City living is greener

In the Boston Globe (10 Feb 2011) Havard economics professor Edward Glaeser provides a welcome boost to my inner-city green credentials. In “Why, if you love nature, you should move to the city” he describes a study of energy use for households with standardized size and income. The study found that households in areas with more than 10,000 people per square mile average 687 US gallons of gasoline per year, while households in areas with fewer than 1,000 people per square mile average 1,164 US gallons of gas per year.

A standardized household in Boston’s urban core emits about 6,700 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide from burnt gasoline than an equivalent suburban household.

There are also differences in electricity and home heating between cities and suburbs, mostly because suburbanites have bigger homes, even holding income and family size constant. On average, electricity use is 88% higher in single-family detached homes than in apartments in buildings with five or more units.

Glaeser and his colleagues estimate that, all told, the standardized suburban household in the Boston area produces almost six tons more carbon dioxide per year than the standardized urban household.

Of course, Canberra people can enjoy nature and the inner city at once!