booming with usable with farmland as it once was generations ago?
Article above contributed by GoGreen. Read more on sustainability on GoGreen.org.