A Guide to Eco-Living in a Concrete Jungle

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It’s easy to mistake cities as hubs for mass pollution. Big cities are home to millions of residents and have thousands of cars on the road, which can produce huge amounts of waste compared to their rural neighbors. But take a closer look and you’ll see that cities are leading the battle against climate change and enabling residents to be more eco-friendly.

From Seattle to New York, cities are committed to cleaning up and can do so without the same red tape that states and our federal government commonly face. It’s working well on a macro level — with better mass transit, a commitment to solar power, and the move to local farming and ranching — but what does eco-living in a major city look like on the micro level?

Minimalism

Minimalism is the idea that it’s better to live with only what you need — and that clutter and “stuff” only complicates your life. There is no better place to live as a minimalist than in a city, as the lifestyle creates:

  • Convenience. A major city has everything you need within a few blocks, so there is no reason to hoard extra food or supplies at your home that could eventually go to waste.
  • Efficiency. Smaller living spaces, including apartments and townhomes, require less energy and water than a traditional house.
  • Preparedness. When you live in the country, you need to be prepared for anything. But a city takes better care of its citizens, which means you won’t need as much to weather storms and power outages.

Public Transportation

Only a handful of U.S. cities have a thorough, reliable public transit system. But, if you live in one of these locales, then there’s really no reason to own a car. Cutting vehicle costs and use out of your life contributes huge environmental savings, as cars are one of the largest produces of CO2 in the world. Nearly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are created from burning just one gallon of gasoline.

Alternatively, if you do own a car in the city, prepare your vehicle for stop-and-go traffic by using full synthetic oil and equipping it with the right tires. This will keep it running efficiently to contribute the least amount of waste possible.

Human-Powered Transportation

Big cities often have public bikes that are easy to use. Photo: Shutterstock

Maybe you can’t avoid the long train ride or drive to work, but cities are crawling with food co-ops, delis, restaurants, dry cleaners and more on every block. Get out and explore your own neighborhood so that local errands never involve a car, bus or train. When in doubt, use a service like Yelp to see what’s nearby.

Local Shopping

Giving your business to local shops doesn’t just keep you out of the car — it also helps reduce your carbon footprint. Local companies, especially ones that use sustainable products, rely less on shipping from out of state and overseas, which produces more waste. That doesn’t mean every chain is a crime against the environment or that every local business is totally green, but you’re usually better off keeping it in the neighborhood.

Beautiful Parks

Visiting a local park means you likely won’t be spending much money, and cities are home to some of the best parks in the world. Instead of catching a movie or having a drink at the bar, explore the parks around your home or apartment. Parks provide an eco-friendly way to enjoy the city, trees and greenery. Plus, they’re almost always truly scenic against the skyline.

Feature photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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