Your Carbon Footprint Isn't Small Just Because You Take the Subway

Posted by Nona Willis Aronowitz

A lot of urbanites, including me, often brag about how much more environmentally sound their lifestyles are than people who commute to work every day and live in huge, one-family houses. Turns out we can jump right off our high horses. A new, more complex analysis suggests that CO2 emissions are dependent upon how much goods and services people consume, not where they live. The study pins the carbon footprint on the person who purchases that television, not the manufacturer that is responding to consumer demand.

Basically it comes down to income. If you're wealthy, you take more plane rides, hail more cabs and simply buy more stuff. Across the board, private transportation produces more carbon than public transportation, but a rural dweller's car trips may be canceled out by a life with fewer possessions. Studies like these remind us that our use of carbon means more than whether or not we get behind the wheel or have a McMansion. Every swipe of our credit card traces us back to the energy used to produce our purchases, and that deserves just as much of our attention.

photo (cc) by Flickr user subnet24