The Real Deal New York

The “world’s most wasteful city” might also be one of the greenest: Opinion

Manhattanites are the nation’s lowest per-capita energy consumers

May 10, 2015 11:19AM


A crowded NYC street

A recent report showed that NYC is the most wasteful big city on the planet, producing more than twice as much waste than its closest rival, Mexico City. But according to New Yorker staff writer David Owen, it’s precisely the things that make NYC look like an environmental disaster that make it one of the greenest places on earth.

“The key to New York City’s relative environmental benignity is the very thing that, to most Americans, makes it appear to be an ecological nightmare: its extreme compactness,” Owen writes at Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “Moving people and their daily destinations close together reduces their need for automobiles, makes efficient public transit possible, and restores walking as a viable form of transportation. (Dense urban cores are among the few places left in America where people still routinely go around on foot; in the suburbs, you seldom see anyone walking who is actually traveling to a destination rather than merely moving between a building and a vehicle or trying to lose weight.)”

In fact, NYC accounts for about a third of all the public-transit use in the United States. Roughly 44 percent of NYC households, and 77 percent of Manhattan households don’t even own a car. Moreover, Manhattanites are the nation’s lowest per-capita energy consumers.

So while there is without a doubt a waste problem in NYC, perhaps that is just a byproduct of living densely – that is to say, with the lowest carbon footprint in the states.[Environment 360]Christopher Cameron