City Vs. Country – Which Is More Eco-Friendly?


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It’s a pretty common discussion amongst us environmentalists – which is more eco-friendly, living in the city or living in the country? While there are points for both locations, I was giving this some thought the other day now that I live in a small mountain town of only 6,500 people, which is about 2 hours away from the closest city. While most of the population crams itself into our cities, there are still millions of people who live outside of the cities, living an entirely different kind of lifestyle – and that’s me now. From my perspective, living here is more eco-friendly for several reasons, but there are certainly some advantages of living in a big city as well, so let’s take a look at all of them.

Eco-Friendly Advantages To City Living

More public transportation
Might not need to own a car at all
Walkable neighborhoods
Better selection of goods
Most people live in co-housing of some sort
Probably more energy-efficient, even if cities use more energy than the country
Less lawn maintenance/pesticides

Eco-Friendly Advantages To Country Living

No idling cars sitting in traffic
No pollution
Plenty of land to grow your own food
The ability in some climates to live off-grid (many people do that here where I live)
Distances might be further, but there are more bike-friendly roads
More access to fresh fruits & veggies due to more local farmers
Much less opportunity for consumerism, meaning you buy what you need and not much more
Easier to set up composting of your old food
Ability to have your own animals for food (eggs, milk, etc)

Left: Los Angeles, CA Right: Taos, NM

Of course, not all cities are the same nor are all places in the country the same. I can only compare where I used to live, Los Angeles, to where I live now in Northern New Mexico. The house we are renting is only a few block from the town center, meaning we are still able to get by with one car and my bicycle. All shopping, from groceries to the hardware store, are only a few miles away at most – but a lot of country towns are different than that. In Los Angeles I could not leave my house by car at almost any time of day – it was always rush hour. To go the 20 miles to the airport one day a long time ago took 3 hours. 3 hours to go 20 miles; it was that bad. Just the other day I drove 120 miles to the airport here in 2 hours – there isn’t any traffic at all. Many homes and buildings here are powered by solar power, our radio station is 100% solar-powered, and there are a lot of people who catch their own water from the sky. In the city, not many people can have the option of using solar power, as most of them live in condos or apartments. Out here in the country we have our own water-treatment plant that recycles all of our waste water into water used for watering, while in big cities a lot of the dirty water just gets pumped into any nearby body of water. But again, not every person living in the country lives in such a progressive place as this, so it really depends on what community you live in. It is not as simple as comparing apples to oranges; there are many different kinds of both and its not easy to say one is inherently better than the other. What do you think? Do you think one is more eco-friendly than the other? Let me know, would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Los Angeles photo by kla4067

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  1. I live in a situation very similar to yours, a town of 5,000 about 200 miles to the next big town. We don’t have a lot of local farmers as we live in the desert so we don’t have that benefit. Additionally, there aren’t so many opportunities to recycle or good green products available to buy. There just aren’t so many choices so you don’t always have the opportunity to make the more eco-friendly choice. Having said that, I do believe living in the country is the way to go!

  2. LA is far different than MANY cities. I live in the inner suburbs of Cleveland – with tons of farmers markets, grocery stores, thrift stores, schools, churches, and more in a 2 mile radius.

    We hardly use our car!

  3. I’m going to university in a little country city in Western North Carolina.
    Things are different here than they are at home in Washington DC, but I think there are more Eco friendly in DC, I fell safer on my bike in DC and Bike lanes are a plus, I have a choice of farmers markets. I tend to only buy what i need because I know I’ll have several chances to grab something. I compost in a container on my porch. I have thrift stores, library’s and more close by .

  4. What you havent factored in is the amount of deforestation that would be required to provide living space if cities did not exist. Immagine the acerage needed to house 12 million people but instead a city like NY can house them

  5. My grandparents live in a town in Montana that has about 50 residents and is 6 hours away from the nearest city. Most of the things they buy are locally grown or made.

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