Yet all these gadgets cumulatively contribute only a fraction of what we save by living in a walkable neighborhood. It turns out that trading all of your incandescent lightbulbs for energy savers conserves as much carbon per year as living in a walkable neighborhood does each week. Why, then, is the vast majority of our national conversation on sustainability about the former and not the latter? Witold Rybczynski puts it this way:
Rather than trying to change behavior to reduce carbon emissions, politicians and entrepreneurs have sold greening to the public as a kind of accessorizing. “Keep doing what you’re doing,” is the message, just add another solar panel, a wind turbine, a bamboo floor, whatever. But a solar-heated house in the suburbs is still a house in the suburbs, and if you have to drive to it — even in a Prius — it’s hardly green.We planners have taken to calling this phenomenon “gizmo green”; the obsession with “sustainable” products that often have a statistically insignificant impact on the carbon footprint when compared to our location. And, as already suggested, our location’s greatest impact on our carbon footprint comes from how much it makes us drive.
Stop climate change: Move to the city, start walking (Salon)