4 Sustainable Reasons To Live In A Big City

In 20 years, experts predict 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. Here are a few reasons why urban living might be the greenest lifestyle of them all.

When I picture my ideal of sustainable living, it always seem to be in a rural setting. I see an off-grid house in the mountains somewhere, with just enough of a yard for growing food and raising a few animals. The only problem with this idyllic scene is that it doesn’t offer much of an opportunity for collaborative consumption.

When you’re isolated from the community geographically, it becomes hard to pool resources with others in an efficient fashion.

Consider this point from The Mesh by Lisa Gansky:

“The massive migration to the cities is simultaneously creating freater density within urban areas. Many cities do not have the option of growing out. That land is long since taken, or is valuable as farm land and protected. Instead, cities will grow up, literally vertically. While desnity is still a dirty word with many people, there are many benefits to desner, more populated cities. In a word: amenities. More cafes, well-designed public spaces, taxis, transit stops, bike sharing, and restaurants. More cultural destinations. More efficient ways to move goods in and out.”

What Gansky means is that the closer we live to each other, the easier it is for us to develop systems and relationships that facilitate sharing, like:

1. Shareable Transportation

Getting rid of your car and walking, biking or using public transportation makes a huge impact on your personal carbon footprint as well as national air quality. But ditching the car when you live more than 5 miles from your job or in a town without reliable public transportation is nearly impossible.

Big cities have subways, bus lines, taxis, car sharing services, and bike sharing services, as well as the infrastructure to support them and facilitate easy access.


2. Shareable Housing

As ScientificAmerican points out, “cities offer a high proportion of multiple-family housing, which reduces per capita consumption of land, infrastructure and just about everything else.” Instead of living in a single-family home, which is expensive and time consuming to maintain, urban dwellers forfeit the big backyard and picket fence for more efficient apartments and co-housing arrangements. As a result, more emphasis is placed on shared outdoor spaces like community gardens and public parks.

3. Shareable Environment

When many people think about big city living, they imagine traffic, pollution, and a lack of green spaces. However, big cities offer opportunities for co-generation of electricity and use of industrial waste heat to reduce per capita energy consumption. And as we’ve mentioned before, the fact that there are more opportunities for car-free travel and more convenient access to recycling services and outdoor spaces mean that people are more likely to reduce their contribution to carbon emissions and waste through these channels.

4. Shareable Work

Urban areas are a magnet for coworking spaces and other professional, collaborative work environments. Because big cities are a huge draw for those in the creative and technological fields, the diversity in urban coworking spaces is inspiring and unique. Being able to work in close proximity with like-minded professionals creates a fertile environment for innovations that often improve the quality of life for those in the community. If you want to be part of something that will change the world, chances are the big city is the place to be.

Any Insteaders live in big cities? Tell us why you love your urban density!

Image Credit: Flickr – wolfgang staudt

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Author: Beth Buczynski

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  5. “But ditching the car when you live more than 5 miles from your job or in a town without reliable public transportation is nearly impossible.”

    This is patently ridiculous. I rode 25 miles (daily) into the city one-way to work at my job. Perfectly possible, and enjoyable.

    Cites are not even remotely “sustainable” as promoted by the author. Cities are consumptive societies highly dependent upon energy and imports.

    They do not produce enough basic essentials for their residents and must rely upon a great many imports to sustain themselves. Food, water, materials, energy, virtually everything. What little they actually produce is an import from someplace else (in most, but not all cases).

    The points the author makes about sharing also work quite well elsewhere.

    There is no reason to promote cities as sustainable, because they simply aren’t. Oil made huge mega-cities possible and still does (as long as it last), but the future of cities is not forever, because they cannot be sustained.

    Their so-called “benefits” simply aren’t there. There are far better ways in which to construct civilization.

  6. I forgot to mention your article title — very misleading. Not one of the 4 points is “sustainable”. Please go look up the meaning of the word.

    City dweller become even more dependent on imports (food, water, heat, fuel and so forth by “giving up their backyard”.

    Dependency is not sustainability and never will be.

    • Well…that’s definitely not true. Folks living in a city tend to have a much smaller footprint, simply because they don’t need all that land, space, etc., to facilitate their day to day life. By not commuting solo in a car, just that alone makes someone a lot more sustainable…that tends to be one of our biggest impacts. Most suburbanites don’t use their backyards for anything productive–the opposite in fact. They pay people to mow, pour chemicals, etc. on their yard.

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