The Washington Post’s Roger K. Lewis wrote: “No matter how green individual homes are, suburban sprawl is intrinsically anti-green. It generates infrastructure inefficiency, car dependency, and rising fossil fuel demand.” Eco Geek’s Jack Moins said, “From electric vehicles to urban agriculture, the city has arguably the greater potential for green communities, with minimum land use, greatest energy efficiency, and lowest environmental impact.”
At GreenBuild 2007, during the beta phase of the U.S. Green Building Council LEED for Homes, I heard a USGBC official question the agency’s own foray into a green home rating system, arguing we shouldn’t encourage single-family home building because it’s better to concentrate growth in or near cities and public transport systems. While the organization has since fully embraced residential LEED rating, the comment clearly illustrates the dilemma.
The funny thing is that suburbs were intended as a green, healthier alternative to the city.
Land conservation and protecting natural resources is a priority. But not all people want to live in the city, and nor should they have to. We can learn from mistakes of the past. We can build viable, sustainable, livable communities outside big cities—communities that are connected to efficient public transportation networks, grow their own food, have zero-net energy homes and quiet, clean electric cars, local buses, and regional trams powered by the sun.