J500 Media and the Environment

A world apart by kimwallace
January 21, 2008, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Cars + Transport, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

After coming back from a two-week stint in New York City, I decided it would be interesting to measure my footprint while living there versus my footprint while living in Lawrence. This quiz proved to me what I already knew: NYC and Lawrence are a world apart.

My NYC ecological footprint was 10 acres, or 2.3 planets. I lived in a city with more than a million people and a very reliable public transportation system and walked for miles on end. I shared a small apartment with four other girls, and consumed much less than the people around me. After all, I was on a budget.

Back home in Lawrence, though, my life is different. My ecological footprint is 15 acres, or 3.3 planets. A world apart. This does not surprise me. I commute 180 miles to work every week—but I do carpool and drive a decent, fuel-efficient car. The west side of the city has fallen victim to sprawl, so I can’t reasonably walk anywhere without ending up in a cul-de-sac or busy Clinton Parkway. I share a 1,000 square-feet apartment with one roommate—but we use CFLs and keep our thermostat as low as possible. After all, we are on tight college student budgets.

So, how can tight-pocketed college students green their lifestyles in a city that is not built on a grid and in a city without efficient public transportation? It’s the small steps, I think. Sure, I may live a little more lavishly at home than I would ever be able to in the Big Apple, but the little things that I pay attention to—energy conservation and fuel efficiency—help offset the way I live here. After all, in the city, I was living in an old brownstone with drafty windows and doors, conventional lighting and more trash than I knew what to do with. I expected my “number” to be lot higher than it turned out to be, but I wish there was a way to lower it in Lawrence without losing the leisure of motor transportation.



4 Comments so far
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Good call with the comparative analysis of Lawrence and NYC. Small steps will help but your comment on sprawl is, perhaps, most telling. You, Adam and others on the West side have few options in regards to public transportation and reducing the impacts of your commute which ties back into bigger issues of development and sprawl.
The City Commission is considering a Smart Growth code for the Lawrence that hopes to address social and environmental concerns within future development plans. It’s much easier to build those efforts into the DNA of development than try to course-correct afterwards. Take a look at this Lawrence Smart Growth blog for more food for thought.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

I agree. There are sidewalks on the West side, but, unfortunately, the sidewalks end arbitrarily or do not offer pedestrian crosswalks besides at major light stops—which are very far apart (think how Mass St. offers mid-road crosswalks as well as intersection crosswalks). I chose to live on the West side because of convenience to commuting and the quietness of the area, but as I begin to set up a nesting ground in Lawrence post-graduation, I foresee problems with living so far away. Plan for major development on this side of town continue to fester, and though I’m all for development, it needs to be smart, accessible development that is conducive to community.

Kim Wallace

Comment by kimwallace

NYC has a pretty good transportation system and considering congestion, there’s much more advantage to use the system, too.

Life without a car makes a big difference for the environment. Also I think it makes my life a little better. I often choose to walk. It is a good exercise and refresh me especially after a long walk. I felt inconvenient without a car at first. But after all, it’s so much cheaper not to drive. If I really need to go somewhere for emergency, I can still take bus or taxi.

Carpool is a good idea. There’s this website coordinating carpool for KC commuters in Lawrence: http://marc.greenride.com/ I think KU should do something like this,too.

Sachiko M

Comment by sachikom

I kept thinking about that during my stay in New York. It was great not feeling guilty about commuting. You really don’t have to put much effort into being green. But at the same time I was surrounded by such waste. So many lights. So many bajillions of bags of unrecycled trash. If I lived in New York, I’m not sure if I would feel better about my footprint, or be disgusted by the overall wastefullness.

Travis Brown

Comment by travisjbrown

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