Urban living and carbon footprints


Heh, the 1930’s as the “golden age of self confidence” for america… Yes nothing like breadlines to boost that self confidence.


The single best thing the average U.S. resident can do to help the environment is become vegetarian/vegan. Commuter driving is only a small slice of the pie.


Let’s not forget that those 77% NY city dwellers without car travel often in taxis… But yes, living close by (like in the city of Toronto) favors transit use. And locally produced foods helps reduce the carbon footprint, too. Now, the farming system is still not free of the oil shackles…

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The linked article says that the average New Yorker uses 450 fewer gallons of gas than the average Vermonter. At ~20lbs of CO2 per gallon, that’s a savings of 4.5 tons per year.

According to http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/food-carbon-footprint-diet, a switch from an average diet to a vegetarian diet saves .8 tons per year. The most dramatic case, switching from dedicated carnivore to a vegan, saves 1.8 tons per year.


Its not just the driving.

Actually do you have a citation on vegetarian impact reduction?

Its plausible to me that it is larger, but so far I haven’t found a direct comparison and they seem to be very roughly equal in total energy saved.

I found several cites comparing all livestock production to transport fuel only, but that is an apples vs half an orange with part of a banana stuck to it comparison.


Not that agriculture is tiny, but transportation is a bigger chunk of carbon emissions in the USA than agriculture.

Those aren’t all commuter driving, of course – a lot of shipping, trucking, and air travel get into that. But ultimately, going Local is more important than going Vegetarian (not to mention an easier sell). Doing things like not buying fresh watermelon in January and not having Amazon deliver everything can hit a bigger piece of that pie.

Of course, that’s something that cities are a less clear win on, too. It takes a lot of fuel to get NYC fed.

Makes my entrepreneurial side think that I should partner with Tesla and make a Green Shipping Service…


No, they don’t**. Taxis are expensive and a pain in the neck. The NYC TLC says they carry ~600,000 people per day, which is a small fraction of the eight and a half million who live there.

**Statistically speaking.


…and to add some more stats to @turkeybrain’s, there are about 13,000 yellow cabs in NYC, and another 40,000 black cabs (not available for street-hail, but often used by greaterborough residents b/c yellow cabs don’t come to those neighborhoods often). So about 53,000 cabs total serving the metropolitan region of 9,000,000 residents and commuters (plus hoards of tourists*). By comparison, subway ridership is about 5,500,000 per weekday.

@chgoliz: we’re talking about urban living, not diet. Why is it that vegans always have to push that, even if that’s not the topic at hand? This is why nobody likes vegans.

(* “Hoards of tourists” amount to about 130,000 per day, all of whom seem to stand in the middle of Times Square looking up like they’ve never seen a 100 story building before. It’s called a sidewalk, people, not a sidegawk!)


Interesting - I went to college in NYC, and didn’t even bother getting my license until after I graduated. I suppose that makes me centuries ahead of my time?

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I live in a city, but I have to commute because my lovely employer moved my work location out of the city into the boondocks. Worst thing about being an engineer is always having to work in horrible industrial locations outside of the city. I’m not going to move closer because ease of buying meth isn’t a big selling point when considering where to live.

I’d love to cycle to work ( but all the roads are deathtraps even when I worked closer), or use public transport if there was any worthy of the name in this supposedly major, supposedly cycling friendly city.

But I’m stuck with a shitty drive.


As of 2014, there are less than 14,000 medallian cabs and less than 6,000 street hail livery cabs in the five boroughs. Not sure how many Uber et all drivers, but “often” is definitely an overstatement. Taxis are expensive, a luxury, or occasionally a necessity. More often used by tourists and business folks.


not having Amazon deliver everything

I am also fairly sure that shipping only adds a tiny marginal distance to the USPS, UPS, or FedEx driver’s route (they are probably already going to someone near me regardless), compared to me traveling all the way to a store myself. One block of driving for a truck is lower carbon than needed for me to get to a store even less than a mile away, even if I I walk, bike or take transit (the first two of which involve me eating more food).


But I like trees and being able to walk the dog in the dark without getting mugged.

Cities are full of nasty fumes and in a population of 8 million many nasty people.

Of course, that’s if you only consider “help the environment” to be limited to “emit less carbon.” While carbon emissions are certainly essential in avoiding climate catastrophe, consumption of meat is a horribly wasteful in many other ways that don’t register on a carbon footprint calculator.
from the linked article, for example:

Nor do we consider land use change emissions.

Not to mention the other effects of inefficient land use, deforestation, etc…

EDIT to add more:

In fact, the FAO report that that article links to gives a nice table of contents of the environmental damage done by meat consumption, including

geographic transition
water depletion and pollution
Livestock in the nitrogen cycle
impact on biodiversity


The single best thing the average U.S. resident can do to help the environment is become vegetarian/vegan.

I don’t know much about this subject, but I’d bet that not having kids has a greater long term environmental effect than any lifestyle change one could make in the present.


Given that the task is to try and maintain a planet capable of supporting humans is the goal, not to save the earth, that isn’t really applicable.

Besides, it is possible to have low impact children & it is a part of passing the torch. You want the torch to be handed strictly to those who don’t base decisions with the goal in mind?

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I want to work out the mpg equivalent of biking and walking. Replacing regular engines with the human body is not an infinite gain in efficiency, we require fuel too. I’m thinking the best approach would be a kcal used per mile comparison. time for math (and probably horribly invalid assumptions)


I always considered the main thrust to be against --suburban-- lifestyles, not rural or urban except inasmuch as improvements can be made to either.

Optimal density of population and/or industry, right to the edge of forest & farmland.


I grew up in the country. Way out. I can say with great confidence that there are way more nasty, evil people per capita out in the country than in any urban area where I’ve lived. Most of the little towns I lived near had wildly higher murder rates than any big city, and since the spread of meth either that number has gone up, or at least more people are noticing.


I don’t have a particular agenda, and I recognize that asking people not to procreate is completely impractical. I suspect that reducing the earth’s population probably gets us to environmental sustainability faster than any lifestyle changes we could make because population growth is exponential, but decrease in consumption has only linear effects.